Agatha Christie and Isabella Muir

I read my first Agatha Christie novel when I was thirteen years old.  I don’t remember which one it was, but I do remember that it led me to read another and another.

Like most authors I am a voracious reader.  Having worked my way through Agatha Christie’s crime fiction I moved on through other genres, immersing myself for a time in science fiction with John Wyndham and Frank Herbert. 

My dad’s laden bookshelves provided me with all I needed. Alastair Mclean took my fancy for a while and then, as I worked my way through ‘O’ and ‘A’ level English Literature, I discovered Thomas Hardy and set myself the challenge of reading every one of his novels and adored them all.

Roll forward many years and I am now writing my own novels and have returned to Agatha Christie for my inspiration. It feels as though I have come full circle.

Earlier this year I achieved a long-held wish when I visited Greenway, Agatha’s much loved holiday home, set above the banks of the River Dart near Dartmouth. I wandered around the house and gardens and imagined how she might have spent her days when she was there. 

Many of her experiences found their way into her stories.  We know, for example, that the boat house at Greenway was the inspiration for the setting in her novel, Dead Man’s Folly.

It was fun to see The Tapestry Bag sitting on the shelf beside David Suchet, television’s much-loved Hercule Poirot, because of course it is Poirot who inspires Janie Juke – librarian and amateur sleuth – lead character in my Sussex Crime series.  Like me, Janie spent her teenage years reading Agatha Christie novels and when she decides to attempt to track down her missing friend, Zara, Janie is grateful for all she has learned from that great detective.

So, Janie and I have a lot in common!  If you would like to know more about Janie Juke, the Sussex Crime series and Agatha Christie then you are in the right place!

This blog post is one of a series, which leads up to Agatha Christie’s birthday and national #cozymysteryday on 15th September, as I enjoy the opportunity to be Chindi’s ‘Author of the week’.  Chindi is a network of authors, both traditionally and independently published, based largely in West Sussex.   Between us we publish a wide range of books, from historical and crime fiction to romance and children’s books, from humour to self-help. 

And as a birthday present to you on Agatha’s behalf,  you will receive a FREE Sussex Crime novella, Divided we Fall, when you sign up to receive Isabella Muir’s newsletter – with cozy mystery news and views, special offers and so much more. Just click here.

To find out more about the great Queen of Crime and to help celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday, then look out for the other blog posts in the series:

Agatha Christie – a child of her time  https://lexirees.co.uk/mums-book-blast/

Agatha Christie and the sixties  https://patriciamosbornewriter.wordpress.com/daily-blog/

What is a cosy mystery?  https://www.carol-thomas.co.uk/blog/

The good, the bad and the ugly  https://samefacedifferentplace.wordpress.com/

Investigating the past  https://rosemarynoble.wordpress.com/

Agatha Christie and Janie Juke https://isabellamuir.wordpress.com/blog/

And for this special week only, I am pleased to announce that the first book in my Sussex Crime series – The Tapestry Bag – will be available on Kindle for just £0.99p – grab it while you can!

You can find out more about each of the books in the Sussex Crime Mystery series by following the links below:

       BOOK 1: THE TAPESTRY BAG

       BOOK 2: LOST PROPERTY

       BOOK 3: THE INVISIBLE CASE

My latest novel is: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN

I would love to hear from you with your thoughts about my stories, about Agatha Christie, or about any of the articles in this week’s series, which focus not just on Agatha, but on life during the sixties and all I have done to research that iconic era.

You can follow me on:

Twitter: @SussexMysteries

Facebook: www.facebook.com/IsabellaMuirAuthor/

Or on Goodreads

Celebrating cozy mysteries!

Today is the first day of an exciting week, leading up to 15th September – the birthday of the great Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, and National Cozy Mystery Day!

So, to get us started, I am delighted to share some news about cozy mystery author, Judith A Barrett – plus a special offer not to be missed!

Judith A. Barrett lives and writes in the USA on a farm in Georgia with her FarmerMan husband, 2 dogs: TJ-Boy and Sadie, a rooster named Malfoy, 45 hens (let us know when you want the names of all the chickens), abundant wildlife, wild birds, and beautiful butterflies. To her husband’s amazement, she has not named all the wildlife, birds, and butterflies. Yet.

Judith is the author of the Donut Lady Mystery Series.

The series introduces us to KAREN O’BRIEN – a former teacher and convicted felon. After prison, she looks forward to a new, quiet life in a small town in southern Georgia where she buys a donut shop complete with a sweet German Shepherd, Colonel, and a sassy gray cat, Mia. Donut Lady’s plan for tranquility is disrupted by a missing boy in Sweet Deal Sealed, murders in Sweet Deal Concealed, and more murder in Sweet Deal Revealed.

Join Agatha’s Birthday Celebration with Donut Lady Mystery Series Book 1, Sweet Deal Sealed or Sweet Deal Sealed on Amazon UK

In case you are curious, UK folks also have an Amazon link to the series.  Donut Lady Mystery Series UK

Judith’s present for you:  Sweet Deal Sealed is FREE September 15-19!

Does Amazon US extend the FREE book to Amazon UK? The mystery can be solved only by UK readers between September 15 and 19.

Visit Judith at https://judithabarrett.com

And to keep the birthday present theme rolling,  you will also receive a FREE Sussex Crime novella, Divided we Fall, when you sign up to receive Isabella Muir’s newsletter – with cozy mystery news and views, special offers and so much more. Just click here.

Interviewing Patricia M Osborne

When did you first start writing fiction?

I’ve always written some fiction but more seriously since 2013 when I began House of Grace. On entering the fictional world I discovered I could transport myself to any time, anywhere and become anyone I wanted to be. I’ve never looked back.

What challenges did you experience in writing your first novel?

Adjusting from writing short stories to novels was quite a challenge as it’s a different way of writing. You can afford to spend more time on a scene. For instance, beta readers wanted food menu details for the fashion show buffet. In a short story you can’t afford all that detail.

The biggest challenge was letting go once the book was finished. The manuscript went backwards and forwards from myself to my editor and I didn’t want to let go. In the end my editor made the decision for me, otherwise I’m sure I’d have gone on forever. It would never be finished.

What are the aspects of fiction writing that you enjoy the most?

In my novel writing and short stories I love writing about family and the fifties and sixties are my favourite eras. My poetry, however, is quite different, because here I’ll write about anything. Myth with nature plays a big part but I also like to write about people. I can become a tree, bird, or indeed a man, and prefer to write in narrative free verse.

Do you have a favourite place or time of day to write?

Afternoons and evenings are my best time to write and my muse tends to visit me in the early hours of the morning, normally just as I’m about to drop off to sleep. This necessitates me waking up so I can write down what has come to me before I forget. If I am stuck on a project then I’ll make a point of working on it before bed and nine times out of ten the answer appears in my dreams.

What made you choose the fifties and sixties eras for your novel?

I suppose because they are my child and adolescent years and I love looking back.

What is it about your family saga series that you think attracts older readers?

The reader travels with the protagonist and is able to reminisce and relate to the events.  

My memories help for starters but also other people’s memories. For instance, one of the reasons I decided to open House of Grace in 1950 was because it made Grace almost the same age as my mum when she first met my dad. My late mum was great for information as was one of my late aunts. Other forms of research have come from Facebook groups and my own personal Facebook page. Readers love to be involved and are always ready to answer my questions. Google of course is a great help. We are very lucky as writers these days with research at the punch of a key. Not forgetting books, which are a great resource too. A writer needs to read.

What do you find most useful in terms of sources for research?

My memories help for starters but also other people’s memories. For instance, one of the reasons I decided to open House of Grace in 1950 was because it made Grace almost the same age as my mum when she first met my dad. My late mum was great for information as was one of my late aunts. Other forms of research have come from Facebook groups and my own personal Facebook page. Readers love to be involved and are always ready to answer my questions. Google of course is a great help. We are very lucky as writers these days with research at the punch of a key. Not forgetting books, which are a great resource too. A writer needs to read.

Had you always planned to choose the indie route for publication?

Not at all. To be honest I hadn’t thought about a publication of a novel at all. I finished House of Grace in 2014 and then it sat on my computer while I studied for an MA in Creative Writing with Brighton University. It was only when I went to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School: https://www.swanwickwritersschool.org.uk/ for the first time in 2016, that I became inspired by so many authors. One of the features about Swanwick is that they have a book room where all authors may sell their books. I made a pact that my book would be in that room in 2017. And it was. I came home and found out about formatting, book covers, etc. I already had an editor. A lot of the Swanwick writers have read and loved House of Grace and are eagerly waiting for The Coal Miner’s Son.

What are you working on at present?

I have a few projects on the go, I always do, but I have finished The Coal Miner’s Son and I’m deciding which route to go down for publishing. This is the second book in the House of Grace trilogy but all my books act independently and may be read as standalones. I’m working on the third instalment, which presently is untitled but uses Grace and George as narrators.

One of my other projects is another novel set in the sixties and the work in progress title is ‘Secrets’. This story is about family again and in particular two sisters. I am also working on a couple of poetry collections, one on myth around trees. I try to write at least one independent poem a month too. Various poems and short stories of mine have been published in anthologies and magazines.

Can you let us see the first 500 hundred words of The Coal Miner’s Son?

Here’s the opening 500 hundred words of ‘The Coal Miner’s Son’ – Part I, Chapter 1.

George

Shuffling feet, giggles and chatter filled the school corridor. Ben pushed me into the cluttered coats making me land on my bum. Luckily for me Miss Jones wasn’t around yet. We raced to the back of the classroom to find our seats. I won cos my legs were longer. Mam said I was like a stick. Eight of us sat round two tables squashed together as boy-girl-boy-girl. I shifted away from Susie Smith, my neighbour, a small girl with ginger frizzy hair and blotchy skin. Ben sat opposite her. Miss Jones strode into the room clapping her hands. Forty chairs scraped across the floor as everyone stood to attention and our rickety seats squeaked like mice as we sat down.
Miss Jones wrote 11th June 1962 on the blackboard. ‘Open your exercise books and practise the “Seven Times Table” in your heads. I shall test you after break.’
Paper rustled as pages turned. I got to four times seven when I heard the usual trickling. I bent down and found pee running close to my feet. Not again. I looked up towards Ben and rolled my eyes. He sniggered. I put up my hand.
‘What is it, George?’ Miss Jones said.
I signalled to Susie.
‘Oh dear. Would you mind fetching the mop, George? Susan, you go too and find Nurse.’
I dragged my chair back and the whole class turned to watch as I strode out of the room with Smelly Susie wriggling behind me. Why hadn’t she put up her hand to ask to go? No wonder no one wanted to play with her.
Humping the mop and bucket round to my table, I soaked up the puddle. The stink made me want to spew like when Mam asked me to put Beth’s smelly nappy in the bucket.
Miss Jones patted me on the shoulder. ‘Thank you, George.’
I turned around and looked up into her light blue eyes. My heart banged like a drum. One day I was going to marry Miss Jones.
On my way back to the classroom the bell rang so I ran to catch up with Ben, he was already nearly out of the door. We whispered and giggled.
‘George, can you wait behind please?’ asked Miss Jones.
She must’ve heard us laughing at Smelly Susie. Now Mam would find out, she’d tell Da and it’d be the slipper for me. But it wasn’t fair, why didn’t Ben have to stay behind too?
‘Sit down, George.’ Miss Jones pointed to the wooden chair next to her desk and crossed her long legs. She looked like Marilyn Monroe with her blonde wavy hair. Da was always saying Marilyn Monroe was the most beautiful woman in the world, next to Mam and our Alice, so Ben showed me a picture of her in a magazine.
‘I also wanted to thank you for clearing up after Susan every day. You’re a good boy, George Gilmore. I can’t understand why Mr Mason complains about you.’

            Chapter continues

About Patricia M Osborne

Patricia M Osborne is in her early sixties, married with grown-up children and five grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool, spent time in Bolton as a child, and now lives in West Sussex. In September 2018, Patricia finished an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Brighton and graduated with a Merit. She is a novelist, poet and short fiction writer. Her poems and short stories have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her debut novel, House of Grace, A Family Saga, set in the 1950s/60s, was released in March 2017.

Where can you find Patricia?

Patriciamosbornewriter.wordpress.com

patricia.m.osbornewriter@gmail.com

Facebook: Patricia M Osborne, Writer

Twitter: PMOsborneWriter

Where can you buy a copy of House of Grace?

http://mybook.to/HouseofGrace in paperback and Kindle form. Free to read with Kindle Unlimited.

House of Grace in paperback may be ordered from all good bookstores and libraries by quoting: ISBN 9780995710702.

…when I’m 64

When I get older, losing my hair

Many years from now’

Who remembers hearing these Beatles lyrics for the first time, back in 1967.  Maybe we thought that by the time we reached 64 we would be ‘old’.  It seems laughable now, when 64-year-olds choose to go trekking in their holidays and spend their weekends at the gym or taking part in a local park run.  Retirement and all that might bring moves further away as the state pension age continues to increase.

Life in 2019 is certainly different from the expectations we might have had back in the sixties.  Now we are surrounded with talk of technology and artificial intelligence and the desire for speed.  We are told that HS2 – the high-speed rail link – will ‘better connect people across Britain’.  There is demand for another runway at Heathrow to increase the numbers of flights to take us to far-flung destinations.  And day and night we have access to 24-hour news, bringing the world and all the troubles that are befalling it into our front room.

Perhaps it is no surprise that when we read fiction many of us choose to escape the frenetic pace of 2019 and immerse ourselves in gentler times.

An opportunity to take myself back to my childhood days was one of the reasons I chose the 1960s as the era for my Sussex Crime Mystery series. 

I have vivid memories of my brothers and sister revelling in the opportunities that 1960s pop culture offered.  My sister was lucky enough to see the Rolling Stones concert on Hastings Pier, back in 1964. I have a clear picture of my oldest brother playing the Animals’ House of the Rising Sun on his acoustic guitar, shortly before getting onto his Lambretta in his Mod ‘uniform’ of Parka and jeans and riding off to join his friends on the seafront.

As well as tapping into personal memories, I have thoroughly enjoyed my wider research into the decade.  It was a period of rapid change on so many levels.

After the introduction of commercial television in 1955, BBC has its first rival.  Gradually, during the sixties, more and more people had access to television, although for most it was a case of renting a set rather than owning one.  Of course, it was black and white only until 1967, when the first programme to be broadcast in colour was the Wimbledon Tennis Championships – ironic that they chose a sport where the competitors were all wearing white!

The increase in the numbers of people owning a car was another reason for the way that life changed during the sixties.  It seems incredible that at the start of the 20th century there were only 8,000 cars in the whole of Britain and yet by the end of the century the numbers of cars had soared to 21 million. It was during the fifties and sixties that the main ‘boom’ in car ownership occurred.  Car ownership in London alone quadrupled between 1950 and 1970 due to the rise in the standard of living and the reduction in car prices brought about by improved mass manufacture techniques. By the mid-1960s there were 1.5 million cars registered in London alone. The growth in car ownership brought increased traffic congestion and the need for more motorways.  In fact, the sixties has been described by some as a time of ‘motorway mania’.

Looking back to that iconic era of Mary Quant fashion and Beatles music, when a footballer earned little more than £20 a week, it is easy to forget that life for many was difficult.  I am a great fan of the television  series, Call the Midwife –  every episode practically has me in tears.  I am reminded of the horrors of the thalidomide scandal, a drug that had been released for use without adequate testing.  The contraceptive pill was only available to married women, leaving many young women struggling when they discovered they were pregnant.  Some risked their lives paying for illegal backstreet abortions.  Others handed over their babies for adoption, never to see them again.  It was this topic that inspired me to write The Forgotten Children, an emotional story about a mother’s search for her son.

This was also a decade when people found their voice.  Protest groups shouted – anti-establishment – anti-war – ban the bomb – give peace a chance.  The world stood still while President Kennedy and Kruschev decided if they were going to obliterate the world in a nuclear war. Women continued to fight for their rights and it was this aspect of sixties culture that inspired me to have a strong female lead in my books. Sexism was rife, not just in the police force, but in many strands of society.  My Sussex crime series features amateur sleuth, Janie Juke, a young librarian with a nose for detecting.  Being a woman on the edge of what was in those days very much a man’s world of policing creates added tension. Readers are not only rooting for Janie to solve the crime – they are willing her on as she confronts many of the other aspects of life affecting British society during that decade of enormous change.

So what is it about looking back that is so attractive – for me as an author – and for you as a reader?  Perhaps it’s a chance to relive a personal memory, or maybe it’s an opportunity to immerse ourselves in that fictional world and for a short time forget all about Brexit, climate change and modern day slavery. We can remember what it was to stand in a telephone box, pull out one of the many telephone directories to check a number and then find our pennies before pressing a button to be connected. 

Where have all the telephone boxes gone?  Long time passing…

I’m delighted to have been part of the August Blog Blitz for Books For Older Readers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the sixties – was it a decade of fun, fear or fascination for you? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Choosing a life of crime

When Agatha Christie’s first crime novel was published in 1920 she was thirty years old.  She was a loved and loving daughter and is described as living in an ‘upper middle-class family’.

When Jane Austen’s first novel was published in 1811 she was thirty-six years old.  She too was a loved and loving daughter.  Her father received a ‘modest’ income as a Reverend, which he supplemented by farming.

Take any two writers a century apart and it is easy to note the differences, in the lives they led, as well as the stories they wrote.  But is there anything that might pinpoint why, when we consider these two authors, we find that one has chosen to write crime fiction and the other to write novels that provide social commentary and ‘highlight women’s traditional dependence on marriage to secure social standing and economic security’.

It’s not enough to say that each reflected their concern for what they saw around them.  Jane Austen could just have easily been drawn to crime fiction.  Her first novel was published sixteen years before Robert Peel’s ‘peelers’ began to patrol London streets.  Criminals were still able to go about their business, often without fear of being caught.  And barely fifty years later we first see Sherlock Holmes on the hunt for clues.

By contrast, Agatha Christie could just have easily chosen to write the twentieth century equivalent of Sense and Sensibility. She had a strong desire to meet a suitable man to marry, leading to her eventually meeting her first husband Archie Christie, someone she felt a deep and lasting connection to, throughout her life.

So, if it wasn’t their life’s experiences that led them to choose their fictional genre, when setting to pen to paper – what might it have been? 

Each of us is affected, not just by our inherited personality, our family and immediate environment, but by wider social changes – politics, the legal system, education among them. The television documentary series, ‘7 UP’ set out to determine if there is any truth in Aristotle’s famous quote:

‘Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man’. 

Aristotle, The Philosophy of Aristotle

Throughout the series we have seen thirteen children at seven-year intervals and we are able to reflect on the extent to which their personality held fast throughout some sixty years, or whether events altered the course of their lives. The documentary series explores the puzzle that is the nature/nurture debate – played out in front of us, without any definitive answer.

Perhaps puzzles are something to focus on. Agatha Christie’s route from first finished manuscript to first published novel was not straightforward. Like authors, artists and composers alike, she too suffered early rejection and criticism.  But also like most authors across the centuries she refused to let disappointment stop her; she continued to write.  From all that I have read about her, I get the sense that it was her love of the process that drew her to complete story after story.  Yes, she is famed for the puzzles she created in her plots, but she also created characters who live on in print, as well as on the large and small screen, nearly a hundred years after she first introduced them to her readers.

We also need to remember, that although Agatha Christie is best known for her crime novels, she wrote six novels, described by her daughter as ‘bitter-sweet stories about love,’ under the name, Mary Westmacott.  In these novels she was able to explore the characters without concerning herself with clues and criminal motives.  They may not have had criminal motives, but they had motives nevertheless. 

As a writer I am familiar with ‘the hero’s journey’; the favoured construct of countless novels where we see the protagonist reaching for their heart’s desire.  As readers we need to know what the lead character wants and then journey with him or her to overcome obstacles until they reach what we hope is a happy conclusion.

I know little of Jane Austen, but having read all I can find on the life of Agatha Christie, I am still challenged to discover why this particular author chose to focus on crime fiction for her writing.  My own experience of fiction writing doesn’t provide me with any clues. I can’t be certain if it was my personality, my family life, or my social environment that guided me to write my Sussex Crime series.  Authors are often asked where their inspiration comes from.  My own answer would be, ‘I don’t know’ and perhaps if we were able to ask Agatha she would say the same thing.

Nevertheless, for someone whose book sales approximate two billion, making her the best selling fiction writer, second only to Shakespeare, perhaps we don’t need to worry too much about why she chose to write what she wrote – but just be grateful that she did.

A world without images

Thank goodness for libraries.  As part of my research into all things ‘sixties’ I have tracked down a fascinating book.  ‘The Neophiliacs’ was written by Christopher Booker and published in 1969.  It turns out that it is now out of print and Amazon are asking over £100 for a copy!  So, you can imagine my delight when my wonderful library managed to retrieve a copy from their ‘rare and out-of-print’ books.

I am only a few chapters in, but have already been intrigued by much of Booker’s insight into the significance of what he calls in the book’s sub-title, ‘A study of the revolution in English life in the fifties and sixties’.

Wanting to find out more about Christopher Booker, I did what many do nowadays in these times of instant ‘information’ – I Googled him.  I discovered that back in 1961 he became the founder and one of the early editors of the satirical magazine ‘Private Eye’.  He was the first jazz critic for the Sunday and Daily Telegraph and continued as a weekly columnist for the Telegraph right up to 2019, when he finally retired at the age of 81.  As well as ‘The Neophiliacs’ Booker has written a number of books studying British society, as well as commenting on wider issues, such as the European Union.  Some of his views regarding climate change, health issues, such as the dangers of asbestos and cigarettes, have been controversial; he would appear to be someone who is not afraid to say what he thinks, even if it means going against the grain.

However, as much as Mr Booker and I do not see eye-to-eye over such issues as climate change, his insight into the long-term implications of social change during the 1950s and 1960 have really struck a chord with me.

This paragraph in particular made me sit up and think:


‘…the twentieth century has also provided two other factors to aggravate and to feed the general neurosis; the first being the image-conveying apparatus of films, radio, television, advertising, mass-circulation newspapers and magazines; the second the feverishly increased pace of life, from communications and transport to the bewildering speed of change and innovation, all of which has created a profound subconscious restlessness which neurotically demands to be assuaged by more speed and more change of every kind.’

THE NEOPHILIACS: A STUDY OF THE REVOLUTION IN ENGLISH LIFE IN THE FIFTIES AND SIXTIES BY CHRISTOPHER BOOKER

Of course, we know now in 2019 that the desire for speed is all around us – from the need for ever faster Broadband, to high-speed rail links and non-stop Transatlantic flights.  Some will point out that the changes started when the Industrial Revolution resulted in horse-drawn carriages and ploughs being replaced with the engine and the first railways.  Social change is ongoing, but it does appear that some eras are more significant than others.

What is fascinating is to realise that at least sixty or seventy years ago Booker was able to identify ‘restlessness’ as it was happening, knowing that people would need more of the same, on and on until we reach the present day addiction to online and social media, where we constantly flick through images to gratify our seemingly non-existent attention span.

Booker identifies how the word ‘image’ … ‘floated into general consciousness…’ around 1958-59.  He suggests that the word was used in a way it had never been used before, to describe things, ‘…such as the appeal of television personalities, or different models of motor cars…the visual imagery of eye-catching clothes, the bright lights of the new super-markets, the glossy packaging of food.’

Now we can’t imagine a world without ‘images’ – but here Booker reminds us that for many who grew up during the 1930s and 1940s the concept of ‘interior design’ or ‘fashion’ might have been shared by the wealthy, but for everyone else it was as fanciful as man walking on the moon.

I’m certain that as I read on through Booker’s study of these two iconic decades I will come across more statements that capture my attention – and when I do I will share them with you!

Talking and listening

It’s been a fun week! I spent the day on Saturday with two wonderful writing friends talking practically non-stop about words in every genre.

One of my friends, Sarah Acton, is a poet extraordinaire! Based in Dorset she runs poetry workshops and nature walks, captivating everyone who attends. The third person in our little chattering group was Deana Luchia, author of the marvellous book entitled, Happy with Harry, an uplifting book about happiness, written by Deana’s rescue dog, Harry, which is so wonderful it should be gracing every book shelf in the land.

After a day of inspiring each other to push on with our next creative project, Sarah and I joined the wonderful Arctic thriller writer, Christoffer Petersen (via Skype). Sarah and I first met Chris when we were all working on our MA in Professional Writing with Falmouth University and we have been friends ever since. And for anyone who is familiar with my books, you will see the expert hand of Chris at work on all my cover designs – he is a real artist!

The talking continued today, in another form. I had fun recording a YouTube video trailer for a new initiative organised by CHINDI – the Network of Independent Authors – which I am proud to be a member of. This energetic group of independent authors are always coming up with new ideas to help spread the word about the wealth of writing experience within the group. The latest initiative is ‘CHINDI SPEAKS’ – a leaflet and associated YouTube trailers providing background information about several of us who are happy to give talks and presentations to local groups, libraries and writing festivals.

The focus for my own talk will be the 1960s – that iconic era, which I chose for the basis of my Sussex Crime Mystery series, as well as my latest novel, The Forgotten Children.

Now, after all that talking and listening, it must be time for me to get on with some writing…

Australia – shadows amidst the sunshine

I am delighted to welcome fellow author, Rosemary Noble, to my blog today. Rosemary shares my passion for exploring the truth about some of the darkest parts of Australian history.

Here she explains…

In the Australian National Anthem, ‘Advance Australia Fair’, there’s a phrase celebrating the country’s modern forward-thinking attitude:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;”

And later it talks about all the immigrants:

For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;”

All very positive, and yet, there are many dark sides to Australian history beginning with the misconception fostered by Captain Cook that this new land was “Terra Nullius” – an empty land, when, in fact, it was populated by 500 different nations who had cared for the land for over fifty thousand years.

‘Ngara – from the day we are born we listen to our Elders, hear what the country is saying and think how our actions impact on all living things.’

This is what I read in the Australian Museum of Sydney.

We know what happened. In my husband’s ancestor, Jim’s life story, he describes how bread made for the aboriginals in early Melbourne contained lime (not the fruit); how the aboriginal labourers were paid in brandy, not money, how he himself lassoed a young boy to work for him and called him Sambo. When I read this, I shuddered, but this was accepted as normal in Victorian times. No wonder the problems now are so intractable.

Jim himself, was the son of convicts, the second stain on Australian history. His father’s record showed how he received 50 lashes for falling asleep on the job, one hundred lashes for stealing some wood, which he had probably cut. Times were hard, life less precious – how can life be any less precious for the families of those who die young or are forcibly emigrated? Are we less accepting of loss and death now? I doubt it.

I can go on into the twentieth century, the White Australia Policy, the kidnapping of aboriginal children – many will have watched the excellent film, Rabbit Proof Fence. It doesn’t end there. Next, we have the Lost Children, those unfortunate orphans sent out to be abused and enslaved in the 40s, 50s and 60s. That abuse carried on in Catholic orphanages, witness the Cardinal Pell scandal which is ongoing.

We are now in the 21st century and we have the refuges housed in appalling condition on Nauru. I stood outside the Canberra Parliament last October and listened to stories of children who are traumatised and barely surviving without hope on Nauru.

2018 11 17_0773

Apologies keep being made to the aboriginals, to the lost children and latterly to the victims of child abuse. Ex-Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, herself the subject of horrifying misogyny, was feted by those she swore to help. One man knelt at her feet to kiss them. She had given him a voice at last.

2018 11 17_0639

New statues commemorate the female convicts in Hobart, who were described at the time as “whores, of no use, the worst examples of womankind,” but they helped found Australia. Their great grandsons fought at Gallipoli.


I love Australia, I love the people, but the dark side remains.

As a novelist, I can bear witness, to the abuse, the racism, the misogyny which exists in politics and some authorities, if not in the majority of its very culturally diverse population. This history offers an anguished tapestry of stories and it fascinates me.

Rosemary Noble lives in West Sussex and worked as an education librarian. Books have been her life, ever since she walked into a library at five years old and found a treasure trove. Her other love is social history. She got hooked on family history before retirement and discovered so many stories that deserved to be told.

Blog https://rosemarynoble.wordpress.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/chirosie

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RosemaryJaneNoble/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rosemary-Noble/e/B00J7TLMKC?ref=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Rosemary is a member of CHINDI independent authors and is involved in literary events in and around Chichester. She also loves to travel, especially to Australia and Europe and not least, she loves spending time with her grandchildren, one of whom is a budding author herself.

Her first book, Search for the Light, tells the story of three young girls transported to Australia in 1824. Friendship sustains them through the horrors of the journey and their enforced service in Tasmania. The Digger’s Daughter tells of the next generation of gold-diggers and a pioneering woman who lives almost through the first hundred years in Victoria. The third in the trilogy, Sadie’s Wars takes the reader to the fourth generation and into the twentieth century. The trilogy is based on the author’s family. It tells of secrecy and lies, of determination and grit and how all can be done or undone by luck.



Giving Back to Greenland — Christoffer Petersen

It’s no secret, I write about Greenland, and as a full-time writer I make a modest living from my Greenland stories. So, it’s time to give something back. Starting in January 2019, I’m going to give 100% of my royalties for the sale of my novella The Heart that was a Wild Garden, including paperbacks […]

via Giving Back to Greenland — Christoffer Petersen

Why we love crime!

Walk into any bookshop and you will see a whole host of fictional genres – history, romance, supernatural, science fiction, thrillers…and crime.  And, even if you’re not a reader, you can turn the TV on and discover a whole host of great dramas featuring crimes and criminals.

So, what is it about the criminal mind that fascinates us?

It would be very enlightening to have a conversation with Agatha Christie today to see what she thinks of the modern day crime writing – but also to discover why she started writing crime fiction in the first place.

Her first full-length novel was ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’, published in 1920.  It was in this book that  she introduced the Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and the rest, as they say, is history!

It’s no wonder, then that heroine Janie Juke, young librarian and amateur sleuth, has been avidly following her hero Poirot, hoping to learn all there is to know about the criminal mind.

The Sussex Crime Mysteries is available now as a compilation – on Kindle via Amazon or as an e-book from Apple –  Barnes & Noble –  Kobo  

Grab yourself a bargain – it’s so cheap, it’s criminal!