For me, the ever changing moods of the Somerset Levels have provided the ideal inspiration and my last three crime novels have been ‘penned’ in the six years I have lived with my wife, Elizabeth, on the edge of this beautiful, haunting semi-wilderness in the south-west of England.
The glorious sunsets, which touch the lattice-work of rhynes with glittering shards in the autumn twilight, the spectacle of thousands of starlings weaving their weird, intricate patterns across the darkening sky before vanishing mysteriously into the waterlogged fields like smoke returning to the Genie’s magic lamp, the heron rising like a ghost through the swirling dawn mist towards the dismembered, phallic-like symbol of Glastonbury Tor.
Sights and sounds that cannot fail but to awaken the primeval spirit in all save the most insensitive observer, harking back to mankind’s very beginnings – thrilling the senses and firing the imagination.
Small wonder then that I have chosen this wonderful evocative landscape as the backdrop for my latest novels – what crime writer could resist that captivating influence?
Setting a crime novel in an identifiable location, rather than some fictitious place that is the product of the author’s imagination – as I did in my earlier novels – has its advantages too. Not only does it project the illusion of reality by blurring the distinction between fact and fiction, enhancing the credibility of the plot, but it tends to heighten the interest of the reading public as well.
People enjoy stories about the places in which they live or work. They get a kick out of being able to recognize this or that street in this or that town or village, which, in turn, has the effect of drawing them into the action of the story to the point where they can begin to feel personally involved.
When living in Oxfordshire, prior to moving to Somerset, the exploits of Colin Dexter’s celebrated fictional detective, Inspector Morse, in and around the dreaming spires of Oxford certainly had that effect on me and I am quite sure Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, set in Edinburgh, and those featuring Peter James’s Roy Grace in Brighton work the same way for their resident readerships.
So the local touch is certainly popular, which is why I have now gone down this route with my own novels. ‘Slice’, my first crime thriller with Robert Hale, may not have actually named names, but it was primarily set in the Bridgwater area and I chose my own local church in Mark village for the grisly climax. With my current novel, ‘Firetrap’, however, the local connection is very evident and the sequel, ‘Requiem’, due out later this year, follows the same line, as my feisty woman detective, Kate Hamblin, and her public school boyfriend and colleague, Detective Constable Hayden Lewis, pursue ruthless psychopathic killer, Larry ‘Twister’ Wadman along the mist-shrouded droves of the Levels and the shadowy urban streets of Bridgwater and Highbridge.
Twister could still be out there too, hiding in the gloom and flexing his powerful hands, as those cold dead eyes of his search the neighbourhood for his next victim. Time to lock those doors and windows, pour a stiff drink and keep the poker handy. And above all, don’t answer the door!
- David Hodges
Slice and Firetrap by David Hodges are available to buy in hardback now.
Slice is also available to buy in ebook format from all good ebook retailers, while Firetrap is scheduled for ebook release in August 2012.
Requiem is scheduled for release in hardback October 2012.