Category Archives: Research

Can you have a pleasant but misguided protagonist in a Murder Mystery?

I read a great deal of crime, although my choice of reading is an eclectic mix, including historical fiction, humour and even romance to a lesser degree. I prefer romance as a part of life rather than per se.

Sometimes I find the harsh world in much crime fiction difficult to read; the graphic, gory descriptions, the hard language – a world where swearing is in every sentence. My writing isn’t like that, not out of choice but because I can’t be true to myself and be absorbed in a world that is inherently evil at every turn. To write a novel you have to ‘live’ the world you are imagining for months. I could not do that.

So, what inspired me to write a murder mystery?

Ordinary people can be murderers – right or wrong?

I was inspired by an unsolved murder of a young lass from  the island of Jersey back in 1919 in the village nearby where I lived in Bedfordshire. The mystery surrounding her death intrigued me and the more I researched the stronger the ideas formed in my mind of ordinary people being accused of murder ~ how a murderer might be your spouse, your child, your friend or neighbour. They just need a strong enough motive, which may be triggered at any time in life, or it may be a spontaneous act – unpremeditated.

Suspects may have no obvious motive

The next thing that caught my imagination was that people may become suspects even though they have no obvious motive – being in the wrong place at the wrong time or leaving traces at the scene of the crime.

Proving yourself innocent has always been difficult 

It was fun writing two parallel murder mysteries in 1919 and 2019. Weaving the suspects into the plot and linking those from the twentieth century murder to the one in 2019 led to a few sleepless nights ~ although I did solve a few plot twists and turns in my sleep! My interest in family history came into play here.

The sins of the fathers …

Is it difficult for families to shed the shame of a member accused of murder. Is it likely or even possible that the gene which leads a person to murder can be passed on through the generations? I didn’t answer this one, but it was in my mind when writing.

Evil has a way of being found out

Even a century later evil can be uncovered ~ or can it?

Many are hooked on Family Intrigues 

However hard a family may try to suppress its secrets, this intrigue feeds on the curiosity of an individual to find out the truth. This in turn may become an unhealthy obsession.

Now you know what triggered my Murder Mystery. You also know what my writing is not like. If you’d like to find out more then:

MURDER, NOW AND THEN on Kindle

Available on Kindle

‘Murder Now and Then’ will be free on Kindle

from Monday 10th July to Friday 14th July

If you do read it and enjoy it, I would be grateful of you could leave an honest review.

Amazon.co.uk       Amazon.com

Much appreciated,  Diana

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Filed under Bedfordshire, Murder, Murder Now and Then, My books, Planning a novel, Research, Then and Now, Writing a novel

The Novel Approach to Research ~ Do you know what car this is?

What inspires you to write a novel?

All it took for me was an email and a photo and I was hooked.

Haynes Park Army Camp 1915

Haynes Park Army Camp 1915

Here’s the photo:

And here’s the gist of the email:

‘Did you know that a young Jersey girl was murdered at Haynes Park, near to where you live, back in 1919? The murder was never solved.’

The inspiration to write my first murder mysteryMurder, Now and Then’ was born!

Inspired to delve deeper I discovered this photo at the Bedford archives. The young ladies quickly became my characters, as did the owner and driver of the car – but what was the car?

I needed a car which looked like the above and was manufactured before World War One. Searching on the internet and asking several people for their opinion we decided to call it an ‘Austin 7hp.’ 

Imagine my surprise and delight to receive a comment on Facebook yesterday morning from a friend @PaulFellows who informed me that the car was really a Morris Oxford or Morris Cowley.

Many apologies for car lovers for this error in my novel. Not that you would know of course since there are no pictures in ‘Murder, Now and Then’ Morris;-)

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Filed under Murder Now and Then, Research

Murder Mystery Virtual Tour of Bedfordshire no4 ~ The Shuttleworth Collection, Biggleswade

MNATTour4ShuttleworthAs we explore Bedfordshire together as part of my murder mystery virtual tour we will pause a while at The Shuttleworth Collection, a place that influenced my second novel ‘Ancasta – Guide me Swiftly Home’ and also features in my third novel ‘Murder, now and then.’ The museum is a comprehensive collection of aircraft including a few of the oldest airworthy crafts of their type. My interest has always been to imagine the places where these planes were built and the people who crafted them, as well as the live of those who originally flew them.

Diana with the Avro504K

Diana with the Avro504K

For example, on one visit an engineer pointed out the unique stitching on the wings of the Edwardian aircraft, often carried out by women during WW1.

I have spent many happy hours researching at the Shuttleworth archives under the guidance of John and Jim and I am indebted to their support. Research for an author can be a lonely business, but it is wonderful when people take a genuine interest and give of their time to ensure that the facts gleaned and expanded upon in a novel are authentic.

Shuttleworth is unique in that almost all the aircraft on display are airworthy. There are also exaples of ‘work in progress’ which you can visit in Hanger 1 including the long awaited Spitfire and the De Havilland Comet DH88 which has flown for the first time again since restoration this year and an excellent site it was too.

Here is an account I wrote back in 2012 of an airshow I enjoyed when the Blackburn Monoplane gave her centenary flight from Shuttleworth:

“Last Sunday (7th October 2012) there was a buzz at the Shuttleworth Air Day. Attendance to the show was high, the mood buoyant and we milled around with anticipation as we waited for the display to start.  I did a double take when several pipers, resplendent in their kilts, walked towards us but no, we were still in the heart of Bedfordshire and the Bedford Pipers were to perform for us. The sun shone and folks smiled.

The focus of the day was a Fast Jet Reunion and those watching were certainly not disappointed as the Folland Red Gnats did acrobats in the sky (Hey, I know where they were probably made…. we saw one outside Follands in Hamble near Southampton!) There were others including the Vampire Trainer (Can anyone tell me why it’s called a Vampire?)  and the Hawker Hunter. (1955) As well as the Jets there was the Hawker Demon, 1933, and the Hawker Hind, 1934. (My elderly 103 yr old friend Norman worked at Hawkers back in the 30’s so I felt a connection)

Then we arrived at the part of the show which truly interested me, the World War One planes. I have read about Tommy Sopwith and what a character he was, and then there was the SE5a which features in my novel ‘Ancasta.’ The sun was sinking fast but it was a still evening and so we were filled with hope that the old Edwardians would be able to fly. Our wait was rewarded with the Bristol Boxkite, (although I believe this is a replica) also featured in my novel and the Avro Triplane. I never tire of watching these priceless machines take to the skies.

The Blackburn Monoplane 1912 to 2012

The Blackburn Monoplane 1912 to 2012

For me though, the climax of the day was watching the Blackburn Type D Monoplane, (Impressed… I copied this carefully from the programme) the oldest British plane which can still fly, take off on its 100th birthday. It first flew in December 1912 and Richard Shuttleworth found it in a barn of hay in 1937, before he bought it and had it restored. Thus, on Sunday The Shuttleworth Collection yet again treated us to a precious celebration of history come to life before our eyes!

As we were walking back through the remaining cars to go home I remarked on a lovely e type Jaguar.

‘That’s scary,’ my husband said. ‘You are recognising cars now.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Do you know there are three things you’ve taught me since we’ve been together?’

‘What are those?’ he asked, puffing up proudly in a way only men can.

‘Cars, aeroplanes and how to swear!’ I replied.

Nevertheless it was another memorable flying day at Shuttleworth and as the announcer exclaimed at one point over the loud speaker,

‘We have to thank the RSPB for this unscheduled part of the show,’ as a flock of ducks flew in V formation overhead! “

Shuttleworth plays only a small part in ‘Murder, now and then’ but the museum is certainly a gem in the heart of Bedfordshire and watching an airshow for me is akin to discovering an antique diamond!

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Filed under Ancasta, Bedfordshire, Early Flight, Murder Now and Then, Research, The Shuttleworth Collection, Virtual Tour of Bedfordshire