Roger Silverwood was educated in Gloucestershire before National Service. He later worked in the toy trade and as a copywriter in an advertising agency. Roger went into business with his wife as an antiques dealer before retiring in 1997. His Inspector Angel series is now on its 18th book.
Here he talks about how he came up with Inspector Angel and what he thinks makes great Crime Fiction.
Where did the idea for Inspector Angel come from and how has it been developing the character over all the books?
I based Inspector Michael Angel on my father who had most of his virtues; his bad points are all mine; and his good looks are the product of any Hollywood studio in the 1940s.
I was getting tired of reading about the fictional copper portrayed as a hard drinking, smoking, swearing, gruff type who always had women trouble. While I am sure that there must be some policemen like that in real life, I wanted a character that was more likeable and believable. So I dreamt up Inspector Michael Angel, who is a real man with old fashioned standards, good manners and simple charm but could be wily and tough when necessary. He is happily married (most of the time) to a wife who also has a mind and a will of her own. He is attractive to other women and is occasionally propositioned, such situations up to now he has dealt with in a gentlemanly way. I wanted him to enjoy a drink, but be sober, always hard up, well-educated but not an academic. I didn’t want him to be as intellectual as Sherlock Holmes; that sort of clever scientific approach had, I thought, by the turn of the century been well and truly over replicated. He would also be annoyingly pernickety and meticulous over all the nitty-gritty details of an investigation, but it would be the minutiae that would lead him into solving the case. This is well exemplified in The Cheshire Cat Murders, the 18th Inspector Angel Mystery.
What drew you to writing crime?
There is a sort of magic about writing crime stories. The idea of creating a mystery and then solving it seemed to be the appeal to me. As a boy I was fascinated by stories with such naïve titles as, The Duchess’s Pearls, Sir George’s Will, The Mystery of the Locked Room and so on. I read everything like that to do with crime that I could get hold of before graduating as a young man to Dorothy L Sayers, Wilkie Collins, G K Chesterton and then on to Raymond Chandler. I guess crime was the only subject I would ever want to write about.
What key elements does a great crime novel need?
I write setting the scene with familiar elements in it so that the reader can believe that he or she is actually looking over Angel’s shoulder as the story unfolds. I want the reader to feel the tension and be involved in working out who the murderer is, and there should be enough interesting, credible activity and suspense throughout the narrative to keep him or her turning the page right up to the exposé.
THE CHESHIRE CAT MURDERS – SYNOPSIS
Detective Inspector Michael Angel and his team are desperately searching for a wild cat on a killing spree in the South Yorkshire town of Bromersley. It appears that the cougar is under human control and is trained to kill to order. Retired schoolteacher and well-known cat enthusiast, Miss Ephemore Sharp, becomes the prime suspect, but Inspector Angel is unable to prove her guilt. Matters take a decisive turn when she is found in possession of the antique pot figure of a famous performing cat called ‘Pascha’. Angel is greatly tested and the investigations become more mystifying and dangerous, as he races to find the explanation to stop more mayhem and murder. This is the 18th in the highly successful Inspector Angel series.