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The Victorian Origins of Crime Writing - A talk given at HULF, 30 April 2022

This is an extended version of a talk given at the Crime, Thriller and Mystery Books event, Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival, 30 April 2022.    This is a "long read" and if you prefer to download and read it, there is a pdf version on my website here .      “How are you this morning, Betteredge?” asked Franklin Blake.   “Very poorly, sir,” answered Gabriel Betteredge.   “Sorry to hear it. What do you complain of?”   “I complain of a new disease, Mr. Franklin, of my own inventing. I don’t want to alarm you, but you’re certain to catch it before the morning is out.”   “The devil I am!”   “Do you feel an uncomfortable heat at the pit of your stomach, sir? and a nasty thumping at the top of your head? Ah! not yet? It will lay hold of you…, Mr. Franklin. I call it the detective-fever; and I first caught it in the company of Sergeant Cuff.” Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone   The new disease of Detective Fever was first diagnosed by Wilkie Collins in
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My Month in Books: April 2022

Th e Widows of Malabar Hill , Sujata Massey (Soho Crime, 2018) The Widows of Malabar Hill is the first book in the 1920s mystery series featuring Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s first and only woman lawyer. Like all good mysteries, it’s got plenty of secrets at its heart. The central secret is, of course, kept by the murderer. But there are other secrets, such as the secrets of an adulterer or an embezzler. There are the secrets of a marriage, the things one partner keeps from anther; secrets within a household; and secrets around normal bodily functions such as menstruation, during which, in some families, women are kept apart from the rest of the family. Even the buildings have secrets: tunnels, screened windows, locked rooms. Not all the secrets are sinister. Perveen’s father, in his determination to protect his daughter, keeps things from her. Perveen hides her unhappiness from her parents as she doesn’t want to worry them. The secrecy surrounding the lives of the three widows, who l

People and Places: Writing with the senses, mood and atmosphere

Is there such a thing as a sense of place? Do places have atmospheres that we can sense? And how can historical novelists harness these responses in their fiction? I recently spoke to best-selling author Nicola Cornick about her timeslip novels for the Historical Novels Review, February 2022. The article is republished here and is also available on my website as a PDF document.  At a 2021 conference on ‘Imagining History: Wales in Fiction and Fact’, Dr Marian Gwyn remarked, “historical fiction teaches us how people and places connect”. (1) For readers of historical fiction, a sense of place is an important element establishing not only the physical milieu of a novel, but also the historical one. This is often achieved, as the familiar mantra has it, by evoking the “sights, sounds and smells” of a setting, that is, through the senses of the people in it. A sense of place is created by the characters connected with it. However, setting may have another function besides conveying a sen