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?
Staying inside, it’s been weeks since I spoke to anyone but family, except electronically. Fortunately, South Australia has one of the best responses to the epidemic in the world, and we’re feeling pretty confident so far that numbers will remain low.
Is there a story behind your contribution to The Black Beacon Book of Mystery?
The title “The Vicar of Sexton’s Deep” had been at the back of my mind for ages, the iconic image of the old, gothic church in the wild-wood, with strange things happening, and when the time came the storyline gelled very quickly. Discounting the still-incomplete opening adventure, this is the earliest of the Inspector Trevelyan stories, and I was still feeling my way. By the time it was finished, I better knew the Inspector and his world and have since finished two more tales, plus a cross-over with Sherlock Holmes which will be appearing in Weird Tales later in the year.
What inspired you to write this mystery?
I was intrigued by the combination of real-world and occult elements, and found it very satisfying from a storytelling point of view to set up an overtly occult/satanic scenario and then deconstruct it, reducing it to an everyday explanation. This is the Holmesian formula, but, at the same time, I provided a chilling thread of the supernatural quite distinct from the overt element. It was experimental in this sense, but the experiment seemed to work!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
None to date, I’d have to say, unless you count seeing one of the handful of surviving copies of the Magna Carta in the chapterhouse of Salisbury Cathedral, in 2006. It’s the basis of British law, and might perhaps be considered literature!
What are the key ingredients for a ripping mystery story?
My impressions: A crime of some subtlety, a strong motivation, characters the reader can relate to or at least understand readily, and an unimpeachable chain of logic by which it is solved—I feel it would be very unsatisfactory if the detective made too great a leap of intuition or otherwise came by the facts too easily.
Do you have a favourite fictional sleuth?
The Prince of Detectives, Sherlock Holmes.
What are you writing now?
I write mostly genre material, SF, fantasy, horror, historical, mystery, and adventure. I’m currently writing a short story which concerns small dinosaurs which survived the great extinction, have evolved intelligence and are scientifically uncovering the facts of their ancestor’s demise! I guess you’d call that SF! And I have a couple of Sherlock Holmes pieces to write in the near future for new markets opening up.