Thursday, 30 September 2021

How do you create a strong character in a crime novel?

What makes a strong central character in a crime novel?

Inspector Andy Horton has been described as 'an especially good series hero, a likeable fellow with plenty of street smarts and the requisite personal baggage - an abrasive supervisor (DCI Lorraine Bliss) and an antagonistic soon to be ex wife.' Booklist (USA) Footsteps on the Shore
Heroes in crime novels are often ordinary people with their own set of problems and the key to producing a successful crime novel is not necessarily that the hero saves the world, aka James Bond, but that he also learns something about himself along the way. In addition, putting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances builds tension and readers tend to support characters in which they recognise certain traits they have themselves.

Inspector Andy Horton is a man defined by a tormented past, but with hopes for his future. Horton is instinctive, tough and resilient, but deeply empathetic. A dry sense of humour is the key to his investigative approach and deep sense of justice. His greatest strength is his ability to put himself in a victim’s shoes, to imagine events from their perspective (even the moments up to their death), making leaps of deduction few would be able to. And he’s most often right. He's especially tough on bullies, or people who abuse their power or position, as they remind him of the people in the children’s homes in which he’s been raised. When this happens, when his guard slips, he’s like a raw nerve. He fears his emotions will betray him.

He feels a duty of care to the victims of the crimes he investigates and often feels like he’s the only person looking out for them; the only one who can bring the guilty to justice so that the dead can rest. No one cared about him when he was a child; he won’t let that happen to anyone else.

Living on board his small yacht in Southsea Marina since his estrangement from his wife following a gross misconduct charge ) of which he was innocent) TIDE OF DEATH (1) the sailing detective is a man rarely at peace, unless he is on the sea or fighting crime. Raised in children's homes after his mother abandoned him as a child he has a desperate need to belong and yet is always on the outside. Being alone is his greatest fear, yet he is alone.

Many readers ask me will Andy get back with his wife, Catherine? Will Catherine grant him greater access to their young daughter, Emma? Will Andy discover the truth about his mother's disappearance? Is his mother alive or dead? And can't Andy's nit picking boss, DCI Lorraine Bliss disappear somewhere...before Andy throttles her!!

These are not the main strands of the novels - fifteen now in the series - but they are the things that have shaped Andy Horton and make him what he is and therefore this affects his decisions and his interactions with his colleagues and the villains.

For me it is also important to write the stories I like to read, which is crime and thriller novels which have good strong characters and an intriguing and often complex plot that stimulates 'the little grey cells'. I don't do gratuitous violence and I don't write hard boiled crime. That isn't to say there aren't gory bits in my novels but I am not out to shock simply to entertain, excite and intrigue. Quite a tall order!

But perhaps to some degree I hopefully achieve this as readers often ask me questions about my flawed and rugged detective's troubled personal life: will Andy get back with his wife, Catherine? Will Catherine grant him greater access to their young daughter, Emma? Will Andy discover the truth about his mother's disappearance? Is his mother, Jennifer, alive or dead? And can't Andy's nit picking boss, DCI Lorraine Bliss disappear somewhere...before Andy throttles her!!

What drives Inspector Ryga in the 1950s set mystery series?

Scotland Yard detective, Ryga, is sent out to investigate baffling coastal crimes. Ryga, a former German prisoner-of-war, teams up with former war photographer, Eva Paisley, in DEATH IN THE COVE, DEATH IN THE HARBOUR  and DEATH IN THE NETS. It is a partnership set to continue and destined to solve many more a multi-layered coastal crimes.

Ryga's experience at sea, and as a prisoner-of-war, has made him unique in his approach to solving coastal based crimes. He's observant, analytical and reflective. He's witnessed compassion, cruelty, cowardice and heroism, mental breakdown and despair. He’s made a promise to himself that whatever happens after the war he’ll keep an open mind and never judge.

Whereas Ryga is quiet, reflective, analytical, Eva is very self-assured. She’s forthright, sociable, and comfortable in her own skin, professional with a successful career, a formidable reputation behind her, along with a taste for danger. Her observations seen through the lens of her camera are disturbing, enlightening and thought provoking.

They make a formidable team - villains beware!

What makes Art Marvik tick?

Marvik's life changed when at the age of eleven in 1991 he was sent to boarding school in England by his parents, Professor Dan Coulter a renowned oceanographer and Dr Eerika Marvik an equally renowned marine archeologist. Prior to that Marvik had travelled the world with them on their research vessel where he was home taught. He viewed his dismissal as abandonment and their deaths in 1997 from an underwater earth tremour while diving in the Straits of Malacca with anger which lay buried deep within him. As soon as he was seventeen he enlisted in the Royal Marines and put his parents, their life and their wealth behind him. Langton, the psychiatrist who treated him after a head injury sustained in combat, said Marvik was running away from his emotions, maybe he was, but as far as he was concerned he would continue running, the past was the past, except he begins to find on his dismissal from the Marines because of his injuries that the past has a nasty habit of catching up with you.

Marvik is very much an action-man, fearless, fit but with a deep-seated vulnerability. In Civy Street he's like a fish out of water. He thought he’d be able to adjust and carve out a new career for himself, preferably on the sea, but his first job as a private maritime security operative goes very wrong when the luxury motor cruiser he was travelling on and had been detailed to guard, gets attacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean, and Marvik finds himself with a bullet in his shoulder and the boat’s owner dead. He’d failed on his first mission in civilian life, and the first in the series SILENT RUNNING opens with him reeling from it.

Marvik has isolated himself in a remote cottage on the Isle of Wight uncertain of the future for the first time in his life. Lacking in confidence, hesitant and adrift he despises himself for being so weak. Even when a former marine colleague, Special Services Intelligence Officer, Shaun Strathen, renews Marvik’s acquaintance and asks for his help to locate a missing research scientist, Marvik fails to find him in a ruined cottage on the Isle of Wight coast. Strathen has also been injured in combat in Afghanistan and has been invalided out of the marines. He’s set himself up as a specialist security consultant to businesses and even with a prosthetic leg seems to have adjusted to life better than Marvik. Sick of himself Marvik returns on his motorboat to his rented cottage only to find he has a visitor, a former girlfriend and a navy nurse, Charlotte Churley, who insists she’s being followed. Marvik is ready to dismiss this as a symptom of overwork until Charlotte goes missing. Then Marvik finds he has the chance to work undercover for the UK's Police National Intelligence Marine Squad on dangerous assignments, which he relishes but there's still that itch that needs to be scratched. How can he lay his parents ghosts to rest and move forward?

In my view readers want to get stuck into a good crime novel, or mystery, which provides entertainment and a puzzle to solve, while at the same time care and feel for the characters.

I hope to have achieved this with my crime novels.

Pauline Rowson's gripping, entertaining crime novels full of twists and turns

Pauline Rowson's crime novels
If you enjoy reading gripping, fast-paced crime novels full of twists and turns, compelling and multi-layered with great characters and stories that keep you guessing right to the end then Pauline Rowson's crime novels are right up your street. 

Set against the back drop of the ever changing sea on the South Coast of England. 

Where to buy Pauline Rowson's books

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