Recently, and after listening to a particularly inspiring Joanna Penn podcast, I’ve taken to writing using Vankyo headphones. I have little choice in a household with two dogs and assorted family members who don’t understand what a shut door and ‘do not disturb’ notice means. It’s like Piccadilly Junction in my office, and now the Cockapoo has learned how to open the door, the lack of privacy is even worse. Cue noise-cancelling headphones. When I used to write in perfect silence (before teenagers and badly behaved puppies), I didn’t expect to take to writing with sound. I tried nature music, but anything with rain/waterfalls sent me running to the loo and whale noises were a step too far. So I searched for a ‘writers playlist’ and found one on Amazon music, which I’ve taken and adapted to my tastes. And surprisingly, I’m very productive listening to music and now feel guilty for the many years I’ve spent berating my son for doing his homework with earphones in.
As my readers will know, I base my books on real events. After all, the truth is usually stranger than fiction. But not all criminals are as notorious as Jack the Ripper, and some of my felonious inspiration comes from little known crimes, notably those featured in The Felsham Affair.
Fourth book in the Lawrence Harpham series, The Felsham Affair, covers little Freddie Browne’s tragic death in a small Suffolk village, a story intertwined with the Silvertown rat cake poisonings. And the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that my books generally have a theme. In this case, the focus is on wanted and unwanted children. It sounds pretty grim, I know. But times were hard in Victorian England.
Tempting though it is to post detailed transcriptions, the below cuttings should be enough to whet appetites without giving too much of the plot away. Spoiler alert:–this book will not appeal to those of you who don’t like rats.
When a series of vanishings turn into murders, Lawrence Harpham is summoned to West Ham. Estranged from Violet and temporarily partnered with an oddball reporter, Lawrence pursues a ruthless serial killer.
Meanwhile, Violet’s contentment with her new life in Norfolk ends abruptly. What is causing the sinister movement of a gravestone, and who is following her?
Recently revealed secrets shatter everything Lawrence thought he knew about his past. Will Violet and Lawrence meet again? And will he ever recover from the horrifying revelations?
“That’s not what I mean,” gasped the hooded man, before lapsing into a coughing fit. “Start at the beginning,” said Higgins. “I want every last detail, and if I get it, then you get to keep the rest of your fingers.”
The Moving Stone is a historical murder mystery based on real events. Click here to pre-order your kindle e-book.
A Kindle short feel-good mystery free on Amazon Kindle until Christmas
When Lawrence and Violet take a well-earned holiday in the Cotswolds, nothing is as it first appears. Within hours of arrival, they are asked to investigate a poisoning case, which rapidly turns into two. What is going on at the hospital and will it ruin their Christmas break? Join Lawrence and Violet in this short Christmas mystery set in the beautiful regency town of Cheltenham.
Whole Story Quest released the audiobook of The Ripper Deception today – 132 years since Mary Kelly met her end in Millers Court. On 19th November 1888, pallbearers carried Mary, who was only 25 when she died, from St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch to The Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leytonstone. Her touching stone inscription read:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MARIE JEANETTE KELLY, NONE BUT THE LONELY HEARTS CAN KNOW MY SADNESS, LOVE LIVES FOREVER.
The Ripper Deception is mystery fiction based on fact and with an unusual twist. Much research went into this book, and my thoughts lie with Mary and the other victims of Jack the Ripper trying to make the best of the terrible poverty, disease and violence in the Victorian East End.
It’s no secret that historical newspaper reports inspire my books. After all, there’s nothing quite as strange as the truth. In fact, the first book in the Lawrence Harpham series came from an article only a few paragraphs long. In short, I collect interesting stories from which books evolve. I haven’t done anything with the account below – yet. But as the fire occurred in my ancestral village of Northrepps and George Woodhouse is in my family tree, it has all the components for one of my novels. That said, it’s important to acknowledge the real tragedies behind these stories. Many writers use famous historical characters, but I like to write about people seldom known outside their family and friendship groups. Yet there’s a fine balancing act between a good story, and treating our ancestors with respect, especially with the current popularity for genealogy. And it’s worth considering that people who lived their lives quietly and unobtrusively might be horrified to find themselves the subject of fiction if only they had known.
Norfolk News 17th December 1881
Northrepps – a sad case of burning.
A painful case of burning happened in this village on Tuesday night last, resulting in the death of Mrs F Golden. The facts in connection with the sad occurrence, as they came before the deputy coroner Mr W H Scott, at an inquest held on Wednesday at the White Horse Overstrand, are as follows. On the night in question, sparks were seen going up from Mr Golden’s chimney by several persons, and an alarm was raised that the house was on fire. Two men, Henry Jarvis and George Woodhouse entered by the back door and saw a fire on the hearth in the sitting room.
Woodhouse obtained three pails of water and threw upon the burning matter, which was found to be the body of the deceased. The flames had devoured all the clothing, leaving the body completely charred. A chair was found near the fireplace very much burnt. Jane Bane, a domestic servant, said she last saw the deceased at about half-past seven when she had to leave to go out. Mr Golden was away from home, and the deceased was left alone seated on a chair before the fire in the sitting room. She was in her usual health. There was no lamp of any kind, but one candle burning on the table, and a small coal fire.
Deceased was in front of the fire with her feet, as witness believed resting on the fender. She did not appear either tired or sleepy. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death by burning.” Deceased was 57 years of age.
As a fiction writer, I can’t take this article at face value and my default position is to suspect foul play. Why was Mrs Golden unable to get to safety? Did she try to escape? And if not, why not? Could supernatural forces be at work? Perhaps she was a victim of spontaneous combustion. There are so many why’s in this small piece.
I haven’t written the story yet, but I will. And that’s how my books begin, one news story at a time.
And hot on the heels of the last audiobook, The Ripper Deception is available for pre-order with a release date of 19th November 2020.
“The lonely end of a miser leaves clues to the mysterious death of Edmund Gurney in Brighton years before. Private Detective Lawrence Harpham sets off to investigate leaving his partner Violet to unravel a series of strange disturbances at a Suffolk rectory. Both inquiries lead unexpectedly to Whitechapel and the murder of Frances Coles. Was Frances a Ripper victim and is her murder linked to the autumn of terror? Jack is back–or is he?“
The Felsham Affair is available for pre-order in the Amazon kindle store with a release date of 20th September. The paperback version will be ready soon after, but invariably takes a little while longer. I will post the link when the paperback is available for purchase.
This Felsham Affair is set in Suffolk and East London. As usual, it is based on real historical crimes.
When a much-loved child disappears with his minder, Lawrence Harpham follows the trail to Battersea. Meanwhile, Violet investigates a thirty-year-old Suffolk poisoning.
With suspects thin on the ground, Violet must use every means at her disposal to solve the mystery. Can Lawrence’s close encounter with a callous serial killer provide clues to her investigation? And will their increasingly fractured relationship stand in the way of progress?
As the two mysteries converge, Lawrence finds himself at the mercy of a predator. Can he survive and will he ever see Violet again?
Click here to pre-order The Felsham Affair from the Amazon Kindle store.