The Crime Readers' Association

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards

2nd September 2018

One of the most exciting moments in a writer’s life comes with a decision to try something very different, a novel unlike anything one has attempted before. Writing a book in this way is also a scary experience. Will it work? Will it even make sense when I get to the end? Will anyone want to publish it? But life is all about facing up to fresh challenges, and seeing what happens. In my case, the new direction takes the form of Gallows Court. And I’m thrilled to say that it is being published this month – phew!

Lee Child, a kind man as well as a master of the breathtaking thriller, read an early copy of Gallows Court and says it’s the book I was born to write. It does feel like that, because I was seized by an idea – a character, in fact – that simply wouldn’t let me go. I was happy writing my Lake District mysteries, and planned to produce another, but something about this character made me want to write about her instead.

Her name is Rachel Savernake, and at first all I knew about her was that she was young, rich, and ruthless. She’d arrived in London, and she was involved in a strange sequence of baffling murders. Oh, and the date was 1930. The idea for Rachel came to me when I was reading lots of Golden Age fiction in my role as consultant to the British Library’s Crime Classics. But I knew that the book I wanted to write about Rachel wasn’t a pastiche of a vintage whodunit. Eventually, it turned out to be a psychological thriller with (I hope) enough plot twists to satisfy the most demanding reader.

Writing the story took time, because – for the first time in my career as a novelist – I had no idea how the book was going to end. It really was a voyage of discovery. Like the journalist Jacob Flint, who becomes obsessed with the enigma of Rachel, I needed to discover her backstory, figure out what made her tick.

So, a book set in a different era, of a different type, and written in a very different way from its predecessors. Quite a risk, given that I didn’t have a contract or an advance. I wanted to see if my experiment enthused others as the idea enthused and energised me.

To cut a long story short, I dropped lucky. My agent sent the book to a handful of leading editors, and I was made an offer I definitely couldn’t refuse by Nic Cheetham of Head of Zeus. Already, they’ve proved to be wonderfully supportive publishers. The endless trouble they’ve taken over jacket artwork has proved, worthwhile; I really love the cover, and it’s certainly eye-catching. They are even planning a luxury limited edition to complement the beautifully produced hardback. What more could any author want?

Just one thing, of course. My hope now is that crime fans will find Rachel’s story as gripping as I do…



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