Sunday, July 16, 2023

Looking back - and looking forward

 This is a blog post I wrote back in June 2020 - when we were in the thick of the the pandemic. As there were no comments recorded, I thought it would be safe to re-post it, if only to see how many people have seen and enjoyed those recommendations I made! Also, if there's anybody out there who doesn't know, book 24 in the Libby Sarjeant series is up for pre-order here, and you will see a nice Canva banner at the top of the blog, made for me by Toby at Headline. Now - off we go. Three years ago, I wrote this:

I am going to make a recommendation. I write, and enjoy reading, lighter detective fiction. As I have documented elsewhere, my love of this genre came from being allowed to run riot amid my parents' books, many of which I still have. These included Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series (and occasionally a Tecumseh Fox), John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson - Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale - and Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series. I re-read them all, and the Alleyn books from start to finish at least once every two years. On the way, there were other writers; Gladys Mitchell and Patricia Wentworth, to name two.

I was already a professional writer (features, PR, theatre) when I went back to school to do a Master's Degree in Creative Writing, a fairly new discipline at the time, and one I was already teaching at local authority level. Sadly, it didn't improve my knowledge of literature, which I had hoped, but it did introduce me to the woman who became my publisher. Again, well documented. We more-or-less started off together. As my final dissertation I submitted 20,000 words of a detective story which had first been conceived for the long departed World One Day Novel Cup. I had never seriously considered authorship as a career, although I had dabbled freely in the murky waters of Romance. Like many others, I had thought I could write a Mills and Boon romance, or Category Romance, as I learned to call them. Easy, I thought. Wrong!!! I came to realise how very, very clever these women, and the occasional man, were. I remained content to be friends with many of them, friendships I have maintained to this day. More of that later.

Meanwhile, as Hazel Cushion went on to become a fully fledged publisher, she asked me if there was any more of my dissertation, and if so, could she have it. And, could it be a series. Well, by this stage in my life I had expanded my reading habits and discovered, among other things, many writers writing in the same genre I had loved as a child. So there was a market for it, although received wisdom from the industry was, between much sucking of teeth, that there wasn't. We all know how that turned out.

And that market also extended to Television, exemplified by the hugely popular Midsomer Murders. I had read the original books - only seven of them - and even met Caroline Graham, the author, when we were both tutors on a Writers' Holiday. There have been other series in a similar vein, although none as long lasting. Father Brown might be heading the same way, but Rosemary and Thyme didn't last long. Shakespeare and Hathaway is a little more jokey/pastiche, but quite enjoyable if you suspend serious criticism. The Coroner didn't last long, either, although it should have done.

But I've found a new one! I suspect a lot of my readers discovered it before I did, but I'm terribly glad I did. It's been airing on UKTV Drama since 2017, and now I have all my streaming ducks in a row, I have been - I believe the term is "Binging" (!) - on it since the beginning of the series. It is a New Zealand small town detective series called The Brokenwood Mysteries, and has some very familiar elements. Lead detectives, of course, and recurring characters, often rather quirky ones. And very odd murder methods - remind you of anything? Anyway, that's my first recommendation.

My second refers to something more personal. You remember I mentioned retained friendships? Well, some of us go away "on retreat" each year, which I have written about before. Not this year, of course. Anyway, a few of them decided to release an anthology of shorts as a 2020 beach read. And to my surprise, they asked me to join them. Surprise, because they are all romance writers, and all have been, or still are, Mills and Boon authors. I really struggled with this, and failed miserably on the romance front, but I was edited by one of them, a particular friend, who brought me into line. 

What I didn't know then, of course, was that a lot of my struggles were due to. illness - now happily resolved. So to finish this mainly nostalgic ramble, here's the link to that lovely little book. 

So there you are! Happy watching and reading.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lesley, thank you for the blog and I hadn’t read it before. Lovely to have this glimpse into how your writing career began and also the authors and tv series you enjoy. I am a big fan of Gladys Mitchell and I also very much enjoyed the TV version of them with Diana Rigg…despite there being no similarity between Diana Rigg’s Mrs Bradley and the fantastic creature Gladys Mitchell created. Sensitivity readers would reduce Gladys Mitchell’s books to about three pages today!

Anonymous said...

I love reading your books, and had bought book 23 which had got buried in my kindle... I found it, read it in a day - fantastic, then I find the next book is released. Christmas has come early! Thank you for writing such a great series.

I echo your sentiments about The Coroner, brilliant series, should have run longer. Not seen The Broken wood Mysteries, I'll find it though, I do love a mystery series.

Take care...