Sunday 26 April 2020

An Interview with Paulene Turner

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together. 

Mandatory question considering the situation: How are you coping with the pandemic?

How am I coping? Like most writers, I’m fretting for the world and its people enduring tragedy in all corners. I’d rather write about dystopian worlds and historical events than live in or through one. And the habit of imagination doesn’t help a great deal; I keep dreaming up ways things could get worse – which is great in a story, but not so much in real life. Otherwise, my family is doing pretty well. We have a bit of cabin fever, of course. To the extent that we look forward to doing the grocery shopping – dangerous though it may be – for the sake of getting out. (Never thought I’d write that sentence) But in our family we’re all ‘sitty’ people and so probably coping better than more athletic triathlete sorts. Hope you’re okay in France? The numbers over there have been horrifying.
(Interviewer: Thanks, Paulene. We're doing fine. We live in the countryside and have a garden so it's not a problem getting exercise. I do the grocery shopping, which gives me some alone time. Not many cases here in Brittany compared to other regions.) 

What's the inspiration behind your story?
I’ve always loved the challenge of a good mystery, figuring out whodunit, or why. I was and am a big Agatha Christie fan, and read and re-read the Sherlock Holmes tales. My favourite characters in any novel/show/story are the clever ones who can deduce things that people won’t come out and say. So much of our daily lives involves this skill; figuring out what people actually mean when they say they’re ‘fine’, from the clues they present rather than the words. Most of us spend at least part of our time wearing metaphoric masks and hiding what we think and feel – especially from ourselves.

What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the fifth book of a YA time travel series in which a teenage odd couple travel to some of history’s most exciting periods. My protagonist, Maddy, imagines she’s an expert on sub-text and reading people. If she was an earthworm, she says, she would be deep down in the dirt. Whereas her travelling companion, Riley, is a scientific genius who invented time travel, but he takes people at their word and can only ever burrow beneath the surface grains.

What's the key ingredient for a ripping mystery?
I believe that every good story, no matter what genre, has a mystery at its core; something to keep people guessing or wondering. In these COVID-19 times, we hope there’s a Sherlock in the medical world, who can solve the mystery of how to kick the virus’s butt!

Where can readers find you?
My short stories and various writings can be found at

Monday 20 April 2020

An Interview with Jon Farber

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together. 

Mandatory question considering the situation: How are you coping with the pandemic?

I'm doing fine. I'm a physician in Virginia, but as a private pediatrician I'm not in the line of fire, as children have been spared the illness effects to a remarkable extent. Life is certainly strange, with stay-at-home orders and masks when you go out, but I know how important this is to do, and that this will pass and there will be some semblance of normalcy down the road. None of my family and friends have been affected, but my heart does go out to those not as fortunate.

What's the inspiration behind your story?

The inspiration for the story is easy to report. I only write when I'm inspired; I'm not one of those who feels they have to write a certain amount in a certain time period, or who always has to be writing. I read "The Problem of the Snowbound Cabin" by Edward D. Hoch and I came up with a solution for how the murder might have been done, which was not the author's, and that got me to thinking if I could use my solution in my own story, a snowbound locale being a fairly common locked-room trope. From there, the suspects and the clues just burst upon me as is their wont, most of it fleshed out within an hour or so, and then I decided I might as well do it in the Hoch style

What's the key ingredient for a ripping mystery?

For me, the key ingredient is a clever puzzle, something I can solve which is challenging. It can be very unlikely, but not implausible, which is what ruins a number of the more outlandish John Dickson Carr novels for me. The Golden Age of detective stories is where I like to lose myself.

Who's your favourite fictional detective?

My favourite sleuth:  Ellery Queen, with nobody a close second. I can even put up with the writing, which can range from the pedestrian to the overblown, for the puzzle. I have pretty much all the fiction he has written, with the exception of some obscure radio plays and commissioned 'true crimes' which were published in magazines and never collected. I am almost finished rereading his oeuvre for the second time, and like to think of myself as something of an expert on him. Other writers I enjoy are of course Doyle, Christie, Carr (when he is on his game), Berkeley, and, among the more recent vintage, Rendell.
(Publisher's note: I'm reading Ruth Rendell's "The Crocodle Bird" now. For anyone who loves suspense but hasn't read Rendell, you're missing out!)

Have you solved any real mysteries?

I have some medical mysteries I have been proud of solving, but they required technical knowledge and may not appeal to your readers

What are you working on now?

Speaking of Ellery Queen, I am currently writing (or rather, my literary partner is writing) a cozy whodunit detective novel. That is, I did most of the plotting in my role as Frederick Dannay, he did almost all of the writing in his role as Manfred Lee, and we are now working on polishing up the second draft. It's about a doctor pursuing a serial killer, but despite that theme it is a cozy nonetheless.

Monday 13 April 2020

An Interview with Brian E. Guyll

In the lead-up to the launch of The Black Beacon Book of Mystery in June, we’ve asked our contributors to answer a few questions so you can get to know them better. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the stories together.  

What’s the story behind The Windless Halt Affair?

The inspiration behind my Windless Halt story was the place itself. My wife and I came upon it during a driving tour of the remote Northern Pennines in County Durham. Following a curving descent from the stark moors into a lush green valley with a winding stream we almost missed the old farmhouse buildings nestling among the trees. I stopped to ask a lady hanging her washing out the name of the place. 'There is no name, only a postal code,' she replied. Looking at its sheltered position and knowing that a lot of these old places were stagecoach horse changing posts in the old days, I decided to call it Windless Halt. The darker side of my mind envisaged it as a perfect place for a homegrown crime. Obviously, the detection part is heavily influenced by Conan Doyle – after all, who doesn't want a bash at writing a Sherlock Holmes story?

Have you made any literary pilgrimages?

I started my working career in the coal mines of North East England. While serving an apprenticeship and working for several years underground, I met many characters who could only be described as Dickensian. A few years ago I started writing a few memories down and found myself wanting to see the old haunts and maybe even meet some old acquaintances. Hence, once a year I drag my long-suffering wife around old mining villages and even mine workings. Obviously, the planned trip for this year has had to be postponed. I wondered how to write about such characters and bring them to life. Ultimately, I decided to fit them into a series of detective stories some of which are based on events in the lives of these colourful people.

What are your key ingredients for a ripping mystery?

I like a story with a reasonably fast pace, flowing natural dialogue, some dark humour, a twist or two and not always the inevitable ending where the good guy wins.

What’s a real mystery you’d like to solve?

The Dark Energy and Dark Matter phenomena intrigue me. Will the discovery of what they are unlock the key to the start and end of our universe? Sounds like a story!

Do you have a favourite fictional sleuth?

Ian Rankin’s John Rebus – a hard-bitten Scottish detective.
(Editor’s note: Great choice! For those who don’t know Rebus, click here

What are you writing now?

Apart from the above-mentioned unpublished detective novels, I write short whimsical stories for a local online magazine called Thanet Writers. Below is a link to the stories they have published thus far. I have just completed a short story for the BBC which I have just learned will be read out on local radio.

How can readers contact you?

Sorry to say I haven’t done anything with my blog for donkey’s years. There’s a contact page on or just simply email me at