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
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
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
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.
Top of Page