June is always a busy month for me. During Crime Fiction Month I always try to get out and about visiting libraries and book shops. And this year the CWA’s celebration of the wonderful world of crime fiction also happens to coincide nicely with the paperback publication of my latest Wesley Peterson novel, The Death Season.
I’ve loved crime novels from an early age and, like many other crime fans, it was Dame Agatha Christie who got me hooked. I was intrigued by her elaborate plots and when I was reading I could hardly wait for that moment when the Great Detective gathered all the suspects in the library (or drawing room) and explained the whole thing. I confess there were times when I was tempted to sneak a quick look at the final pages but I usually resisted. After all, it spoils the fun.
Perhaps it was my early love for Dame Agatha’s work that influenced me to set my Wesley Peterson mysteries in South Devon. She set a number of her books in the area which is hardly surprising as she was born in Torquay and had a lovely home overlooking the River Dart (her house, Greenway is now owned by the National Trust and is well worth a visit). I certainly wasn’t aware of making the connection when I first started writing my Wesley series, but it could be that some subconscious memory of how much I loved Agatha Christie’s books influenced my decision. Who knows?
The dramatic landscape of Devon features strongly in The Death Season. My story was inspired by dramatic events that occurred there in 1917, at the time of the First World War. I first visited the dramatic ruins of the coastal fishing village of Hallsands some years ago and became fascinated by its story. As a result of dredging the beach beneath the houses, the village tumbled into the sea and the hundred and fifty people who lived there lost their homes. The Death Season begins when an unidentified man is found dead in a hotel room and soon the police discover that he has been murdered. Once the police find the victim’s true identity, dark secrets begin to emerge and Wesley has to untangle a complex web of deception that goes back to the destruction of a village during a storm at the start of the twentieth century. As in all my books, a historical mystery is thrown up by an archaeological dig and in The Death Season the two mysteries, past and present, converge with dramatic results.
This June I’ll be returning to Devon as I do every year. And I’ll probably be undertaking my usual pilgrimage to Greenway as well, crossing the River Dart on the little ferry and imagining all sorts of deadly scenarios that might feature in future books. I know writers often say this and it sounds like a bit of a cliché, but I really think the beautiful South Devon landscape is a character in my books. But, as Sherlock Holmes once said, the smiling and beautiful countryside hides plenty of undetected sins…well, it certainly does in my books anyway!
Kate Ellis was born and brought up in Liverpool and studied drama in Manchester.
Her books reflect her keen interest in history and archaeology and, as well as many short stories, she has published five Joe Plantagenet crime novels set in York. However, she is best known for her crime series combining past and present crimes and featuring black archaeology graduate DI Wesley Peterson, the latest of which is The Death Season.
For more information please visit www.kateellis.co.uk