The importance of location, location, loation

It’s a well-known fact – by those who know me, that my favourite genre of novel is those which involve some sort of puzzle or mystery; so I like actual police procedurals, I like amateur sleuths, I like family mysteries where something odd has happened, strange but not necessarily criminal, i like a present day investigation of an ancient puzzle, oh all sorts of things. However, I most like those sort of books which have something extra within them, maybe information about something unusual, or a job or profession I know nothing about, or where the location is so wonderfully described that  it almost becomes a character.

I love the Shardlake mysteries by C.J. Sansom, even though some of the events are actually impossible to believe if you think about them rationally, but the amount I learn about a period in history about which I am unexpectedly ignorant really adds something to the experience of reading the books. Although many of Dick Francis’s books are now very dated (not just because of technological advances, but social changes such as attitudes to women) nearly everyone of them had a main character (male) who had an unusual or interesting job or profession:

“The Francis heroes were often, of course, part of the horse-racing world, but not always jockeys. They were trainers, breeders, stud farm owners, stable owners, racing reporters, horse transporters, and bookmakers. They were also pilots (Flying Finish, 1966; Rat Race, 1970), actors (Smokescreen, 1972), artists (In the Frame, 1976; To the Hilt, 1996), accountants (Risk, 1977), teachers (Twice Shy, 1981), diplomats (Comeback, 1991), bankers (Banker, 1982), kidnapping experts (The Danger, 1983), wine merchants (Proof, 1984), architects (Decider, 1993), filmmakers (Wild Horses, 1994), and glass-blowers {Shattered, 2000)”

However, what I am beginning to love even more is a book where the location, unknown of familiar to me, becomes almost as enjoyable as the mystery and the characters.  The series I am reading at the moment, the Ruth Galloway books by Elly Griffiths are set in Norfolk, a county I know from my childhood, and set along the coast. Her descriptions are wonderful, and for someone who has never been it must really bring this wild, windswept and very remote part of the country vividly alive. Similarly, the way Stephen Booth sets the investigations of his police officers Fry and Cooper, in the small towns, villages and countryside of the Whit Peak and Dark Peak districts in Derbyshire, keep my interest even when some of the story lines aren’t quite as gripping, or the character of Diane Fry becomes, in my opinion, tiresome and superfluous. I am sure there has been a massive boost Shetland Islands tourism through Ann Cleeve’s series set there – as well as the spin-off TV series.

I know this is an area of my own writing where I feel less sure of myself, and I know it is something I have to work at to bring alive in my stories – the scenery is so vivid to me, but I don’t think I always make enough of it. I am writing two stories at present and I am rally going to focus on location – although not unbalancing the book by overdoing it! Tricky!!

In case you haven’t read my books yet, here is a link – they are mostly set in the imaginary town of Easthope and its surrounding area, but ‘Flipside’ is set in the very real Lancashire town of Oldham.

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