Pauline Rowson on researching the nautical elements of her crime novels
As your novels are all set around and on the sea does that mean you're an accomplished sailor?
Heck, no! In fact you wouldn’t let me loose on any boat and to be perfectly honest I am a terrified sailor. It’s the opposite case here of a little knowledge being a good thing. Sometimes the more knowledge you have the more you are tempted to show it and put it in your novels and in so doing you risk the danger of it ending up reading like a manual. The same applies to knowledge of police procedure. OK, so I need some knowledge of how the police work for my crime novels but if I explained exactly how a major investigation is run then the novel would end up reading like a police manual, it is FICTION after all. Likewise if I explained every nautical detail then the novel would be as stagnant as sludge.
There are things that I need to know though and for this I draw on my husband’s expertise (an experienced sailor) and I consult navigational charts. For example, whether or not it is feasible for a body to be found where I have placed it and if the time frame is correct, which means consulting tide timetables and charts. If the murder occurred in the past then I need to know the tide timetables on that day.
And it’s not only the time of the tides but the height that could make a difference to the plot or subplot. Can the type of boat the victim, suspect or my heroes, Andy Horton or Art Marvik, get into a certain harbour on a certain day at a certain time. How deep is the harbour? Does it dry out at low tide? If so then I can’t possibly have the police launch motoring in and out of it whenever it suits them.
The reader will, of course, be unaware of this research. I don’t consider it a drudge. On the contrary I enjoy it and believe it’s important to get it right, because if it is real to me then it will be real to my reader wherever that reader is, the heart of America, China, the Commonwealth, or the UK. Whether that reader is living close to or thousands of miles from the sea, I want him or her to be able to smell the sea, to see it, feel it, taste it and experience it through the words on the page, and if I can achieve that then that’s what I call a perfect setting for a crime novel.
DI Andy Horton series of marine mystery police procedural crime novels and of the new marine crime series featuring former marine commando, Art Marvik as well as standalone thrillers, In Cold Daylight and In For The Kill.
The first in the Art Marvik series Silent Running is published by Severn House and is available in hardcover and as ebook. It will be published in paperback in Spring 2016.
The latest in the DI Andy Horton series, Fatal Catch, is published by Severn House in hardcover. It will be published as an ebook on 20 December 2015.
Trust no one, believe nothing….
Detective Inspector Andy Horton is called out to examine a gruesome catch by two fishermen: a human hand. Is it that of missing violent criminal Alfie Wright – or is he the killer? And where is the rest of the corpse? Soon Horton finds himself immersed in a complex case where everyone has a reason to lie and no one is who they seem. Assailed by doubts both in his personal and professional life, Horton desperately tries to keep his emotional feelings under control and his focus on his work. His instincts tell him to trust no one and believe nothing; he’s not sure though whether this time he’ll succeed …
Available from all book retailers and for loan in libraries.
Subscribe to Pauline Rowson's newsletter.
You can also follow Pauline Rowson on Twitter and Like the DI Andy Horton Facebook Page.