crime fiction

Engineering Rows

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This week I’ve been doing a lot of thinking rather than a lot of writing. Being stuck in traffic is like that. And I’ve been thinking about my victim. Well one of them. A chap by the name of Sir Martin Hamblebee. In my head he’s a nasty piece of work. A bully. A pompous boar of a man who deserves to die.

But he’s not coming across like that on the written page . Yes he’s  short tempered. His family don’t like him. But so far there’s no evidence of brutality. No evidence of ruthlessness.  No reason to fist pump the air on discovering him face down in his Times.

My  gut tells me he needs to threaten some of the house guests but not about their private lives. He doesn’t have enough interest in them as human beings to do that. So, if I may, let me work through my thoughts, dear reader…

Both Sir Martin Hamblebee and his brother are bankers. They are new money and the baronetcy was earned by their father for services rendered. Probably murky. Definitely underhand. So I can see Hambleebee senior  threatening to call in a loan, or the like. It’s also true that threatening someone  with financial ruin is a  good motive for murder. But doing it in a way that doesn’t seem contrived is the difficult bit. Miss Marple always overhead such threats because people thought she was asleep in a chair, or didn’t see her in a chair.  Byrd can’t do that. His legs are too long. They’d be seen. And everyone knows he hears in his sleep. Poirot would just walk down a corridor, or step out from behind a curtain after a threat had been issued. He’s small enough to get  away with such things.  The rest of Byrd is like his legs. Tall and lanky.  Besides  if Byrd’s the only one to witness such outrages, his reactions are going to be private. And that’s not going to help the plot at all. No. Any threats of financial ruin must be seen and  heard – by a lot of people including Byrd. Which means one of the business meetings must be the venue for such a thing. That could then lead to long simmering hatred. Though plotting long term revenge is surely more a woman’s weapon than a man. And Hamblebee doesn’t believe women have a business brain. So there won’t be any of them involved in his financial dealings. Good God no!

Which leads to the second area I need to elaborate on. Hamblebee isn’t just a banker. He’s a bully. So how to bring that out? Physical and emotional abuse are his weapons of choice.  His youngest sister in law – Leticia – is the victim of his emotional outrages. Something Hamblebee  can get away with because  Fortinbras Hamblebee doesn’t have the cajones to stand up to his older brother. There’s a tale there, and one – you’ll forgive me if I keep close to my chest.

  But  while Fortinbras will say nothing to the verbal abuse. Surely, if Hamblebee , his brother will do something? Especially if it’s a public thing. Purse strings or no purse strings. There’s male pride at stake… No. I think I need to rule out Hamblebee hitting Leticia. But he needs to hit someone. Byrd would just laugh. CC might deck him back. And if he hit a servant, Sampson would have something to say about it. So I need to look closer to Hambleebee’s home.

The wife – Georgette – is an obvious route for  long term physical abuse. But given Hamblebee is a social climber, he can’t risk public condemnation for such things. This is Symington Byrd’s world not Eastenders.  He needs the approbation of the King and his set. But a bruise, a broken wrist – that’s a possibility. A hint of violence. It could be easily explained away as an accident. But would it really be a a motive for murder?

I suppose Georgette herself might kill him, driven beyond reason like Ruth Ellis. But it’s 1901. A wife has some  rights in a marriage. And through her sister in law, she  has access to a king who would help her achieve a divorce in return for a kiss or two and a bit of how’s your father… And there are no children to tie her to the brute…so she does have an alternative to murder. Though I’m not sure sleeping with the King of England to achieve it would be every woman’s idea of a way forward. So unless she had a lover waiting in the wings… or a knight in shining armour determined to avenge her… or there’s someone who overhears such things and adds it to the list of crimes Hamblebee’s committed, we’re no futher forward. How do I contrive a beating behind closed doors that can be witnessed/overheard by all the suspects? And how do I make it believeable?

I think I need another traffic jam…

 

5 Questions for Authors

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Ever notice when you read an interview from an author, they always ask the same questions: how did you get into writing? What inspires you? What inspired you to write this book? It gets samey after a bit.  So I had a trawl of the internet for different questions and came up with these 5 as my favourites of the moment.

  1. What is your favourite book from childhood?
  2. What is the first book that made you cry?
  3. Have you ever read an author whose books you didn’t like, and how has this impacted on your writing?
  4. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
  5. What did you edit out of this book?”

Here are my answers:

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My favourite book from childhood was bought for me by my mum and dad. Written by Julie Edwards – or so it said on the front cover – it was the tale of three siblings: Ben, Tom and Melinda Potter, who through their association with Professor Savant travel to meet the last of the Whangdoodles; a mythological creature capable of growing his own slippers. As a kid, I was enchanted. As an adult I need to find it  at my parents and read it again.

The first book that made me cry was Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa  Pearce. It’s towards the end when Hetty gets older, falls in love with Barty and ceases to see Tom.

As for the author whose books I didn’t like – I have a confession to make. It’s Tolkein. It’s probably not his fault. It’s probably the fault of my English teacher in first year senior (year 7) for making us read The Hobbit. Whatever possessed them? It’s a book you should curl up with not be forced to read in school. It scarred me for life. How has impacted on my writing? I get to the action as quickly as possible. Also, I don’t write books worthy of literary study. In my mind, it’s the kiss of death.

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My books do have connections, yes. The historical research binds the three books, obviously, but I have cameos. Melville from book 1 of Aldwych Strand – pops up in Cowardice, as does Mark (in passing) and of course Lucy gives a little girl some words of advice in Whitechapel, which shapes how she deals with the pawnbroker…

As for what did I edit out of Cowardice of Crows? There was a newspaper article about Symington at the Savoy Hotel.  I wanted it to show him as the centre of the media, and provide a link to the previous books. The editor really didn’t like it. She was right. It was awful. It went.

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Sampson’s occasional guide to the Gentleman’s Gentleman.

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Is up before his master, and goes to bed after him; even when told “not to wait up”.

Is fastidiously neat and tidy in his appearance and habits. He ensures his employer is immaculately turned out – at all times. Even if His Lordship desires to look like a sack of potatoes. He must be a sack of potatoes Fortnum and Masons would stock.

Never gets involved in an argument – however tempting. A raise eyebrow, a stare, even a cough should be  sufficient communication when His Lordship oversteps the mark.tumblr_m59fonwrnt1r3jmn6o1_1280

Is the soul of discretion. He never comments on any aspect of His Lordship’s personal life; even if the latest fancy piece is a lying, manipulative tart out to break hearts. It is not a gentleman’s gentlemn’s place to say: “I told you so.” Even if he is dying to stick his oar in.

To learn more about William Sampson and his Lordship click here

10 thing you NEED to know about Symington, Earl Byrd

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Tell us about Byrd,” my publisher said. Only having the one publisher I have often wondered whether they all talk in the third person, or this is something peculiar to mine. “And be snappy about it.” I was touting him an idea for a new detective on the block, and knew, by that tone of voice, I only had a few minutes. I took a deep breath and began…

  1. His parents died while he was a young child and he was brought up by his Grandfather, a welsh duke.
  2. He speaks eight languages – including hindi and arabic.
  3. He was bullied in school and became the school clown in order to survive
  4. He served in the Derbyshire Regiment in India, saw action in Sikkim; and left the army as a major.
  5. Something happened in Sikkim. Something life changing. He doesn’t talk about it. Ever.
  6. He has an eye for a pretty woman – or three. Or four.
  7. He lives in an appartment in Mayfair, presided over by Sampson with regimental precision.
  8. His best friend is the Prince of Wales. Rumour has it Byrd saved the Prince’s life. Rumour lied.
  9. His staff – valet (Sampson), driver (Watkins), and cook (Imran)- were under his command in India. They are very loyal and would do anything for him. Don’t ask them about Sikkim, they won’t tell you.
  10. He holds degrees in medicine and law, which he took on return from India.

Want to know more? Go to Amazon and buy his first adventure

The First Review

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I received the first review of A Cowardice of Crows last night. From my 96 year old Great Aunt. She’s a wise old bird, a bluff northerner, who doesn’t pull any punches and tells it like it is. And this is what she said:

“I didn’t read the book as quickly as I thought I would. Got on well and enjoyed the build up and queries about the murder of Millie, had all the names and who they were in my mind, then new characters and names were introduced and my 96 year old brain wasn’t retaining them and had to keep going back to refresh.

However, the story made compulsive reading due to the intensity and colourful characters.

An extremely well written book, how you managed to keep the people where they should be I cannot think, but having done so gave me the enjoyment of reading it.”

 

I think she liked it 🙂

Cover Reveal

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And

here it is…the cover reveal for A Cowardice of Crows.

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Millicent Jones committed suicide… until a House of Commons cufflink is found wedged in her throat.

Given Queen Victoria is dying, the last thing anyone needs is  political scandal, which means there’s only one man for the job: Symington, Lord Byrd; playboy and gentleman detective.

But someone far cleverer is one step ahead, and she has personal reasons for wanting Millie’s killer caught.

With suspects galore and no obvious solution Byrd and his cousin, Chief Inspector Sir Charles Carter, find themselves drawn into the criminal world of the Pawnbroker and his Apprentice: a world so seductive that Byrd is in danger of losing his soul.