What have crime authors Pauline Rowson and Graham Hurley got in common?

This was a theme that was explored in Portsmouth Coppers an event held a Portsmouth Central Library on Saturday 4 March where ninety people came to hear about the crime novels of Pauline Rowson and Graham Hurley who were quizzed by fellow crime author and former criminal barrister Diana Bretherwick about why they set their detective novels in the waterfront city of Portsmouth.  And yes that's the first thing they have in common, or I should say we have in common.

The audience at Portsmouth Coppers with crime authors, Pauline Rowson, Diana Bretherick and Graham Hurley

 I was raised in Portsmouth, a city which I share with my flawed and rugged sailing detective, Andy Horton, who appears in thirteen crime novels with the latest Lethal Waves, published in February 2017.  It is my love of the sea and in particular the Solent, that has led me to use it almost as a character in my novels. As well as the Inspector Andy Horton series I am author of two standalone crime novels and two in the series featuring Art Marvik, a former Royal Marine Commando, turned undercover investigator for the UK’s National Intelligence Marine Squad (NIMS).

But the setting wasn't all Graham Hurley and I have in common.  We both feature a detective, albeit ones with very different personalities and approaches to their job, we have both researched for our crime novels with the Portsmouth police and we approach plotting and writing our crime novels in a similar way, which is also the same way that fellow crime author Diana Bretherick pens her crime novels which are set many miles away from Portsmouth, in Turin in Northern Italy in the late 1880s.

Pauline Rowson answering a question at Portsmouth Coppers event

When asked about why I chose Portsmouth as a setting for my crime novels I said, 'The city is one of contrasts, which appeals to me. It is very diverse, modern life rubs shoulders with the historic.  It has a high level of deprivation sitting not quite cheek by jowl but close to a great deal of wealth and it has the seafront, a busy commercial international port, historic dockyard, fishing fleet and is home of the Royal Navy. It is one of the busiest harbours in the world, and the surrounding areas and the Isle of Wight across the Solent provide some great variety of locations for putting a body. I can't pass a boatyard, beach or cove without thinking there must be a dead body or a skeleton there somewhere.'

Graham Hurley is well known in Portsmouth for his DI Joe Faraday and DC Paul Winter crime novels set in the rough and busy city. For him the Portsmouth setting for his crime novels was ideal because it is the kind of place he says, where you are what you are, not what the aspirational label on the box says you want to be. In the self-contained island city he said there was life in the raw that a crime writer could successfully draw on.

Graham Hurley answering a question at Portsmouth Coppers event

We were quizzed on the subject of research. Both Graham and I have researched for our police procedural crime novels with the Portsmouth Police. Graham having spent many days working closely with detectives in researching his first crime novel to feature DI Joe Faraday and he continued to work alongside them while developing the series. Graham explained that the inspiration for Faraday came from a detective he met at Portsmouth's Kingston Police station, while the inspiration for my detective, Andy Horton, was a combination of many of the fire fighters I had met during my husband's career as a fire fighter.

All of us agreed that characters had to be well drawn and believable and both Graham and I felt that in writing a series we had both got very close to our main characters so much so that they had become a part of our lives, a family member.

Pauline Rowson at Portsmouth Coppers with Diana Bretherick and Graham Hurley

I also went on to say that in creating villains I found that those who weren't obvious baddies attracted me when writing my crime novels. 'People can appear to be one thing on the surface but often when you dig deeper they can be something completely different. Fraudsters for example can be charming and highly plausible on the outside but are manipulative, callous and greedy and care nothing for their victims. Baddies don't always go round with it tattooed on their foreheads.'

When it came to plotting all three of us crime authors seemed to have the same approach. Diana Bretherick, author of two crime novels, The City of Devils and The Devil's Daughters said she has the outline plot idea for the beginning of a novel and the ending but often has no idea what happens in the middle and that often the endings change, a sentiment shared by me.  Graham and I also spend minimal time on plotting but like to get down the creative writing as soon as possible.

After Diana had completed her interrogation she opened the floor to the audience where a lively question and answer session took place. This was followed by a book signing.

Book signing at Portsmouth Coppers, Pauline Rowson, Diana Bretherick and Graham Hurley

Portsmouth Coppers was part of Portsmouth BookFest organised by Portsmouth City Library Service and supported by the Hayling Island Bookshop.

Graham Hurley's latest novel Finisterre is published by Head of Zeus and is an international thriller linked to the the Second World War.

Diana Bretherick's latest novel, The Devil's Daughters, is published by Orion.

Pauline Rowson's latest novel, Lethal Waves, is an Andy Horton mystery, number thirteen in the series published by Severn House.


If you've enjoyed reading my crime novels please do tell others, we'd also love for you to leave a short review or rating on Amazon as it all helps to introduce the novels to new readers.

Where to buy

Pauline Rowson's books USA

Pauline Rowson's books UK

From your local bookshop

Also available as an ebook and on Amazon Kindle, Kobo and for loan from UK, USA, Irish and Commonwealth libraries


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