When I first started writing novels long ago they were in fact historical sagas. As I wrote more of them I kept finding a criminal element creeping into the story line. None of those novels have ever been published and after many rejections I turned to writing contemporary crime novels. DI Andy Horton was created in TIDE OF DEATH and published in 2006 and the rest they say is history.
But somewhere within me must have lurked that historical itch and so after nineteen contemporary crime novels I decided to scratch it. Hence Inspector Alun Ryga in DEATH IN THE COVE.
I choose the starting point for the novels as 1950 because it is a fascinating time. An era caught between the aftermath of the war and the beginning of the cultural and social revolution of the ‘swinging sixties’. Memories of the war are very strong, and the fear of more world conflicts haunt people. The Korean War is in progress and National Service has been extended. All around is the legacy of the war with bombsites and rubble, bombed out buildings and houses, abandoned military bases in the country and overgrown pillboxes and batteries littering the coast.
With the housing shortages caused by the bombing many are living in privately rented dinghy cramped bedsits and poor quality houses with little privacy, comfort and warmth. Or in prefabs, railway carriages, houseboats, or huts. The housing boom and erection of new towns and cities has yet to materialise.
Rationing of some goods is still in operation. There are severe shortages of many consumer products, ‘make-do-and-mend’ carries on as does the black market.
And there are many fractured lives – widows and widowers, mothers and fathers who have lost sons and daughters, people maimed and scarred both physically and emotionally. Others, who after experiencing the adrenalin rush of combat and a varied and exciting life, finding it hard to adjust, some seek ways to cope through alcohol, crime, and substance abuse.
Many women who worked in the war are now back at home, some pleased to be, others very much less so. They’re not expected to have careers, but jobs to tide them over before they marry and have children.
After the war came the nationalisation of the coal mines, the railways, the Bank of England and the iron and steel industry. The creation of the free National Health Service has improved the quality of medical care, especially for the elderly, women and the poor.
Policing in the 1950s was also vastly different, no mobile phones, no dashing about and no computers so it was extremely interesting to research and write from both the social and the police point of view.
1950 then, and the ensuing decade, is an interesting and fascinating era to set down my new detective, Inspector Alun Ryga.
What are your memories of the 1950s?
Newly promoted at Scotland Yard, Ryga is on his first solo investigation outside of London, he has 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.
"Ryga studied the face of the dead man with interest. Death no longer had the power to shock him. He’d seen too much of it. That didn’t mean he didn’t feel sorrow, pity, anger or despair, or sometimes all four emotions and in such a swift succession that they became one. This time he felt none of these, only professional curiosity.”