The Dartmoor Novel and the next William Quest Adventure

‘As blog followers will know, I’ve spent much of this year writing a thriller set on Dartmoor -it’s taken longer than I anticipated (writing novels always does), but the new book will be out by October.VLUU L110, M110  / Samsung L110, M110

The book is a sequel to my Sean Miller adventure Balmoral Kill, and is set on Dartmoor in 1937. It has a Dartmoor setting for a reason. I first visited the Moor when I was seven years old and spent the next few decades exploring it, leading guided walking parties, writing and broadcasting about the place, and more or less living there. In 1996, this culminated in my being appointed as chief executive of the Dartmoor Preservation Association – founded in 1883 and one of the oldest campaigning groups in Britain. Nine years later I left the DPA to go back to full-time writing, though I still support various environmental campaigns.VLUU L110, M110  / Samsung L110, M110

So there was a sort of inevitability about writing a work of fiction set on Dartmoor. Not the first… I’ve started Dartmoor novels before, but either never finished them, or been so dissatisfied I’ve destroyed the manuscripts – once with a Viking burning on the top of Ryder’s Hill – the highest hill on southern Dartmoor. Which I rather regret… you should always keep your old work. You might get the chance to reuse it.

The book starts in the eerie and lonely Wistman’s Wood…VLUU L110, M110  / Samsung L110, M110

The new book – and I shall be announcing the title in September – follows immediately on from the events in Balmoral Kill. If you’ve read that you’ll know it closes with Sean Miller going back to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Somehow, he finds himself instead on Dartmoor, meeting up with old friends and facing new enemies.

I’ve tried to root the book in Dartmoor reality. Apart from a couple of invented buildings, you could, if you wished, follow in Sean’s footsteps, over the Dartmoor tors, through the river valleys and even into Dartmoor Prison – well, perhaps they wouldn’t welcome you there!

I like to read books where you can go to the settings.

Of course it’s not unusual for Dartmoor writers to give accurate portrayals of the Moor. Novelist Eden Phillpotts, one-time president of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, used Dartmoor locations for his novels, right down to the actual names of farms and, in some cases, the people who lived in them. Not that you could get away with that these days.Vixen Tor. Picture John Bainbridge

Anyway, it’s been fun revisiting these Dartmoor scenes in my imagination. All those years of moorland walking have paid off. I’ll let you know when the book’s due out, for readers of the blog always get first news on how to order our books at a cheaper pre-publication price.

I’m already working on the next William Quest novel. Following Quest’s adventure in York in Dark Shadow, he’s back in London in the sinister alleys along the Thames. Facing some tough opposition as well – has the vigilante finally met his match?

And for the non-fiction fans I’m bringing out another walking book as in September, for those of you who enjoy reading about quiet days in the countryside.

If you haven’t read Balmoral Kill, here’s the link. It’s out in paperback and on Kindle:

And you can find out more about all of the books at my author page at:




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Book News at the Year’s End

This has been a good year for me – I’ve published two novels, Dark Shadow in the William Quest series, and Legend – the final book in The Chronicles of Robin Hood series.

It’s nice to have finished the Robin Hood books as this has been an ambition of mine since boyhood. I may well return to writing another historical series in the future. I’ve several ideas in mind.

At the moment I’m writing a sequel to Balmoral Kill, and my hero Sean Miller is making a return. This one’s set in 1937 and finds Sean battling enemies on the wilds of Dartmoor. There’ll be lots of action and a detective mystery as well.

I’m also planning the fourth William Quest novel. Following his visit to York in Dark Shadow, Quest will be back in London, working for justice but outside the law. Always fun to be back in Quest’s Victorian world. Get the swordsticks ready!

I’m also hoping to write a walking memoir about my early days on Dartmoor. I’ve written four walking books so far. I get a lot of the ideas for writing when I’m out for a walk.

Not having Rupert Murdoch’s publicity budget, I do rely on word of mouth by readers to promote the books – so please do tell your friends and relatives.

Most of the books are out now in paperback as well as Kindle eBooks. You can get a list by clicking on this link:

A prosperous, happy and peaceful New Year to you all

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Legend – The New Robin Hood Novel Out Today

The final book in The Chronicles of Robin Hood series is out today, in paperback and as a Kindle eBook. Order it today and it’s cheaper! And a big thank you to everyone who’s bought and read my Robin Hood novels. Here’s the link…

Legend Cover 1..jpgAn action-packed finale to The Chronicles of Robin Hood.AD 1203. Plantagenet England: The mighty overlords of Sherwood Forest wage war against the poor and desperate. The Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisborne impose a vicious tyranny across the shire.
Where is Robin Hood, the leader of the outlaws and rebels? Has he abandoned the persecuted folk of the Forest?  As the darkness of winter falls across Sherwood, nobody is sure whether Robin Hood lives or not…Has the revolt against the cruel and powerful overlords been put down at last? This retelling of the Robin Hood legend takes the tale of the famous outlaw back to its origins in medieval reality and brings the saga to a gripping and bloody conclusion. Men die in battle… but a legend is born.

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Get Dark Shadow Cheaper…

Dark Shadow, the third in the William Quest adventure thriller series, is published tomorrow – in paperback and as an eBook on Kindle.

Order it before publication today and you can have it cheaper. Prices rise tomorrow…

Thank you to everyone who has already ordered the book – I very much appreciate your support and hope you enjoy Dark Shadow.

Just click on the link to order your copy today…

Dark Shadow Cover copy

John Lardiner runs down a street in the ancient city of York and vanishes off the face of the earth.

In a dangerous race against time, Victorian adventurer William Quest is summoned to York to solve the mystery – what has happened to John Lardiner?

Forced into an uneasy alliance with the city police, William Quest finds his own life in peril.

Men who pry into the disappearance of John Lardiner end up dead.

In York’s jumble of alleys and narrow medieval streets, William Quest finds himself pursued by a sinister organisation.

Can he solve the mystery of John Lardiner’s vanishing before his enemies bring his adventurous career to an end?

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The New William Quest Novel

Dark Shadow – the third novel in the William Quest thriller series is now available for pre-order as a Kindle eBook. Publication day is on the 26th July.

Dark Shadow Cover copy.jpg

The paperback will be available to order soon.

So if you enjoy eBooks do order now at the cheaper pre-publication price.

And remember, you don’t need a Kindle to read the book. You can download a free app for your smartphone or tablet when you order.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

John Lardiner runs down a street in the ancient city of York and vanishes off the face of the earth.

In a dangerous race against time, Victorian adventurer William Quest is summoned to York to solve the mystery – what has happened to John Lardiner?

Forced into an uneasy alliance with the city police, William Quest finds his own life in peril.

Men who pry into the disappearance of John Lardiner end up dead.

In York’s jumble of alleys and narrow medieval streets, William Quest finds himself pursued by a sinister organisation.

Can he solve the mystery of John Lardiner’s vanishing before his enemies bring his adventurous career to an end?

To order please click on the link here:

Gaslight Crime is now an archive blog, but we will be putting news of our own books here so keep reading….


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Goodbye Gaslight

After a lot of thought we’ve decided to end the Gaslight Crime blog.

We’re making a few changes this year, mostly to give us more time to write our own books.

We now have a website which will have all the latest news about our books.

The address is

Thanks to you all for reading our blogs. Gaslight Crime will remain online as an archive site.

The John Bainbridge Writer blog will continue at 

John and Anne


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What Books Would You Read in Jail?

What Books would you read in jail?

Well, I’ve chosen my four, in an interview for the Writer’s Wing – a fictional cell block run by fellow crime writer T.G. Campbell, author of the Bow Street Society Victorian Mysteries on her website.

Please click on the link below to see the books I’ve chosen, who I’d like to be in jail with, and who I’d want to come visiting.

And do look at the rest of T.G. Campbell’s interesting website.

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‘Lonesome Road’ by Patricia Wentworth

 Lonesome Road (Miss Silver Mystery Book 3) by [Wentworth, Patricia]

Lonesome Road is Patricia Wentworth’s third ‘Miss Silver’ novel, published in 1939. I read most of these in my teens, then never re-read any until I came across this one recently in an Oxfam bookshop. I remembered liking Wentworth’s sleuth almost as much as Miss Marple and found that hasn’t changed.

The plot concerns Miss Rachel Traherne, a rich estate-owner with a strong sense of duty to her late father’s wishes and her extended family. She lives at Whincliff Edge, a large house situated on a cliff-top. It’s used as a second home by assorted relatives who come and go for free hospitality and the hope of hand-outs. A series of malign incidents make Rachel believe that one of her relatives is trying to kill her. Distraught with suspicion and fear, she consults Miss Maud Silver who had helped one of her friends.

At the writing-table sat a little woman in a snuff-coloured dress. She had what appeared to be a great deal of mousy-grey hair done up in a tight bun at the back and arranged in front in one of those extensive curled fringes associated with the late Queen Alexandra, the whole severely controlled by a net. Below the fringe were a set of neat, indeterminate features and a pair of greyish eyes.

In some ways Miss Silver has much in common with Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and might be assumed to be inspired by her but actually, Patricia Wentworth got there first. Miss Silver makes her debut in Grey Mask – albeit in a small rôle – published in 1928, two years before The Body In The Library. Their chief similarity is the ‘invisible’ quality of old ladies. Suspects and murderers overlook them, not realising they’re being keenly observed.

Unlike her famous contemporary, Miss Silver is a professional enquiry agent and lives in a flat in London. You get the impression she has a shadowy network of helpers to call upon to check background facts. Most business-like, Miss Silver makes lists of suspects, alibis etc. in her notebook. She has also had a previous career.

‘I think you had better call me a retired governess.’ Most unexpectedly her eyes twinkled. ‘And that need not trouble your conscience, because it is perfectly true. I was in the scholastic profession for twenty years. I disliked it extremely.’

In later novels, Miss Silver has a good working relationship with Inspector Frank Abbott of Scotland Yard, who sometimes sends her on a case. She is invariably found knitting a baby’s matinée coat or bootees. Her modus operandi when she’s detecting is to pose as a house-guest. A distressed gentlewoman who appears a harmless old lady, an attentive audience with a fluttery manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. As she remarks to Rachel Traherne:

I had some conversation with all your relatives. I find that the manner in which people behave to someone whom they consider quite unimportant is often highly illuminating.

In Lonesome Road, Miss Silver’s task is to prevent a murder – which makes a change from an early corpse. The pacing and tension is so effective throughout that I didn’t miss the more conventional plot. In a sense this trope is a forerunner of the woman-in-peril psychological thrillers which are currently so popular. Such novels invariably contain some love interest and that’s something I’d forgotten about Patricia Wentworth’s writing. Her murder mysteries contain elements of what we used to call ‘romantic suspense.’

There’s usually a happy-ever-after for the leading lady and often for a young couple who never really made it to the suspect list. Agatha Christie too, sometimes united an attractive young couple along the way. Being an old cynic, I don’t want romance getting in the way of the murder! That apart, I really enjoyed Lonesome Road.

Although out in 1939, there’s no reference in the novel to the gathering war. It’s set in a timeless interlude between the two World Wars and we’re never told which county we’re in. Patricia Wentworth must have had the south coast in mind as there’s a London Road in the area and characters can run up to ‘town’ for dinner. The atmosphere of the locale is very well done, especially near the climax of the novel when place and weather enhance the tension.

The characters are believable, unsympathetic ones being particularly well-drawn. Like most vintage crime fiction, this is worth reading for the social history alone, an interesting snapshot of how the pre-war British middle class lived.

Most of all I liked the vivid sense of fear and menace creeping through the story. Patricia Wentworth evokes a real feeling of danger, hatred and terror, especially in a pivotal scene and the exciting denouement. She was a very good writer and this is a terrific mystery. Miss Silver is interesting and a formidable ally. I’ll certainly be revisiting her again.


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‘Sleep No More’ by P.D. James

Sleep No More is the second collection of short stories by the legendary crime author P. D. James, published posthumously in 2017. I loved the earlier volume The Mistletoe Murder and Other Tales (2016) and hoped Faber would bring out another in time for last Christmas. Guaranteed best-sellers in slim hardbacks with stylish covers, it’s good that they’ll bring new readers to discover James’s elegant prose. (The British cover looks gorgeous but the American version is nowhere near as attractive as the first volume).Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales by [James, P. D., James, P. D.]

This title comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Subtitled Six Murderous Tales, there are two more than the first volume, though this time none featuring James’s serial detective Adam Dalgliesh. Though I’m not the greatest fan of short stories, much preferring the length and complexity of novels, these are some of the best I’ve read. Not a weak one among them, their standard is exceptionally high.

In addition to her writing, P. D. James had a long and varied career of public service. This included serving as a magistrate and working in the criminal justice section of the Home Office. In her memoir Time To Be In Earnest (1997), she mentions my fascination with criminal law. She explored the failings of the legal system in her Dalgliesh novel A Certain Justice, published the same year.

The stories here are linked by a theme of retribution and justice. Bad people may get their comeuppance but not through officialdom. We hear the dark thoughts of murderers – chilling in their ordinariness – and the testimony of unsuspected witnesses looking back many years. But does anyone really get away with murder? Killers, victims and bystanders are caught up in moral ambivalence and the ironies of fate.

Each story is like a masterclass in plotting, character and – as always with P. D. James – full of wonderfully evocative atmosphere. They’re also pleasingly varied. A classic Golden Age plot is set during a wartime Christmas, a black comedy reminded me of Roald Dahl’s Tales of The Unexpected. Without the space – or need – for the conventional structure of a detective novel, they feel as though James was experimenting and having fun. Along with her acute psychological insight, there’s an air of wry humour throughout. An interesting sidelight on an author known for the bleak tone of her novels.

Written from the 1970s to the 90s, Sleep No More is a superb set of stories that linger in the mind. It’s sad that there’ll be no more from one of the greatest ever crime authors. Few writers could evoke a sense of place so well.



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Writing a History Mystery

Is writing an historical mystery easy? I don’t think so. You need a great deal of knowledge about the period if you are going to get things right. People in history weren’t just individuals like us but in odd clothes.

Take the world of the Victorians – for those of us living in Britain, the Victorians can seem very familiar. They weren’t so different from us. We can walk and sometimes live in the buildings they did. Many of our institutions are the same as theirs. We face, often, very similar problems.

For the writer, this can seem reassuringly familiar. But there are differences too, despite some of our politicians wanting and often succeeding in crashing us back to Victorian Values.

There is much about the Victorian landscape that’s quite fascinating. But there’s a lot we don’t miss.

When I wrote The Shadow of William Quest, I concentrated on the appalling injustices of the Victorian Age. My character, William Quest, is a far-sighted reformer, a righter of wrongs. In the sequel, Deadly Quest, he plunges four-square into the unpleasantness of the Victorian underworld.

But, although I’ve a degree in Victorian history, I’m not writing a history book. I’m penning a novel, an historical mystery. What the Victorians themselves would call a Penny Dreadful, or a Shocker. Both the Quest books are adventure stories, thrillers, though they are very much rooted in the realities of mid 19th century Victorian England.

Some writers get carried away with their love of research. You will always find out far more about the historical period than you will ever use. If, when reading the novel, the research stands out like a history essay, then you’ve got it wrong.

You need to drip-feed information. If it’s not strictly relevant to the story, then it shouldn’t be there. However interesting the fact you’ve found out, if it holds up the story and its action it don’t put it in..

Readers read fiction to be entertained. They might welcome learning something new about the historical period, but that should be the limit. Save the detailed research for a non-fiction history book. It’s important that you should know, but you don’t need to pour it all out into the pages of your novel.

I’m now writing the third William Quest story – and this one will be set in the English city of York. A place famous now for its Roman and Viking history, more than its Victorian past. But in fact it had its own rookeries and criminal underworld. As someone who loves York, it is fascinating exploring and utilising a non-London setting.

And enthralling trying to write my own take on the Penny Dreadful or Shocker.

How did it all come about?

I’d always wanted to write a book set in Victorian times, not least because much of the Victorian world is still familiar to those of us living in the UK. As we wander through the streets of Britain we can – if we lift our eyes above the modern fascias on the shops – still see what our Victorian forebears saw.

The same street patterns, by and large, many of the same buildings, and the much of the landscapes they knew. Too much has been lost, and we should be saving what is left, but the Victorian street map may still be traced.

If we could travel back in time, we could enter the 1850’s world of William Quest with little difficulty. Though there would be some surprises. It could be a brutal world, not as settled as some people have implied. There are many Victorian Values that deserved to be relegated to the history books.

My William Quest is a radical. His ideas bore fruit, though it doesn’t always seem like it.

I’ve always been interested in Victorian Britain, since the subject was taught at my primary school. Much of our great literature was written in the 19th century. Reading those classic books plunges back into that world. We are – for good or bad – still little Victorians in so many ways.

I knew some Victorians, of course, though they were all born late in the period. Nevertheless, I remember them well, their attitudes and the way they talked. My grandparents were Victorians, though they were all very young when the old Queen died.

For quite a time, I moved away from Victorian history, into other periods. As some of you will know, I also write historical novels about Robin Hood – LoxleyWolfshead and Villain, with a fourth book out next year, so I have a passion for that period. For a long time I’ve had an interest in the English Civil War. I like the Anglo-Saxons too.

The Victorians tended to go on the back-burner.

Then, thirty years ago I became an undergraduate of the Open University, doing an arts course that was almost entirely Victorian. After a couple of years, I went as a full-time undergraduate to the University of East Anglia.

My major was literature, though I did a minor in 19th century social history, some of which looked at the Victorian underworld. It all stayed in my mind, though work pressures kept the writing of fiction at bay. I did, however, write the texts for a series of topographical books about the towns and landscapes of England – and much of that was Victorian.

I spent nine years working as chief executive of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, founded in 1883 and very proud of its Victorian campaigning roots.

The Victorians never quite went away.

I wanted to write a novel with a slightly dubious hero set in Victorian times, a kind of Penny Dreadful, the kind of pulp literature of action and derring-do that the Victorians themselves enjoyed reading – though they’d often pretend that their literary tastes were a tad more pretentious.

I’ve always loved such tales myself, and used to hunt them out when I was an undergraduate. They were all good fun, sometimes morally dubious. But a reading of them tells a lot about Victorian popular taste. I go as far as to state that you cannot grasp the complexities of Victorian society if you don’t read them.

While I enjoy the finer works of literature I also worship their slightly more questionable cousins – and that in itself is something I have in common with my Victorian ancestors…

To read the William Quest books, please click on the links below. They’re available in paperback as well as Kindle eBooks:

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