Tag Archives: Sussex Crime Fiction

An Interview With Crime Author Jan Edwards

We’re delighted to bring you an interview with writer Jan Edwards, author of the newly published historical crime novel Winter Downs.

I absolutely loved Winter Downs, which takes place in a fascinating time in a lovely part of Sussex that Kipling called our blunt, blow-headed, whale-backed Downs. The perfect setting for the first novel in an atmospheric new crime series. If you enjoy classic, Golden Age style whodunits with engaging sleuths, a twisting plot and a wonderful sense of place – you’re in for a great treat.

Here’s Jan to tell us about Winter Downs and her writing process…

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

Spike Milligan had the right answer for this one, “I was born at a very young age…” Not much to be said about me as such; usual number head and hands. And the old adage that most people do not move more than 20 miles from their place of birth has never applied to any of my tribe. I am a Sussex girl by birth, though Mother was Welsh/West Country mix and Father a Geordie/Oxfordshire lad. I currently reside in North Staffordshire with my husband Peter Coleborn and the obligatory authors’ clowder of cats. But Sussex remains my spiritual home.

On the fiction front much of my short fiction has concerned folklore because that is a passion of mine. This often reads as horror/fantasy, and I am a past chairperson of the British Fantasy Society. I have two collections of short fiction available, Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties and Fables and Fabrications. My contemporary novel, Sussex Tales, won a Winchester Slim Volume award, and is a nostalgia piece about rural communities in the early 1960s.

Tell us about your new book.

My new crime novel, Winter Downs, is also set in Sussex (a recurring theme in my fiction).

How did I jump from all of the horror to crime? I have always read crime in large quantities, especially those Golden Age volumes set between 1920s and 1950s. The period detail is fascinating and perhaps once again it is my love of folklore that has me seeking fiction that is not set in the now. I was lured into writing Sherlock Holmes fiction for several projects and adding the sum of those factors into a recent-history crime novel was a natural progression in my mind.

The crime and horror genres frequently leach across each other as both deal with the seamier side of existence. Though Winter Downs is not a horror story in the slightest. Yes it has a body count but its a pretty straight whodunnit .

Winter Downs in brief: “In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose. Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously?”

How did you decide on the setting of Winter Downs?

Sussex is never far from my heart. It is a truly magical place so if I am honest I don’t think I ever considered setting it anywhere else. Why WW2? Growing up in rural Sussex of the 50s and 60s, amongst the pill boxes and air strips left over from that time, made an impact, though I didn’t realise it at the time. The setting for my story just evolved as these things do. Probably, as I said before, because I prefer my own reading to be somewhere and some time other than the here and now, which I don’t need to read about because I’m already here… if that makes sense.

Do you have a typical writing day?

I am far too disorganised to have a routine, so answer to that question is a resounding no. I am a bit of a night owl and write most of my fiction in the wee small hours, so perhaps I have what could be seen as a writing night?

As you’ve written a period crime novel – do you enjoy research?

I absolutely adore research. I can get lost for hours reading reams and reams of notes to find one tiny fact that may appear on the page as three words. Just recently I spent two days finding out what the applicator pads in a 1930s handbag sized powder compact would be made of, (silk/velvet appeared to be the general consensus) and that snippet took up half a sentence in the final cut.

I may appear to be totally abstract in my writing processes but fact checking is the one area that I am really strict about. I may not always get it right but it will never be for want of trying. In Winter Downs there was so much to look into. For example: despite what we are led to believe from this time and distance, by Christmas 1939 almost nobody bothered to carry their gas mask with them. Then there is the gradual introduction of rationing. Knowing the month and year in which certain items went on ration, or the fact that alcohol was never rationed at all (though spirits did get scarce), are essential detail that I hope add some authenticity to the narrative.

What first inspires you when writing fiction – a setting, plot idea or character?

Each frequently feeds off of the other. It might be a news headline or an interesting fact in a book, or someone I met on a train, but in most cases I could never identify the point of sources

Full synopsis before you start – or seat of the pants?

Generally seat of the pants. Crime does need plotting, especially with a whodunnit where the author needs to sew the breadcrumb clue trail for the reader to follow. I tend to write the story first and make sure that trail makes sense in the rewrites. I suspect that is the long winded way to go about it but Gran always told me laziest people work the hardest.

What aspects of writing do you find the most tricky?

Words? Not as silly as it sounds. I am dyslexic so using the wrong word that is almost the correct one is a very real issue. ‘To and too’ or ‘of and off’ are particular issues. Recently it was draw when it should have been drawer. Fortunately I have beta readers and a top hole editor to point those out to me!

What advice would you give to new writers?

I go to a writing group and am amazed by the number of people who cheerfully admit that they seldom read books – and when they read their work out for critique by the group that lack of reading experience always shows. So my one big piece of advice is: Read! Often and widely!

Winter Downs
Jan Edwards

3rd June 2017 | Penkhull Press
ISBN 978-0-9930008-6-7
Paperback £7.99 tbc | ebook £2.99 tbc

In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose.

Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously?

Winter Downs is first in the Bunch Courtney Investigates series. Published in paper and e formats.

Jan Edwards is a Sussex-born writer now living in the West Midlands with her husband and obligatory cats. She was a Master Locksmith for 20 years but also tried her hand at bookselling, microfiche photography, livery stable work, motorcycle sales and market gardening. She is a practising Reiki Master. She won a Winchester Slim Volume prize and her short fiction can be found in crime, horror and fantasy anthologies in UK, US and Europe; including The Mammoth Book of Dracula and The Mammoth Book of Moriarty. Jan edits anthologies for The Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit Press, and has written for Dr Who spinoffs with Reel Time Pictures.

For further information please contact Penkhull Press at: https://thepenkhullpress.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Writing a 1930s Detective Novel

Our latest period crime novel The Seafront Corpse, is the first in a projected series set in the early 1930s. We like the idea of spending time in the pre-war England of the Golden Age detective fiction we enjoy so much. Trying our hand at contemporary crime has never appealed – and I’m full of admiration for writers who deliver a compelling mystery while knowing their way around modern police procedure and forensics.

Rather than basing our detectives in London and sending them around the country, we fancied writing about a provincial town. Somewhere large enough to have plots for murders yet with a medium-sized community where people know the more prominent members, at least by reputation. We settled on a Sussex seaside resort, within reach of a day-trip to London.A view of Clevedon Pier in Somerset, England

The Channel resorts of south-east England were at the start of their heyday between the wars. The coastal towns of Sussex and Kent were experiencing a building boom both in housing and distinctive public buildings. Lidos, shopping arcades, ice cream parlours and pavilions were appearing. Victorian piers, theatres, town and concert halls were being given an art deco or moderne facelift. Aerodromes and motor-car showrooms were being built and of course, every large town in England was getting at least one cinema.

Some of these stylish buildings can still be enjoyed today. In Sussex, Worthing has one of the finest moderne piers in England. Opened in 1935, it has featured in an episode of Poirot. Further along the coast, the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-On-Sea was built the same year. One of the most important moderne buildings in England, it is Grade 1 listed and was used in Foyle’s War. Sadly, many fine examples were bulldozed in recent decades before town councils realised what important, historic townscapes they had in their care.

Our initial thought was to use Brighton as a setting. We changed our minds as Brighton’s real-life crime in the 30s was on the hard-boiled side, as depicted in Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. So we created our own Tennysham-On-Sea, influenced by but not based upon any real town. We wanted to describe a genteel resort with repertory players and beach photographers, the sort of place where Miss Marple might stay for a few days. It’s been fun mapping out our fictional town and dreaming up more features for the next book.

Tennysham isn’t meant to be too cosy. We wanted to reflect the seedy back streets, something that hasn’t changed as much as you might think. (I’ve lived in a few resorts along the Channel and rented flats that would fit well in a Patrick Hamilton novel). So Tennysham has its shabby boarding-houses, the bus-depot and laundry, gas-works and coal-yard as well as its chalk cliffs and smart sea-front.

Our detective, Inspector Eddie Chance, is a local who’s been transferred away from the town for some years. Newly promoted as head of the small C.I.D. department, he’s glad to be back home and working with his old pal and former mentor, Sergeant Wilf Bishop.

We didn’t want to write about the classic country house-party setting with an upper-class amateur sleuth, much as we enjoy reading them. Our interest is in working detectives who investigate a wide variety of characters, more Wexford than Wimsey, though we love them both.

It’s been a pleasure to attempt to create the atmosphere of the 30s, a world where the detectives wear trilbys and pipe smoke curls over the typewriter. Where they stop off at phone boxes and press button B, the Chief Constable is a retired colonel and no one’s heard of DNA.

To get the feel of the language, you can’t do better than immerse yourself in the crime fiction of the time before you start writing. Their slang for instance – which varied according to class – as well as all kinds of popular expressions and writing style. Novels of the period are full of fascinating detail such as typical meals and clothing with names of fabrics and colours we no longer say. (I won’t be using ‘nigger’ brown, though it must be remembered it was polite usage at the time).

It’s important to us that our 30s atmosphere feels as authentic as possible but there’s a balance to be struck. Novels where characters ‘ejaculate’ expressions such as ‘what ho’ or ‘top hole, old thing,’ read like a spoof. Bertie Wooster could get away with it – or even Tommy Beresford – but today they could make the reader laugh where you don’t intend it.

We’ve started our series in 1931, partly because it’s a very different time from the 30s of John’s thriller, Balmoral Kill. Set only a few years later in 1937 the world has changed and everything is overshadowed by the coming war.

This time we’re interested to look at how people were, thirteen years after the Great War. In the 1920s the prevailing mood was to try to forget the horrors and look to the future but of course that isn’t always easy. The scars remained, mental and physical. We’ve tried to reflect this in our characters.

These are my favourite reads for research, getting in the mood and enormous pleasure. In no particular order:

Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, E.F Benson’s Lucia novels, Patrick Hamilton and Richmal Crompton’s William novels.

Non-fiction: Orwell’s The Road To Wigan Pier, J.B Priestley’s English Journey and Martin Pugh’s We Danced All Night (a superb social history of Britain between the wars).

To order our Inspector Chance novel The Seafront Corpse, just click on the link below:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Seafront-Corpse-Inspector-Chance-Mystery-ebook/dp/B019N7QQHQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1460037993&sr=1-3&keywords=john+bainbridge

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Our New Detective Novel

Our new detective novel is now out in paperback and on eBook for Kindle and Nook eReaders – Kobo to follow in the New Year.

THE SEAFRONT CORPSEA view of Clevedon Pier in Somerset, England
A 1930s detective on England’s south coast …

Inspector Eddie Chance – Edgar if you want to annoy him – is nobody’s fool, if inclined to be lazy. Newly promoted, he’s looking forward to a quiet life back in his home town.

In March 1931 the Sussex seaside resort of Tennysham is starting to get spruced up for Easter and the first day-trippers.

When a body is found on the promenade, Inspector Chance’s troubles are just about to start…

To order either the paperback or the Kindle edition just click on the link below. And if you buy the paperback and have a Kindle account you can download the Kindle edition as well for free…

And Gaslight Crime is taking a break now until after the Christmas holiday.

Thank you to everyone who has bought one of our books this year.
May we wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year.

John and Anne

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

L. C. Tyler’s Crooked Herring

Now and again you stumble on a writer you like so much, you wonder where they’ve been all your life. This happened to me recently when I found L. C. Tyler’s Crooked Herring in a library. Mr Tyler has been completely off my radar despite a lifetime of lurking in bookshops and libraries, especially in the crime section.

It turns out he’s the Chair of the Crime Writers Association. All I can say is his publishers should be promoting his work everywhere. It’s a delight.

Crooked Herring is the latest in a series featuring Ethelred Tressider, a middle-aged, mid-list crime novelist and Elsie Thirkettle, his sidekick and literary agent. They are both wonderful creations, funny, vividly brought to life and very believable.

Ethelred is comfortably old fogeyish, slightly eccentric and out of step with modern British life. In the time-honoured tradition of sidekicks, Elsie is very different. Pithy, unscrupulous and addicted to chocolate, she leaps off the page.

Together they make a very entertaining duo. In Crooked Herring, Ethelred reluctantly finds himself investigating a possible murder without a body. A baffling puzzle that gradually turns sinister and leaves him needing Elsie’s rather unpredictable assistance.

I love L. C Tyler’s writing style. Ethelred and Elsie exchange witty one-liners in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Norah Charles (The Thin Man films); Francis Durbridge’s Steve and Paul Temple and Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Though these two are no cosy married couple. They are original and more akin to the warring friends of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (one of my favourite films).

Although the setting is contemporary with talk of iPhones and amazon reviews, there’s a delicious whiff of the Golden Age about this series. They have lovely 1930s Batsford illustration-style covers and great titles. Crooked Herring is sparkling, stylish, quirky and very clever. It sweeps the reader on a glorious romp with the perfect balance of tongue-in-cheek humour and a devious plot.

This novel was particularly enjoyable for me with its Sussex setting of Chichester and the surrounding countryside, an area I love. Chichester is a charming place with a largely Georgian centre and an important Roman past. It is a city only by virtue of its splendid Norman cathedral, still retaining the flavour of a country market town; bookshops, flowers, tea-rooms and quiet corners.

To the south lie the marshes and creeks around Chichester Harbour, an area surprisingly lonely for southern England. Northwards are villages of flint and thatch among chalk downlands, within the U.K’s newest National Park. L. C. Tyler has lived in the area and catches its atmosphere – something like a Margery Allingham setting – very well.

I’ve since bought my own copy of Crooked Herring and the first two in the series. Can’t wait to see how it all began.
If like me, you’ve missed out on L. C. Tyler, do seek out his work. You’ll be in for a treat.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized