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.
First question, inevitable perhaps considering the
pandemic...how are you coping?
The official lockdown ended yesterday in France but I'm still at home with my two sons as school is reopening progressively with priority given to the children of parents in essential services. My wife had been working from home but she has started going back to work on a part-time basis. I'll be a stay-at-home-dad until life returns to normal. Living in the countryside makes it quite pleasant. We're very happy not to be cooped up in a small flat in the city. The virus hasn't spread too much in this part of France. I think most people have done well and respected the restrictions. It's too early to let our guard down though. This is a devastating virus and we need to do whatever we can to protect each other.
Is there a story behind your contribution to The Black Beacon Book of Mystery?
"The Ghosts of Walhalla" is Oscar Tremont's second adventure (details here) and a lot of it is inspired directly by my visit to the actual setting. Yes, it's a real ghost town in Victoria, Australia! I'll let you work out fact from fiction. Just like Oscar and Louise, my wife and I stayed at the camping ground for a few nights back in 2008 and that's where I began writing the mystery in a notebook. If you ever visit the state of Victoria, you really should try to swing by Walhalla. Ghost sightings not guaranteed but the tour is a lot of fun!
Have you made any literary pilgrimages?
Quite a few. I've visited 221B Baker Street. In Oxford, I drank at pubs frequented by famous writers and characters, like Tolkien and Inspector Morse. In cities like Oxford, Edinburgh, Dublin, and of course, London and Paris, it's pretty hard not to stumble across fascinating sites connected to books. I'd love to visit Agatha Christie's home, Greenway House, in Devon. If I ever go to the States, I'd love to explore everything connected to Edgar Allan Poe.
What are the key ingredients for a ripping mystery story?
I'm all about the puzzle. You need a great detective and believable characters, of course, but for me the mystery is the key. We all hate it when the solution is too obvious, but it shouldn't be too convoluted either. Whatever the resolution, there must be clues, red herrings, and foreshadowing along the way, so the reader can flip back through the pages and say, "Yeah! It was all right there under my nose!"
Do you have a favourite fictional sleuth?
My unoriginal answer is Sherlock Holmes. After all, he's the detective. The mysteries are excellent for the most part and both he and Watson are wonderful characters. In terms of TV detectives, I really like the sensitive heart but rough-around-the-edges mannerisms of Vera (I've yet to read any of the books) and the quirky Jonathan Creek. One of my favourite authors is Ruth Rendell but her Inspector Wexford doesn't really do it for me.
What are you writing now?
I’m working on an apocalyptic suspense novel about a pyromaniac, but it's early days. I'm also polishing a couple of Oscar Tremont short mysteries. My next publication will probably be my mystery novel, Letterbox. I finished the umpteenth draft last year and think it's ready now...well, almost.
Where can we follow or contact you online?