Back where I started – well, almost, by Pauline Rowson
Death in the Cove is my twentieth crime novel and the first historical mystery I have written. My other nineteen crime novels being contemporary with fourteen featuring my rugged and flawed detective, DI Andy Horton; three starring former Royal Marine Commando, Art Marvik, an undercover investigator for the UK’s National Intelligence Marine Squad, and two standalone thrillers.
Death in the Cove is set in 1950 England, a country still reeling from the aftermath of war with austerity and rationing biting hard. Newly promoted to detective inspector, Ryga from Scotland Yard is on his first investigation outside of London – 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.
So why the change to historical crime?
To answer this question I need to go back to 1988 when I decided that I really should knuckle down and try to fulfil an ambition that had been kickstarted when I was eight years old with the discovery of a veritable paradise full of FREE books. Yes, it was called a library – I believe that some still exist (just)! Books were a very scarce commodity in my working-class home and came last in the pecking order of essentials to buy. And my parents were not readers. If it hadn’t been for a friend’s mother taking me to the Alderman Lacy Library in Portsmouth I might never have discovered the joy of reading and writing. The wonderful Enid Blyton opened up a whole new world for me and sparked the ambition that one day I too would become a fiction author. But it wasn’t until 1988, some many years later, that I had the inclination, the passion and the opportunity to give it a real try. Before then I had dabbled in short stories and had written an adventure novel when I was eleven. Life, marriage, mortgages, further adult education and climbing the greasy pole of promotion had got in the way of writing.
In 1988 I thought it was time to write that novel while working as a marketing and PR manager and later running my own marketing agency. I turned to historical fiction and plumped for writing historical sagas set in Wales. I have no idea why I picked this genre when I read very little of it, but I chose Wales because it is the home of my fathers and has a very rich and interesting history. I started churning out sagas set before the Second World War and during the war. However, the more I wrote the more I kept finding a crime element creeping into the storyline. I received many rejections from agents but along with them I also received some encouragement, so onward I ploughed. But still those rejection letters came. What was I doing wrong?
Then came my light bulb moment
Why was I writing historical sagas when I’m an avid crime fiction reader? Why aren’t I writing crime? Well that was it. Along came DI Andy Horton and eventually a publisher (it only took me twenty years!) and the rest as they say is history. (The moral here is never give up!)
However, somewhere within me must still have lurked that historical itch and so after nineteen crime novels I decided to scratch it. I created Inspector Alun Ryga, put him down in 1950, made him a Scotland Yard detective with experience of the sea, ex Merchant Navy, so that his expertise is called upon to solve coastal crimes. The sea is my trademark. All my novels are set against its ever-changing backdrop. I was born and raised by the sea and if it’s in your blood it never leaves you.
I chose the 1950s because it is a fascinating 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. Society and policing in the 1950s was vastly different to today; no mobile phones, no dashing about and no computers, so it was extremely interesting to research and write.
Scotland Yard were frequently called in to investigate murder cases around the UK so rather than have the novel (and series) rooted in London this meant I could move my detective around the country to help solve crimes.
From the first I didn’t want to make Ryga an action hero like Art Marvik. I also sought to differ him from DI Andy Horton, an instinctive copper with lots of personal baggage, intuitive, rugged and flawed with a deep sense of justice. Neither did I want someone who had been hailed as a war hero in the traditional sense, but instead a quiet, unseen hero. I chose, therefore, to make Ryga (rhymes with Tiger) a former German prisoner-of-war. Ryga’s ship had been seized by a German Raider in 1941 as a result of which he had been incarcerated for the rest of the war in MILAG (Marine Internierten Lager). Here he had to learn how to cope with the uncertainty, fear and deprivations of forced incarceration with no option but to wait, hope and pray that the war would be over and the Nazis would be defeated. His experience has made him observant, analytical and reflective. It has also given him insights into his fellow man. 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.
So welcome Inspector Ryga in Death in the Cove, along with war photographer Eva Paisley, in the first in this new historical crime series set in the 1950s with hopefully many more to come.
Death in the Cove is published in paperback, ebook, Amazon Kindle, Kobo and as an audio book.
For more about Pauline Rowson and her books visit https://thecra.co.uk/find-an-author/rowson-pauline/ and www.rowmark.co.uk .Twitter @PaulineRowson