Jan Edwards researching 'Golden Age' crime

Today’s guest, Jan Edwards, is an award winning author with titles that include Winter Downs (Arnold Bennett Book Prize) and Sussex Tales (Winchester Slim Volume award).She also has a BFA Karl Edward Wagner award. A Sussex native, Jan now lives in Norths Staffs.

Her short fiction can be found in crime, horror and fantasy anthologies across the UK and USA. She was a script writer for the Dr Who DVD and book Daemons of Devil’s End. Jan is also an anthologist with the award winning Alchemy Press, co-owned with her husband Peter Coleborn. Their latest anthology is The Alchemy Press Book of Horror.

Jan tells us about writing In Her Defence, how she came to write the Bunch Courtney Investigations, and why Golden Age crime?

Over to Jan!

“Vintage Golden Age crime has always been a favourite read, so it’s not surprising that my Bunch Courtney Investigations ended up in that vein. The first in the series, Winter Downs, established Bunch Courtney and DCI Wright as the ‘phoney war’ ended and 1939 became 1940. The latest case, In Her Defence, has moved on to May 1940.

Though In Her Defence echoes something of our modern dilemma, it was not intentional. Because the main news items for May of that year 1940 were Churchill becoming PM, Dunkirk and the internment of enemy aliens, they came naturally to the fore. Murder remains the key issue along with a running theme for Bunch of the testing of old friendships and of course her abiding obsession with all things equine. It’s also a fascinating period for social change as Bunch watches her cloistered, pre-war, life rapidly dissolving. She knows that it will never return.

I am often asked how much research I carry out into the war years, and the answer is quite a lot. I’m a bit of a research geek and do get a huge kick out of tracking down minutiae so it is never a chore. I can spend happy days seeking details that have been largely forgotten and my internet search history can be colourful.

For In Her Defence it included the names of popular brands of rat poison; SOE training manuals; 1940s auction prices paid for stock; the various colours used in ration coupons; guns and their ammunition; common makes and models for a butcher’s van; agricultural machinery;  or ‘Donkey stoning’ a doorstep.

Knowing what it is I need to add in is usually a matter of seeing some small snippet and following it to the next shiny thing. Very little of the information unearthed ever finds its way onto the page but it’s always an eclectic list. I throw nothing out because it could still prove useful. I suspect the goal is the same for any historical writer; to have their characters convey the reality of their workaday world but without leaving tedious info dumps for readers to trip over.

Another question I am asked a great deal is the precise location of the Courtneys’ country house. I have written a number of Sherlock Holmes stories so I took a leaf from Conan Doyle’s book and have been vague on the exact location. Storrington and Brighton exist of course, but though I drew on places known to me in my Sussex childhood the village of Wyncombe does not exist. Why? Because when for argument’s sake, you set a pharmacist in a chemist shop in any large town few people will question it. Being raised in a tiny Sussex village I realised people would tell me with great certainty that in Loxwood or Kirdford or some other hamlet it was never so – possibly because they are the son or daughter of that very chemist! Hence Wyncombe came to be out of sheer cowardice on my part.

So what next? I love writing about Bunch Courtney, and she has many more cases to investigate alongside Chief Inspector William Wright. Books 3 and 4, which are already well under way, will be taking Bunch and Wright into 1941. There is also a short DCI Wright story linked to Book 3 that may emerge as a giveaway, so watch my blog for news on that.”

Thank you, Jan! I share your fascination for research and for getting that research right.

In Her Defence is out on 4 April 2019 and will be available to order in paper and digital formats from all major suppliers, including Amazon  US /UK/ AU, Indie Bound; Book Depository; Wordery; Waterstones.  Also on Apple, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo and others.

Connect with Jan on her website: https://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jancoledwards  @Jancoleedwards

What’s In her Defence about?

Bunch Courtney’s hopes for a quiet market-day lunch with her sister are shattered when a Dutch refugee dies a horribly painful death before their eyes.

A few days later Bunch receives a letter from her old friend Cecile saying that her father, Professor Benoir, has been murdered in an eerily similar fashion. Two deaths by poisoning in a single week. Co-incidence?

Bunch does not believe that any more than Chief Inspector William Wright.

Set against a backdrop of escalating war and the massed internments of 1940, the pair are drawn together in a race to prevent the murderer from striking again.



Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA, INSURRECTIO and RETALIO. CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, FREE as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter.

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