The Road to a Novel


Novel coverA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … actually it was in 2010 in Donegal, Ireland … I’d written the beginning of a short story featuring a coroner’s clerk in 18th century England. It led to a novel.

I liked the character but I knew nothing of the period, the style of language of the time, nor what a coroner (or, indeed, what a coroner’s clerk did). So I fiddled with it for a while and, inevitably, put it away. At the time I had no idea where to go with it, and no thoughts at all about writing something as challenging as a full-blown novel.

Then the EUREKA! moment.

I visited a country house and was told a story of a triple death so shocking there just had to be a plot there for a murder mystery novel. I asked myself “what if it didn’t happen that way?”

The actual tragedy happened in 1938 and as I dwelt on the idea, the character I’d imagined earlier came back to me. That date, of course, was just preceding the Second World War, a time of tremendous upheaval and anti-Semitism. In that context, I thought it would be interesting to make James Given of Jewish heritage, unsure of his beliefs but with family and friends in potential peril.  So my 18th century coroner’s clerk was re-incarnated in the 20th century as a detective inspector.

The action also moved, so to speak, not in time, but in space. I was living in Ireland, but I’m English, and though I experimented, I couldn’t write with an Irish voice. I’d lived in Warwickshire for many years and knew it well, so it was natural to move James across the water.

When it came to a title, A Shadowed Livery, what could be more natural for my finished novel than taking inspiration from the county’s most famous son, William Shakespeare, born only a few miles from James’ home in Kenilworth.

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A Shadowed Livery, first in the Inspector James Given series, is available on Amazon.

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