Thank goodness I asked! by Kathy Lynn Emerson

9780727886767KATHY LYNN EMERSON’s new Mistress Jaffrey Mystery is set in 16th-century Cornwall and comes out on 1st April in the USA. Here she highlights the importance of meticulous period research.

Learning how to avoid using incorrect details is one of the trickiest parts of writing historical novels. Short of time-travelling back to the period in question and living there for a year or two, no modern author can avoid the occasional slip, but a handy rule of thumb is “if you can’t find out for sure, don’t guess.”

How do you find out? Research, of course. I do a great deal of the old-fashioned kind: reading hundreds of books and articles written by experts. I also seek out people with hands-on experience that I lack. In writing MURDER IN A CORNISH ALEHOUSE which involved both scenes at sea and dealings with pirates, I had the great good fortune to be acquainted with a fellow writer who is an expert on both. James L. Nelson has impressive credentials but one item on his resume made him ideally suited to give me advice. As a young man, he spent a year as a boatswain aboard a replica of The Golden Hinde, a ship from exactly the period I write about.

I won’t go into all the errors Jim saved me from making, but there are a couple that stand out. I envisioned my characters having to climb a rope ladder to get on board a merchant ship from their smaller boat. Nope. They’d have climbed boarding steps, what Jim described as “shallow shelves sticking out” from the side of the ship.

As for the pirates, although I was writing about an attack from the point of view of a character (Rosamond, Mistress Jaffrey) who knows nothing about ships or ordnance, as a writer I needed to have specific details at my fingertips. I knew my pirates were hoping to capture the ship, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me that they would fire anything but cannonballs. Thanks to my expert consultant, I now know the cannonballs were fired to knock down masts or yards but rather than risk sinking their prize, they then used small cannons loaded with “all sorts of metal junk” to inflict as much damage as possible on the crew before boarding for hand-to-hand combat.

Thank goodness I asked!

visit our website for more information on MURDER IN THE CORNISH ALEHOUSE and earlier titles in this series.

Behind the character – DI Andy Horton by Pauline Rowson

Andy Horton’s backstory and the quest to discover the truth behind his mother’s disappearance

9780727886989When I created Inspector Andy Horton in Tide of Death I had little idea that he would go on to solve so many murder mysteries. To date there are thirteen in the series with Lethal Waves being the latest published by Severn House in 2017.

In Tide of Death, I knew that Andy Horton had no knowledge of his father and until the age of ten had been raised by his mother first in London and then in a council flat in a tower block in inner city Portsmouth until one day she failed to return home from working at the casino.

Horton was told that she had run off with a man because she no longer wanted a kid in tow. Hurt, confused and angry he’d been consigned to a tough upbringing in children’s homes in Portsmouth on the south coast of England, a densely populated urban city with a high level of deprivation but with an expansive sea front, a busy naval dockyard and thriving port. Then, at the age of fourteen, he’s fostered by police officer, Bernard Litchfield and his wife Eileen, and his life began to change for the better.

fatal-catchBernard and Eileen did their best to love and encourage him and to set him on the right track.  They succeeded. Andy Horton became a police officer. The police provided him with the family he’d lacked, it gave him a structure to his life, a purpose, and a fierce desire for justice along with empathy for victims of crimes.

Horton is especially tough on bullies, or people who abuse their power or position, as they remind him of the people in the children’s homes. He feels a duty of care to the victims of the crimes he investigates and often feels like he’s the only person looking out for them; the only one who can bring the guilty to justice so that the dead can rest. No one cared about him when he was a child; he won’t let that happen to anyone else.

For years he forced himself to forget about his mother until in crime novel number three in the Andy Horton series, The Suffocating Sea, he discovers that what he’s been told about Jennifer is a fabric of lies. There is a great deal more to her disappearance.

Once he opens the Pandora’s Box to her past he begins to uncover some disturbing facts, but it is too late to go back. He must press on until he finds the truth about Jennifer’s disappearance and those involved in the conspiracy behind it.

9780727884114The thread of Andy Horton’s quest for the truth about Jennifer is weaved into each of the Horton crime novels while at the same time Horton has a new crime to investigate. Each novel therefore stands alone and the books don’t have to be read in sequence although some readers prefer to do so.

I didn’t know when I started writing a series with a back story such as Andy’s with his mother, Jennifer’s, disappearance how challenging it would be to weave this into the plots without boring readers who had followed the full story from the beginning while including enough information not to confuse new readers. I hope I have achieved some success in doing this.

Slowly, Andy Horton is getting close to the truth. In each novel he inches his way forward in what is a tangled web of deception behind her disappearance. For those of you aching to know the outcome of his investigations and the truth behind Jennifer Horton’s disappearance all I can say is the end is in sight…

In a subsequent blog you can watch the video taken at a talk where I am answering a question regarding the challenges of developing a continuing series and one with an overlapping back story.

Lethal Waves is the thirteenth in the Andy Horton Mystery series published by Severn House in 2017.

The Detective Inspector Andy Horton crime novels in order.

Twinkle twinkle – lots of stars!

This week we have been awarded three starred reviews for the following titles:

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Deep cover specialist Marc Portman uncovers a secret deal that could make billions in oil revenue … or topple two governments.

“Magson’s latest Marc Portman thriller will appeal to all adrenaline junkies. Two thumbs way up for this heart-stopping, exhilarating action thriller, which will remind readers of Alex Berenson’s John Wells novels.”

Booklist Starred Review (Read full review)

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A ruthless psychopath with a long-held grudge unleashes a terrifying scheme of revenge on a small New England town in this tautly-paced, compelling thriller.

“Norman’s latest thriller will grab readers from the first sentence and keep them on the edge of their seats until the very end. An outstanding psychological thriller with bizarre twists and unexpected turns.”

Booklist Starred Review (Read full review)

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9781780290959DCI Paul Stark discovers that the bitter legacy of WWI casts a long shadow in the second of this intriguing historical mystery series.

“Set in 1921, Eldridge’s splendid second mystery featuring Det. Chief Inspector Paul Stark of London’s Metropolitan Police finds Stark in an awkward position. Cameo appearances by such people as a young actor named Noël Coward and an ambitious aspiring film director named Alfred Hitchcock add lightness.”

Publishers Weekly Starred Review (Read full review)

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Henry Christie and Horace the red deer

Nick Oldham explains the appearance of a red deer stag in recent Henry Christie novels.

I’ve had a tendency to include the occasional wild animal in my novels, such as a gorilla (Boris), a mangy lion (Nero) and a puma (unnamed), but I never really expected a red deer (Cervus elaphus) stag (or hart) to become a recurring character in my more recent Henry Christie novels – but one has, and he’s been named Horace by Henry.

Red DeerThis magnificent creature has appeared in a couple of the books now and has twice had an influence on the narrative of the stories beyond Horace just being spotted and appreciated by Henry when he’s out having an early morning coffee on the steps of the Tawny Owl, the pub where he lives in Kendleton, Lancashire. You’ll have to read the novels to find out how, but there is something a little mysterious and spiritual about Horace, who is a bit of a lucky charm for Henry, even though he doesn’t realise this.

I did a little research on the Red Deer which is the largest land animal in the UK with some 350,000 roaming the Scottish highlands, but only about 12,500 in England (and only 50 in Wales) – but they do exist and can be regularly seen in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire where the fictional village of Kendleton is roughly located, although they can sometimes be mistaken for the smaller Sika deer, and quite a lot of hybridisation happens between the species.

Visit our website for more information on Bad Blood and other titles in the Henry Christie series.

Editor’s Pick – Death Scene by Jane A. Adams

9780727887033Following last year’s THE MURDER BOOK, DEATH SCENE is the second in a brand-new series of 1920s-set forensic mysteries featuring Detective Chief Inspector Henry Johnstone of Scotland Yard, and his colleague, Detective Sergeant Mickey Hitchens.

In this new mystery, Johnstone and Hitchens are despatched to Shoreham-by-Sea on the Sussex coast to investigate the death of a young movie actress, who has been found brutally murdered in her own home.  On arriving in Shoreham, home to a thriving theatrical community, the two detectives discover that no one – including the victim – is quite what they seem, and that the make-believe continues both on and off the stage.

 

A well-plotted, thoroughly entertaining, traditional mystery, DEATH SCENE shines an intriguing spotlight onto a little-known aspect of early 20th century history.  Before I read this book, I’d had no idea that back in the 1920s the modest seaside town of Shoreham, famed for the quality of its light, was a bustling centre of the then fledgling film industry, with a number of early silent movies filmed there.  In addition, Adams skilfully depicts a society on the cusp of great social and technological change, yet making it clear that this was a society still hidebound by rigid class structure and social conventions, a world in which the legacy of World War I still cast a long shadow, a world in which the ominous signs of the approaching World War II were already on the horizon.

The brilliant but socially awkward DCI Henry Johnstone and the more pragmatic, worldly DS Hitchens make for a contrasting yet mutually supportive detective partnership; Henry’s awkwardness in social situations in marked contrast to his calm, controlled, methodical approach to investigating murder.  The author is particularly strong on the forensic detail, I think: this is a mystery which doesn’t shy away from the grim physical reality of death.  Skilfully plotted, the novel offers up a variety of credible suspects, and kept me guessing right to the end.  I would highly recommend DEATH SCENE to anyone who enjoys a cunningly crafted, traditional mystery, strong on forensic and period detail, and particularly to anyone interested in early 20th century history.

Visit our website for information on more titles by Jane A. Adams.