Notes on novels

1) A PERFECT MATCH was almost an accident; I was trying to write a 'straight' novel, and wrote a sentence which I realised, being a crime fiction fan, would be a wonderful clue in a whodunit. (I can't tell you what it was, in case you want to read the book, because it would give the game away.) For about two weeks, I carried on trying to write whatever it was that I was trying to write, but the wonderful clue nagged at me. None of the characters survived the transition from straight novel to whodunit intact, and the sentence that began it all disappeared altogether when I decided that the finished novel would be better without its first chapter. But the boating lake, the café, and Stansfield itself remained as originally conceived - not too surprising, as the town is based on Corby, where I live.

I had no intention in the world of writing a series; I made my characters a little too old. If you've read the novels, you've probably noticed that time is rather kinder to the people of Stansfield than it is to the rest of us. In twenty years, I, and I expect you, have aged twenty years - Lloyd and Hill have aged just ten. But they have miraculously joined us in the twenty-first century, nonetheless - fiction isn't bound by the same natural laws as the real world.

I gave some thought to Lloyd, but not much. Why is he Welsh? I wanted him to be a Celt, and while currently it's positively cool to be a Scot, at that time I felt that if my protagonist were to be Scottish, it might pigeon-hole me. The troubles were at their height in Ireland, so I was wary of making him Irish, lest I felt obliged to give him an opinion about it all. So, Welsh it was. Small? Well, when Donald Mitchell opened the door to him, I found myself writing 'His first thought…was that DI Lloyd was small for a policeman'. Balding? He ran his hand over his hair and felt his bald patch - what can I say? He just did. Maybe even he didn't know he was going bald until then.

And Judy arrived the same way. She had just had her hair permed, a mistake which she allowed to grow out as quickly as possible. Brown hair, I decided, and brown eyes; she was new to the rank of detective sergeant, and she had just arrived in Stansfield. And that's about as much decision as went into it, because when she appeared on the page, I just felt that there was a history there, between the two of them. I didn't know what it was, and I didn't know where it would lead.

It led, in the end, to eleven more novels and…well, if you've read them, you know, and if you haven't, you might prefer to find out for yourself.

2) REDEMPTION was my return to Lloyd and Hill after three non-series novels. I enjoyed writing the other novels, but I kept thinking about Lloyd and Hill, and I knew quite a lot about the Judy/Michael/Lloyd triangle that hadn't appeared in A Perfect Match. Eventually, I couldn't ignore them any longer, and thus a series was born.

3) A SHRED OF EVIDENCE has been dramatised by Carlton TV as 'Lloyd and Hill' with Philip Glenister and Michelle Collins in the title roles.

4) VERDICT UNSAFE is in some ways the novel that gives me most satisfaction, because my only thought when I wrote The Other Woman was that I wanted Drummond to come out of prison and go after Judy at some point in the future. But since I had made it abundantly clear that the police had got him, as Tom Finch would say, bang to rights, that looked as though it would have to wait for some considerable time, especially with Stansfield time moving so much more slowly than it does in the rest of the world.

But then I saw a programme about the non-infallibility of DNA, and a little reading-up on sexual dysfunction confirmed that there was a way that I could get Drummond out of jail free. The fact that Drummond had called himself the 'Stealth Bomber' was sheer serendipity, and it was the aptness of his soubriquet that made me decide to go for it.

I then re-read The Other Woman, and saw how the throw-away remark that some of the officers at Malworth might be corrupt could be the basis for this story, and would give incidents and scenes from the first novel a completely different slant. I enjoyed working out the new plot with timings, locations and characters already fixed; it wasn't easy, but it was fun. And it worked!

5) RECORD OF SIN was the dreaded second novel, and is by far my least successful in terms of sales. However, it is still regularly borrowed from the library, and opinion seems to be divided about it; those who like it seem to love it, but they are in the minority. I think a lot depends on how you feel about the central character, and even more on how you feel about classic whodunits, which this isn't. But then, at that stage I didn't know I was a whodunit writer.

6) I enjoyed writing AN EVIL HOUR, and I've thought more than once about developing Harry Lambert as a series character. If any of you have read the novel, let me know what you think about that.

7) Poor little MURDER MOVIE was misunderstood. People, especially in Britain, seemed to take it seriously, which baffles me. I've got practically an entire Hollywood film crew being bumped off in spectacularly unlikely ways in a small Scottish town, with a Chief Super and the local bobby solving the murders with help from the leading man, for a start.

And it's written entirely as a film, with only what you can see and hear (no thoughts, no tastes, smells or textures); it's got long-shots and dissolves and close-ups; it's got credits in which you find that the initials of the characters' names (and indeed everything else) are derived from their stereotypes: the Bimbo Starlet is Barbara Slaney, the Matinee Idol is Mark Ingram, the Soap Queen is Sue Quentin, and so on. It's got a soundtrack, for goodness' sake, and it ends on a freeze-frame! How could anyone think it was serious?

It's a tongue-in-cheek homage to the American mystery movie, and whether it's good or bad, it's just meant to be fun.

Someone suggested I write Three Clear Sundays, (billed in the credits as The Critical Success) the novel that was being filmed in Murder Movie. I might do that one day.

8) HOSTAGE TO FORTUNE is - so far - my only suspense novel as opposed to a whodunit, which is why I chose to write it under a pseudonym, but I think that any future suspense novel will be written under my own name, as Elizabeth Chaplin seemed to be a tad unlucky for me. I'm very fond of Hostage to Fortune, and hope that one day someone will publish it here in paperback.

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