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We have a guest post from author Deborah Crombie who has recently published her book The Sound of Broken Glass in its paperback format.
A Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novel, it’s a crime fiction set in London.
As an American writer writing about the English, I was curious about how she managed it - since US culture and language is surprisingly different from the UK. ( I know from my numerous trips to England with my Brit husband John, and the inevitable culture shock that I experienced.)
She answers my question below.
Readers are always curious as to how an American writes about England, and the English. I have an advantage in that I've lived in both England and Scotland. But I fell in love with Britain long before I lived there--in fact, it was the other way around. (Or the other way round, in Brit speak.) I've never been able to explain just how this dream of Britain crept its way into my subconscious. I can't remember a time when I wasn't fascinated by British books and stories and history, although I can cite some influences, in retrospect. Many of them were an ideal Britain translated into fantasy; C.S. Lewis's Narnia, Tolkien's Middle Earth, Alan Garner's haunting Cheshire, T.H. White's wild Avalon. Then came the immersion in Christie and Sayers and Allingham, the Britain of the Golden Age mystery. And how could I leave out Holmes? There were English sagas, Delederfield and Winston Graham. Then James Herriott's Yorkshire. And wonderful romantic suspense by writers like Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.
I'm sure I can blame a good bit on public television, too, as Masterpiece Theater and British comedies and even Doctor Who introduced America to language and culture that was similar enough to seem familiar but different enough to be enchanting. When I visited England for the first time in my early twenties, the stage was already set. I'm still surprised, years later, by the sense of identification I felt. Homecoming. Weird and wonderful and scary all at once.
Living there a few years after that first visit, I found things often not nearly as cozy and romantic as the Britain of my imagination, but somehow that didn't change my attachment. If anything, living with Britain-unvarnished made the feeling stronger. When I came back to live in the US I longed for Britain with a physical ache, a sort of psychic missing limb syndrome. So I wrote the first Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novel out of homesickness, and out of a desire to use the patterns of language I heard in my head. (Writers have an excuse for hearing voices...)
I placed my detectives in London, with jobs at Scotland Yard, so that I could send them to the settings in more rural Britain that so fascinated me. But a funny thing happened. I fell in love with London just as passionately, maybe even more so, than with that other England. London is a country in itself--there is always something new to learn, to do, to see.
So that's the history of how an American came to write British. How does it work now, this writing from a distance thing? I go to England a couple of times a year. I almost always spend time in London, and if a story takes me (and my characters) out of London, I go there, too. When I stay in London I let (Brit speak) a flat, so that I can walk the neighborhood and go to the shops and pubs and supermarkets, and do all the everyday things that my characters do. I watch a lot of British television, because you see (and learn) things there that you never see in the US. I go out with English friends and do all the ordinary things that people do--it is in an odd way a separate life.
When I'm not in the UK, I keep up with British newspapers and telly and films and, of course, books. The Internet has been a huge research blessing (can I say how much I love Google Maps?) It has made it so much easier to be virtually if not physically there.
And I am still, always, when I am not in Britain, a little homesick, and that keeps the stories going in my head.
About Deborah Crombie’s stand alone book The Sound of Breaking Glass (#15 Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James):
In the past . . . On a blisteringly hot August afternoon in Crystal Palace, once home to the tragically destroyed Great Exhibition, a solitary thirteen-year-old boy meets his next-door neighbor, a recently widowed young teacher hoping to make a new start in the tight-knit South London community. Drawn together by loneliness, the unlikely pair forms a deep connection that ends in a shattering act of betrayal.
In the present . . . On a cold January morning in London, Detective Inspector Gemma James is back on the job now that her husband, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, is at home to care for their three-year-old foster daughter. Assigned to lead a Murder Investigation Team in South London, she's assisted by her trusted colleague, newly promoted Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot. Their first case: a crime scene at a seedy hotel in Crystal Palace. The victim: a well-respected barrister, found naked, trussed, and apparently strangled. Is it an unsavory accident or murder? In either case, he was not alone, and Gemma's team must find his companion—a search that takes them into unexpected corners and forces them to contemplate unsettling truths about the weaknesses and passions that lead to murder. Ultimately, they will begin to question everything they think they know about their world and those they trust most.
William Morrow | February 25, 2014 (first published 2/19/2013) | Trade Paperback | 384 pages
About the author: Deborah Crombie is the author of 15 novels featuring Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Detective Inspector Gemma James. The 16th Kincaid/James novel, To Dwell in Darkness, will be released by William Morrow in September, 2014.
Crombie lives in McKinney, Texas with her husband, two German Shepherd Dogs, and two cats. She travels to Britain frequently to research her books. http://www.deborahcrombie.com/
Excerpt for the stand alone Watching the Dark: An Inspector Banks Novel (#20) and a Rafflecopter giveaway for Before the Poison both by Peter Robinson.
The books are international crime fiction set in England.
Excerpt: There was something about Bach that suited the early morning perfectly, DCI Alan Banks thought, as he drove out of Gratly towards the St Peter’s Police Convalescence and Treatment Centre, four miles north of Eastvale, shortly after dawn that morning. He needed something to wake him up and keep his attention engaged, get the old grey cells buzzing, but nothing too loud, nothing too jarring or emotionally taxing. Alina Ibragimova’s CD of Bach’s sonatas and partitas for violin was just right. Bach both soothed and stimulated the mind at once.
Banks knew St Peter’s. He had visited Annie Cabbot there several times during her recent convalescence. Just a few short months ago he had seen her in tears trying to walk on crutches, and now she was due back at work on Monday. He was looking forward to that; life had been dull for the past while without her.
He took the first exit from the roundabout and drove alongside the wall for about a hundred yards before arriving at the arched entrance and turning left on the tarmac drive. There was no gate or gatehouse, but the first officers to arrive on the scene had quite rightly taped off the area. A young PC waved Banks down to check his ID and note his name and time of entry on a clipboard before lifting the tape and letting him through.
Driving up to the car park was like arriving at a luxury spa hotel, Banks had always thought when he visited Annie. It was no different today. St Peter’s presented a broad south-facing facade at the top of the rise that led down to the lake and surrounding woods. Designed by a firm of Leeds architects, with Vanburgh in mind, and built of local stone in the late nineteenth century, it was three stories high, had a flagged portico, complete with simple Doric columns at the front, and two wings, east and west. Though not so extensive as some other local examples, the grounds were landscaped very much in the style and spirit of Capability Brown, with the lake and woods and rolling lawns. There was even a folly. To the west, beyond the trees and lawns, the outlines of Swainsdale’s hills and fells could be seen, forming a backdrop of what the Japanese called borrowed scenery, which merged nature with art.
The forensic team had got there before Banks, which seemed odd until he remembered that a detective inspector had made the initial call. Kitted out in disposable white coveralls, they were already going about their business. The crime-scene photographer, Peter Darby, was at work with his battered old Nikon SLR and his ultra-modern digital video recorder. Most SOCOs – or CSIs, as they now liked to be called – also took their own digital photos and videos when they searched a scene, but though Peter Darby accepted the use of video, he shunned digital photography as being far too susceptible to tampering and error. It made him a bit of a dinosaur, and one or two of the younger techies cracked jokes behind his back. He could counter by boasting that he had never had any problems with his evidence in court, and he had never lost an image because of computer problems.
DI Lorraine Jenson stood with two other people about five or six yards away from the body, a lone, hunched figure resting her weight on a crutch by the water’s edge and jotting in her notebook. Banks knew her slightly from a case he had worked a few months ago that crossed the border into Humberside, where she worked. Not long ago, he had heard, she had a run in with a couple of drug-dealers in a tower block, which ended with her falling from a second-floor balcony. She had sustained multiple fractures of her left leg, but after surgery, the cast and physio, she would be back at work soon enough.
About Watching the Dark: New York Times bestselling author Peter Robinson brings back Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks and his colleague DI Annie Cabbot in a case riddled with corruption
A decorated policeman is murdered on the tranquil grounds of the St. Peter's Police Treatment Centre, shot through the heart with a crossbow arrow, and compromising photographs are discovered in his room. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is well aware that he must handle the highly sensitive and dangerously explosive investigation with the utmost discretion. And as he digs deeper, he discovers that the murder may be linked to an unsolved missing persons case from six years earlier and the current crime may involve crooked cops.
Rafflecopter giveaway for Before the Poison.
About the book: Quietly reeling from the death of his beloved wife, Chris Lowndes decides to return to the Yorkshire Dales after twenty-five successful years spent in Hollywood composing film scores. He purchases Kilnsgate House, a charming old mansion deep in the country, but something about the place disturbs him. His unease intensifies when he learns Kilnsgate was once the scene of a sensational murder. More than fifty years earlier, prominent doctor Ernest Arthur Fox was poisoned there, allegedly by his beautiful and much younger wife, Grace, who was subsequently tried, condemned, and hanged for the crime.
His curiosity piqued, Chris decides to investigate, and the more he discovers, the more convinced he becomes of Grace's innocence. Despite warnings to leave it be, his quest for the truth is soon leading him through dark shadows of the past . . . and into a strange web of secrets that lie perilously close to the present.
William Morrow Paperbacks | 1/2/2013 | Trade PB | Pages: 368
This is my first Rafflecopter giveaway so I have my fingers crossed that this works without too much trouble. Fingers crossed!