Best-selling author of all time!

Any guesses as to who is the most read author in the world? Well, according to a recent Wikipaedia article, it is Agatha Christie – who has estimated sales of between two and four billion!  Even beating the bard, William Shakespeare!

Hercule Poirot appeared in 33 of her published ‘whodunits’ – which numbered 85 in total – not forgetting her  numerous short stories.

It’s no surprise then that young librarian,  Janie Juke, has learned so much from the great man that she has become a successful amateur sleuth.  In the fictional Sussex seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, Janie enlists the help of friends and family to solve crimes and mysteries – with her notebook at the ready and Poirot’s advice always on hand.

Agatha Christie was born on 15th September 1890.

And now, to help celebrate the birthday of our wonderful Queen of Crime, you can buy all three books of the Janie Juke trilogy in one compilation.

The Sussex Crime Mysteries is available now for pre-order via Amazon at a special discounted price of £5.99 for just 13 days – don’t delay, the clock is ticking…

The Queen of Crime!

On the 15th September 1890 Agatha Christie was born.  She started writing novels  in her early twenties and a hundred years later her books are still being read by millions!

Among those readers is Janie Juke, young librarian and amateur sleuth, whose hero is Hercule Poirot.  Janie has made a name for herself in the sleepy seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, where she uses all she has learned from Poirot to solve crimes and mysteries.

The Janie Juke mysteries are set in Sussex in the late 1960s – when Agatha Christie’s books were already famous the world over.

Now, to help celebrate the birthday of our wonderful Queen of Crime, you can buy the whole Janie Juke trilogy in one compilation.

The Sussex Crime Mysteries is available now for pre-order via Amazon at a special discounted price for just 15 days – don’t delay, the clock is ticking…

Flying high

It seems incredible to think that our Royal Air Force is one hundred years old.   It was back in 1918, on 1 April, when the Royal Air Force first formed as a separate service, independent of the British Army and the Royal Navy.  In fact, it was the first time that any country had formed an entirely separate and independent air force.

We can find out more on the RAF100 dedicated website, which explains:

‘The ‘new’ RAF was the most powerful air force in the world with more than 290,000 personnel and nearly 23,000 aircraft, and fought effectively from April 1 1918 over the Western Front in support of ground forces. General Jan Christian Smuts said of Air Power: ‘There is absolutely no limit to the scale of its future independent war use.’

Of course, we now know that over the course of the next hundred years the RAF were instrumental in helping us to fight and win two world wars.

Of course,  it wasn’t just men who risked their lives – the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) was also created in 1918, and then in 1939 the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAR) was created.  Service women were heavily involved in operating radar equipment, plotting, navigation and reconnaissance.  

When the armistice was declared on November 11, 1918, everyone hoped they had seen the last of war.  Sadly, it was not to be.  By the time war was declared again in 1939 the RAF had such state-of-the-art planes as Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancasters and Lysanders.

And it was a Lysander that Hugh Furness flew in my novel, Lost Property.  Hugh is an RAF pilot who also worked with the Special Operations Executive, flying agents into France to help the French resistance.  Such brave folk.  The inspiration for the story told in Lost Property came after my visit to Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, which is near to where I live.  The site of the Museum was originally the air base, RAF Tangmere, famous for its role in the Battle of Britain.  It was the Tangmere wing of Fighter Command that the famous Group Captain Douglas Bader commanded.

So, it was timely that when attending a local charity event, together with other indie authors (Chindi Authors) the Mayor of Chichester expressed interest in the story of Hugh Furness and bought a copy of Lost Property.  The photo here shows Julia Dean, who had organised the event, with book in hand.  Julia’s own novel And I Shall be Healed (writing as JL Dean) also focuses on brave servicemen, as she tells the story of a First World War young army chaplain who is haunted by an unhappy upbringing and a mistake for which he cannot forgive himself.  He struggles to put the past behind him and support the men he has been called to serve.

pic-of-mayor-and-julia.jpg

 

Today then, when we see or hear the RAF100 parade and flypast, we have much to be grateful for.  So many young men prepared to risk their lives to keep us safe.

Thank you…

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating mysteries!

It’s fair to say, that there’s cause for celebration back here at Janie Juke HQ!  The Invisible Case – the third book in the Sussex Crime mystery series – will be available from this Saturday, 30 June.

As well, as this new novel, brand new editions of the first two books in the series have been published, with beautiful new covers (cover design courtesy of the talented author and cover designer, Christoffer Petersen).  The second editions also now include a map of Tamarisk Bay, the sleepy seaside town where Janie lives and works, and a bonus chapter.  But the great news is that the price is still the same – at £6.99 each.

And as if that isn’t enough – we have business cards, bookmarks and banners – all being printed, as I write this…

Buisnesscard.indd

The Invisible Case

It’s a tragic case for Janie this time – there’s a sudden death and it looks as though it could be suspicious…

Just when Janie was hoping to spend a fun Easter weekend catching up with her Aunt Jessica, who has returned from Italy after nine years of European adventures, the family are caught up with tragedy.  Does Jessica’s friend, Luigi, have something to hide?  What is the real reason he has come to Tamarisk Bay?

The Invisible Case is available now for pre-order on Amazon for the special price of just £0.99p!

Find it wherever you are in the world –

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

 

What makes a great author?

I’ve been finding out more about that wonderful Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie.  Having just read her biography, I have discovered some interesting facts about her.  Here are some of them:

  • her ideas for plots, characters and settings came in a random way – she filled numerous notebooks, but there was no order or organisation to her note-taking
  • she lived a busy life outside of her writing and was prepared to try her hand at all sorts of pursuits – even windsurfing!
  • she travelled extensively
  • she loved her privacy.

While reading about her I have tried to deduce what it was about her writing that made her as famous and well-loved as she was – and still is.

Here are some thoughts:

  • Agatha Christie lived for 85 years and was writing for most of those years – her first book was published in 1920 – when she was thirty years old, and she was still getting great reviews for newly published works in the 1970s – fifty years later
  • her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been read by millions
  • it seems to me that her focus was always the story – she loved the psychology of crime – creating twists and turns throughout to keep her readers guessing.

In the words of her biographer:

‘Agatha’s books last because they are good, if sometimes hopelessly improbable stories.  The reader, once hooked, wants to know what happens next.  They deal with myths, fantasies, obsessions shared by people of every sort: quests and contests, death, sex, money, murder, conspiracy, transformation, power, the triumph of the simple over the complex, the importance of the mundane as well as the cosmic.  They construct a pattern, assigning facts and emotions to their appointed place as problems are resolved and guilt and innocence established.’

‘Agatha Christie – A biography’ by Janet Morgan (published 2017)

So, how does all this help a rookie author called Isabella Muir, who has developed a fascination for writing crime mysteries?

Well, by delving into the life of Agatha Christie’s life I can see that she lived a full life – grasping opportunities to explore and to learn about people, places, experiences.  It seems to me that it was a life well lived.  Inevitably that spilled into her writing and her energy and enthusiasm meant that she just kept on going – writing and living.

I’ve been learning from Agatha, at the same time as Janie Juke has been learning from her hero, Hercule Poirot.  Janie has successfully solved two mysteries so far in ‘The Tapestry Bag’ and ‘Lost Property’, with her third – ‘The Invisible Case’ waiting in the wings for publication this June.  Janie and I have a long road ahead – but if we keep Agatha Christie in her hearts and in our heads then we are in good company!

The Invisible Case will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon – watch this space!

Follow Isabella Muir on Twitter @SussexMysteries for the latest news about the Janie Juke mystery series.

Tamarisk Bay!

At last, readers of the Janie Juke mystery series can find their way around Janie’s home town of Tamarisk Bay with the aid of this wonderful map.

For those of you who live in Sussex, see if you can spot some familiar landmarks!

Look out for the second edition of The Tapestry Bag and Lost Property which will include the map, as well as some tempting bonus chapters.

Many thanks to figurative artist Richard Whincop for creating such a masterpiece!

Agatha Christie’s secrets

I’m continuing to follow the trail of Agatha Christie!  (while channelling Janie Juke, of course!)

I have come across a fascinating book, entitled: Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks.  The author, John Curran, had the great fortune to have ‘unfettered access’ to all of Agatha Christie’s papers, as well as the hospitality of her grandson, Mathew Pritchard.  Curran then spent some four years delving into over Christie’s notebooks – over seventy of them.  He has done an excellent job, as the book is littered with excerpts from the notebooks, all of which give the reader real insight into the vibrant mind of the ‘Queen of Crime’.

It seems that all Christie needed in order to capture an idea was a blank page – it didn’t matter whether that page was within the cheapest exercise book, or, as Curran puts it:  ‘hard-backed multi-paged notebooks with marbled covers’ which seemed to be ‘more worthy recipients’.

My feeling is that the notebooks became a reflection not only of Christie, the author, but also of Agatha, the wife and mother.  Scattered in amongst her exciting ideas for novels and short stories are the more mundane essentials of everyday life, such as shopping lists and reminders for hair appointments.  It seems that there was little rhyme or reason to the order in which she made her notes. Curran explains:

‘In only five instances is a Notebook devoted to a single title. [otherwise, the] …use of the Notebooks was utterly random.  Christie opened a Notebook […], found the next blank page and began to write.  It was simply a case of finding an empty page, even one between two already filled pages.  And, as if that wasn’t complicated enough, in almost all cases she turned the Notebook over and, with admirable economy, wrote from the back also.’

(from ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ by John Curran, published 2010)

For anyone who likes to gain an insight into Agatha Christie, the author, this book is a delight.  You can see how her mind was working when, for example, she devised the fatal seating plan for Sparkling Cyanide.  She plays around with various positions for each of the main characters, until she settles on the one that works best for the storyline.

From other notebook snippets we see how she devised her characters.  She tries out names and brief descriptions, amending her ideas later on within the same notebook, or even another notebook.  There is a similar process for her scene plotting, where she allocates letters (for example, A to L) but then moves scenes around until she reaches the one that, in her mind, will work best.

Having read through Curran’s fascinating book, what struck me most was Christie’s ability to juggle with so many storylines, characters, settings and plot twists and turns – with what looks to the outsider as little order or organisation.  It seems that she was literally bursting with ideas.  It is no wonder that she was such a prolific author and that her books continue to be just as popular more than forty years after her death – and almost one hundred years since the publication of her first crime novel: The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Which brings us back full circle to Janie Juke’s first mystery: The Tapestry Bag, where snippets from this first of Christie’s novels provide Janie with a subtle helping hand.

More about Agatha Christie soon!

On the trail of Agatha Christie

In the Janie Juke mystery series, my protagonist, Janie, refers to her passion for Agatha Christie novels.  In particular, Janie loves the stories featuring Hercule Poirot and has learned many of her investigative skills from him.  As she tackles the mysteries occurring in Tamarisk Bay, she draws on many of Poirot’s techniques to follow the trail of evidence to solve the crimes.

So, I’ve been following my own trail!  With the wonders of the internet it’s easy enough to discover the facts and figures about Christie’s incredible writing career.  For example,  I learned that Poirot featured in thirty-three of her novels, whereas Miss Marple featured in just twelve.  This was despite the fact that Agatha herself described Poirot as an ‘insufferable’ man.

The statistics of Christie’s writing career are astonishing – her novels have sold more than a billion copies in English and a further billion or more in translation (in 103 languages).  In fact, a Wikipedia article suggests her books are second only in popularity to the Bible and Shakespeare.

But it was a story of another trail altogether that helped me to learn a little more about Agatha Christie, wife and mother.  In 1922, aged 32, she accompanied her first husband, Archie, on a ten-month voyage around the world – South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Canada.  Archie had been invited to join a trade mission to promote the British Empire Exhibition, due to take place in 1924.  Agatha was determined to go with him, even though it meant that her two-year-old daughter had to be left behind, in the care of Agatha’s sister.

The Grand Tour is a wonderful collection of photos, newspaper cuttings, journal entries and letters and has been edited by Agatha Christie’s grandson, Mathew Pritchard.  Agatha frequently wrote home to her much-loved mother, telling her of all the fascinating places they visited and the interesting people they met.

Reading through the letters and anecdotes has given me a wonderful sense of Agatha as she was then, observant, intrigued, ready to take on new challenges.  Here is one snippet that made me smile:

‘I made a lot of discoveries about fruit.  Pineapples, for instance, I had always thought of as hanging down gracefully from a tree.  I was so astonished to find that an enormous field I had taken to be full of cabbages was in fact of pineapples.’

(from The Grand Tour, edited by Mathew Pritchard, published 2012)

Once they arrived in Honolulu she was determined to try her hand at surfing and with perseverance started to master the sport:

‘After ten days I began to be daring…The first six times I came to grief …[but] Oh, the moment of complete triumph on the day that I kept my balance and came right into shore standing upright on my board!’

(from The Grand Tour, edited by Mathew Pritchard, published 2012)

There are so many wonderful snippets in this book and it is easy to see how the things she experienced during her travels influenced her writing, helped shape her characters, her settings and her plotlines.

As authors, we are encouraged to ‘write what you know’ – well, a trip around the world certainly helped the famous ‘Queen of Crime’ to expand her knowledge, so that nearly one hundred years on we are still enjoying the benefits.