How book covers are commissioned and chosen

Judging a book by its cover


Book covers are a mystery almost as deep as the crime novels they represent. What makes a striking cover is a question that perhaps even my detectives can’t solve. With my crime novels being set around the sea it is essential that the cover image be a seascape of some kind.

The cover has a function, aside that is from protecting the book.  It needs to convey the style of the book, even if it is non-fiction, or the genre of the book if fiction. With crime novels there are so many sub genres.  If it is gritty gruesome then blood and gore must feature, or a dark brooding cover could be appropriate.  If it is a cozy crime or humorous then light colours are used and the cover has a humorous touch even sometimes a cartoon style. 

Read more on how book covers are commissioned and chosen

Getting to grips with time frames when writing a series of crime novels

Time frames in novels, and particularly when writing a series, as with the Inspector Andy Horton mysteries, the Art  Marvik mystery thrillers and my new 1950 set mystery series featuring Scotland Yard detective Inspector Ryga, are a tricky thing. There is ‘real time’ and there is ‘fictional time’.

In ‘real time’ I write a DI Andy Horton and either an Art Marvik or Inspector Ryga mystery in a year whereas in  ‘fictional time’ the novels are set over a shorter time frame.

Andy Horton was  thirty nine when I created him in TIDE OF DEATH in 2006 so by now he should  be fifty three. However, in ‘fictional  time’ fourteen novels later, he is only forty. The novels take place not over  ten years but over eighteen months, which means for DI Andy Horton there are an  awful lot of murders in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, making it worse than   Midsomer Murder on a good day!

It's said that Agatha Christie regretted making Hercule Poirot sixty when she  created him because by the time she finished writing about him he would in  ‘real time’ have been about a hundred and eight! In ‘fictional time’  Poirot stayed more or less the same age. I'm not saying that will happen to DI  Andy Horton, he may age yet.

Following 'fictional time' allows the author to develop the back story. In DI  Andy Horton's case it allows me to chart his marital break-up, his fight to  gain access to his daughter, and his search for the truth behind his mother’s  disappearance when he was child.  There are now fourteen in the Inspector Andy Horton mystery series with number fifteen A DEADLY WAKE due to be published on 2 June 2020. In this last one Andy finally discovers the truth behind his mother's disappearance.  A DEADLY WAKE is available for pre-order in paperback, e book and on Amazon Kindle.

 With Art Marvik in SILENT RUNNING, the first of three in the series, there is his struggle to  adjust to civilian life and, from the second in the series, DANGEROUS CARGO, there is the mystery behind the death  of his marine archaeologist parents’ when he was seventeen, thought to be an accident  but was it? Marvik has a new mystery to solve in the third in the series, LOST VOYAGE which is published in paperback and e book.  And I have written number four. Publication date yet to be announced.

In my contemporary crime novels I try to avoid mentioning the current year if I possibly can,  leaving it to the imagination of the reader. The other problem with real time  is that technology changes and so too do the names of police departments as  they are merged, re-organised and cut back. In the DI Andy Horton novels I started off talking about the Serious Organised Crime Agency which in  October 2013 became the National Crime Agency.  It becomes increasingly  difficult to keep up with all the name changes and often by the time the novel  is published some of the police departments mentioned no longer exist in that  format and that name.

Technology also  advances so being specific can in one novel look bang-up-to-date and yet in  another written a year or two later look grossly dated. MySpace, which  was once all the rage, has been overtaken by Facebook in popularity, which  in  turn may very well also fade into the distance just as the iPad could become  but a distant memory as something else replaces it. A powerful argument I think to create a  police or murder mystery crime series set in the past which is what I have done with my 1950 set Inspector Ryga mysteries. Here I am specific about the year because it is an integral part of the crime novels.

DEATH IN THE COVE is set in 1950 England, a country still reeling from the aftermath of war with austerity and rationing biting hard. Newly promoted to detective inspector, Ryga from Scotland Yard, is on his first solo investigation outside of London, to solve the mystery of why a man in a pin-striped suit is found murdered in an isolated cove on the Island of Portland in Dorset.

The 1950s is a fascinating period where memories of the war are very strong, and the fear of more world conflicts haunt people. Society and policing in the 1950s was vastly different to today, no mobile phones, no dashing about in high speed cars and no computers so it was extremely interesting to research and write.

Latest Inspector Andy Horton mystery A DEADLY WAKE to be published in June 2020

The NEW DI Andy Horton A Deadly Wake coming in June 2020

A Deadly Wake a DI Andy Horton MysteryI'm delighted that the latest in the Inspector Andy Horton mystery series, A DEADLY WAKE, is to be published in June 2020 in paperback and e book. It is number fifteen in the series and the rugged and flawed Portsmouth detective has a new mystery to solve which ultimately leads him to discovering the truth behind his mother's disappearance over thirty years ago.

Yes, Andy at last will uncover the truth behind the disappearance of his mother when he was a child of ten. His investigations into the disappearance of Jennifer, over thirty years ago, has been touched upon in many of the Horton novels, in which he has unearthed some startling revelations. In this, the fifteenth in the Horton series, there are more surprises to come.

Pre-order your copy on Amazon, any online book seller or at your local bookshop.  Also available for loan in libraries


COVID-19 Update from crime author Pauline Rowson

In line with recent government recommendations, I am working from home - although I have done so for many years!  However my talks have been suspended but do get in touch with me if you would like me to speak at an event in autumn 2020 when hopefully things will have returned to normal or for engagements in 2021.

Meanwhile you can sit back and enjoy reading, and catching up with the adventures of DI Andy Horton who embarks on a brand new mystery in June 2020 with the publication of A DEADLY WAKE in paperback, ebook, on Amazon Kindle and Kobo.  There are also now two new Inspector Andy Horton novels reissued in paperback and on Amazon Kindle and Kobo these are number 11 and number 12 in the series: SHROUD OF EVIL and FATAL CATCH.

In addition, why not dip into 1950 with Inspector Ryga on his first mystery outside of Scotland Yard when he is sent to the Isle of Portland to investigate the body of man in a pin-striped suit found dead on the remote Church Ope Cove in DEATH IN THE COVE. And if you enjoy this there will be a new Inspector Ryga mystery in November 2020.

You can also taste adventure with my heroes in my standalone thriller mysteries: IN FOR THE KILL and IN COLD DAYLIGHT.

If it is a daring undercover investigation you need then here are three in the Art Marvik series of mystery thrillers: SILENT RUNNING, DANGEROUS CARGO and LOST VOYAGE.  If you find these difficult to get hold of then don't worry because all three are being re-issued later this year in paperback, ebook, on Kindle and Kobo.

Hopefully plenty to keep you thrilled and entertained.

All these books are available to download online, on Amazon in the UK, USA and Commonwealth as well as from libraries.  Or telephone or e mail your local bookshop many of whom are delivering books during the Coronavirus outbreak.

If it's listening to crime novels you like then most of mine are available as audio books to download from your library or on Amazon Audible.

And if that's not enough, you can always tune into my You Tube Channel and watch me in action at many of my events or watch the video book trailers.

Happy reading. Stay safe and well

Pauline Rowson

Read an extract of Inspector Andy Horton Mystery DEATH SURGE

DEATH SURGE, no 10 in the Inspector Andy Horton mysteries (14), is published in paperback and as an e book, on Amazon Kindle and on Kobo.

Read an second extract from this mystery novel featuring my rugged and flawed Portsmouth detective where I match the text with some of the location shots.

What began as the hunt for a missing man becomes the search for a ruthless killer...

The DI Andy Horton series is set in the Solent area of Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and the surrounding areas on the South Coast of England.

A telephone call from a frantic Sergeant Cantelli to say that his nephew, Johnnie Oslow, is missing cuts short Detective Inspector Horton’s sailing trip to France. Summoned back to the Isle of Wight, Horton learns that Johnnie has not shown up for racing during Cowes Week, as previously arranged.

Read an extract of DEATH SURGE or search inside the novel at Amazon


‘There’s been a fire at the Hilsea Lines, the old bastions, sir.’
That wasn’t usually Horton's province unless it was arson, and even then uniform would deal with it and report it to the fire investigation officer. But he knew why he was being informed, and he felt a cold shiver run down his spine. They had a body. This was confirmed by the officer’s next words.
‘Any ID?’ Horton asked anxiously, unable to stop himself thinking about Johnnie.
‘I don’t know, sir. They didn’t say.’
‘I’m on my way.’
Hastily, he locked up. As he made for the north of the city he mentally ran through what he knew of the bastions that formed Hilsea Lines. There were several of them, originally built to protect the north of the island from attack in 1544. Since then they had been rebuilt, some time he thought, in the 1700s, and again, he seemed to recall, in 1871 with the renewed threat of a French invasion, which had never happened. They had belonged to the army, providing barracks, ammunition stores and a series of tunnels beneath the earth mounds, before becoming derelict and overgrown with grass, shrubs and trees. But some years ago (he forgot when), the Hilsea Lines had been designated a conservation area with a series of nature trails around the moat and the creek which made Portsmouth an island; or rather it would have done, but for the two road bridges over it, and the motorway on the western shores.
Was it Johnnie, he thought fearfully? But it couldn’t be, because the bastions were about four miles from where Johnnie had last been seen at the southern end of Portsmouth. But despite telling himself that several times as he made his way through the dark, humid night, he couldn’t shake off the terrible feeling that he was about to look upon the charred remains of Cantelli’s nephew.

Death Surge is available for sale in paperback and e book, It can also be loaned from UK, USA and Commonwealth libraries.

"A crisply written, cleverly plotted procedural with a nice twist, Rowson’s latest also continues the intriguing saga of Andy’s search for the mother who disappeared in mysterious circumstances when he was a child." Booklist.

Read crime author Pauline Rowson's March 2020 newsletter

In March's newsletter the new DI Andy Horton A DEADLY WAKE to be published in June 2020 and available to  pre-order in paperback and as an e book, also on Kindle and Kobo; policing and detection in Inspector Ryga's 1950 world; how book covers are commissioned and chosen. There are also plenty of videos on my You Tube Channel, so do drop by and take a look.

Happy reading.

Read Pauline Rowson's March 2020 Newsletter

Subscribe to Pauline Rowson's newsletter for all the latest book news, articles and events

Inspector Andy Horton has a gruesome catch to investigate in FATAL CATCH

Fatal Catch DI Andy Horton Mystery re-issued

Fatal Catch, DI Andy Horton Mystery 12Fatal Catch, number twelve in the Inspector Andy Horton mystery series of currently fourteen is re-issued as an e book on Amazon Kindle on 1 March 2020 and will be released as a paperback at the end of March 2020.

In Fatal Catch, DI 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.

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