mystery

5 Questions for Authors: Owen Knight

Posted on Updated on

owen-knight


Owen Knight is part of the Southend Writers and Artist Network (or SWANS) as we’re more commonly known, and was the first of this illustrious group to take me up on my invite to answer my 5 questions. Like me  Owen dips his toes into the YA market, with his dystopian trilogy of  sci-fi conspiracy mysteries – The Invisible College – which  are on my reading list for 2017, as the premise really intrigues me. As is his ability to turn books round so quickly. All three were published between August 2015 and October 2016. No mean feat!!  I wish I knew his secret.

If you like buying books from the author, Owen will be  speaking at the Essex Local Authors Event  at Chelmsford Library on Saturday 18th March before dashing to  SALAD, @theforum to spend Saturday afternoon and all day  Sunday 19th with us.  (If you’re happy to buy anonymously (so to speak) –  he’s stocked at all the usual online outlets and Waterstones in Chelmsford. If you want to get in touch with him this link takes you to his Facebook page.)

What is your favourite book from childhood?

937428-asterix.jpg I used to love reading to my children when they were young. In addition to the literary classics, their favourite books included the Asterix and Tintin series. Asterix instilled in them a love of wordplay, whereas Tintin reinforced the understanding that the world is larger than the Essex village in which they lived. Both series provided adventure and discovery. The books must have had some effect: last year one of my sons walked the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in four and a half months

What is the first book that made you cry?

The book that has had the most emotional effect on me is Le Grand Meaulnes by Alaintumblr_inline_o4y8uaxd4o1s61f2g_250-Fournier. Meaulnes returns after disappearing for several days. He tells of having discovered a hidden chateau, where a dream-like fête is taking place, with everyone dressed in costume, and where he meets a beautiful woman. The story tells of falling instantly in love, the search to find the chateau again, of longing, loving, loss, rediscovery, and ultimately sadness.

I have used the theme of a hidden village in my own trilogy, although the similarities end there.

Have you ever read an author whose books you didn’t like, and how has this impacted on your writing?

I have read a number of books by an award-winning novelist whom I ought to leave unnamed. Several of his novels open with highly original and attention-grabbing first chapters. Unfortunately, the remainder of the book often disappoints, by not living up to the promise.

This has provided me with the discipline to continually ask myself three questions while writing. Is this plausible? Is this interesting to the reader? Is it relevant to the story?

Do you want each book you write to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

My The Invisible College Trilogy (They Do Things Differently Here, Dust and Shadows, A Perilous Journey) was published between August 2015 and October 2016. The trilogy is intended to be read in sequence. Each book is written in a style to reflect the development of the plot.

Book 1 is written with hints of the Gothic, as befits the arrival of the teenage protagonists in a community apparently locked in a 1950s time warp. Book 2 continues in a detailed, analytical manner, as many secrets and references to myths and legends are uncovered. The final volume moves swiftly towards a dramatic conclusion.

I am working on a prequel, which explains the history and rationale for the hidden village.

What did you edit out of this/these book/s?

I was ruthless at removing superfluous dialogue, leaving the reader to fill gaps in the text and to research for themselves many of the references to science, myths and history. An enormous amount of research went into the books; I needed to take care not to burden the reader with too much detail. This demanded further cuts.

I believe that the result is that the trilogy can be read as a simple adventure, taking the text at face value. Alternatively, the curious reader can do their own research of topics of particular interest.

Save

The First Review

Posted on Updated on

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 🙂

Publishing Date

Posted on Updated on

I have had word from the publisher. He has scheduled A Cowardice of Crows  – the first of Symington, Lord Byrd mysteries – for release in November. He tells me he’s interesting in optioning  an extra three books: bringing this crime fiction series to a six book total.

For those of you who want to know more about the first book, please read the provisional blurb

 

Enter the “Gentleman” Detective

Posted on Updated on

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Crime Fiction would be lost without the detective, whether it be the hard-nosed kind found in American crime novels – like Mike Hammer and Philip Marlowe, or their British counterparts – Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Whimsey  and Hercule Poirot.

European fiction tends to  favour a gentleman detective; who comes from the educated classes; is at home in a world that we like to think existed  in the years prior to the Great War and ended just after the Second World War, and who has an unusual (if not downright eccentric) manner. They are gentleman if not by birth, certainly in the way they behave; and they are members of what the Georgian world called the Ton (the top 100 families). Their detecting takes place in a cozy world – known as the locked room; their suspects are all flawed and ( for the Marxist among you) degenerate representatives of a dying and parasitic class. Not only does the detective battle against a closed society; they also clash with the professional police who are presented as dim witted, lower class fools. This is apparently a backlash against the bungled investigation into the Ripper Murders of 1888, and the popular misconception that the police were incapable of detecting crime because they were not intelligent or educated enough.

Each detective is accompanied by a companion – usually male – who acts as a sounding board. They are not always from the same social class, but their skills complement or even augment the central character.

Bizarrely the first Gentleman detective was not British – but French – and created by an American, albeit an anglophile. This detective was Edgar Allen Poe’s  C. Auguste Dupin. Making his appearance in 1841, in the Murders in the Rue Morgue (the first of three cases) Dupin was not an immediate  success and underwent quite a few changes in his  modus operandi.  But he was a Chevalier in the Legion D’honneur, and he was obsessed with collecting books. He started out as an amateur detective who would visit the crime scene and take an active part in the investigation – but only when called upon by the authorities. In book two, he had become introverted rarely leaving his rooms – the epitome of the armchair detective, and only after appalling reviews (for this second book – The Mystery of Marie Roget -1842) did Poe make the changes allowing Dupin to become what readers would now recognise as the gentleman detective (The Purloined letter (1844).

Intriguingly, Poe did not believe his character to be successful and moved away from crime fiction. Yet, Poe’s initial concept blossomed in English literature. The first English Amateur detective (Franklin Blake) appeared in 1866 – in what aficionados of this genre regard as the first English Crime Story – The Moonstone. He was followed by a character whose name is synonymous with crime fiction: Sherlock Holmes. And should you care to compare Dupin and Holmes closely, you will see why it is possible to argue that Doyle did not create his detective, he simply lifted him from Paris and planted him in London. In temperament, intelligence and bravery he is the equal if not the mirror image of Dupin.

After that the floodgates open: Wimsey, Campion, Alleyn, Poirot and Marple (from the Golden Age); with Dalgleish, Lynley, Makepeace (of Dempsy and Makepeace fame) Jonathon Creek and even -possibly – Professor Layton representing the modern era.

Until Marple –  society would have us believe that women detectives were conspicuous by their absence,  and yet, the first female detective, Mrs Gladden,  appeared in 1864 some 23 years before Holmes. In many respects her techniques are those of Holmes. She is an active detective: visiting the crime scene, using disguise to protect herself from discovery by the criminal classes, as well as treating the police with the correct level of disdain.

Given the public’s insatiable appetite for the detective it is probably that had she been male her fame would have been equal to (if not greater than that of Holmes). But female detectives – while not isolated –  were not the staple of popular fiction.

Why?

According to Dorothy L Sayers it is because they are so “irritatingly intuitive as to destroy that quiet enjoyment of the logical which we look for in our detective reading.” Sayer’s  main complaint, however, is that the female detective “tends to be too young, too beautiful and too interested in marriage.” In addition, her “propensity” to “walk” into “dangerous situations”  interrupts the male ability to “solve crimes.”  She may have a point: until Marple – female detectives were 40 or younger. Mrs Paschell who works for Colonel Warner is 40 and in need of  a job; Hilda Serene is 25, while Kate Goelet is only 23.

Perhaps another reason for the failure of the female detective is the fact that they were all created by male writers. Indeed, it was not until 1897 that Amelia Butterworth was created by Anna Katharine Green.

The development of the proto feminist movement of the 1890’s, with its focus on the idea that women could be financially independent of men, allowed more female detectives to come to the fore. Dora Myrl, the Lady Detective (1900) is the daughter of a Cambridge Don; Joan Mar, Detective (1910) created by  Marie Connor Leighton is the first female for whom marriage is not a consideration. However,  even at this time, these female detectives were expected to conform to the stereotype. Indeed Molly Kingsley in  Hazel Campbell’s Olga Knaresbrook, Detective (1933) eschews the life of the detective upon marriage.

And so to Miss Marple – who first appeared in 1930 – a woman who remained 65 for the fifty years she appeared in print. Returning to Sayer’s condemnation of the female detective ( intriguingly forgotten when she came to write about Harriet Vane), it is possible to argue that Miss Marple’s success resulted not from her age, but from the fact that she while she had a phenomenal intelligence, it came from the observation of the world around her – in a homespun, almost absent minded way.

 

Book cover – other options

Posted on Updated on

Another two possibilities:

book cover2

book cover

Book cover – what do people think?

Posted on Updated on

 

Proposed book cover for the first book. What do you think folks?WebRender