An AI generated image of Amy and Alice.
The announcement of the publication of the third Amy Rowlings Mystery, The Murder Awards by SpellBound Books on 5th November 2023 means my mailbox is once again pretty full of questions from my readers about the forthcoming book.
For those unfamiliar with the mysteries, Amy Rowlings, our amateur sleuth is a machinist at a North Kent factory nicknamed, The Mill. Amy is a collector of American music, a movie buff and an avid reader of crime fiction, particularly the novels of Agatha Christie. Amy is 21, pretty, and has formed a close relationship with the handsome inspector Bodkin of the fictitious, Spinton Police. The first three novels are set in pre-war England in 1939. War is looming, though the events leading up to the Second World War only play a small part in the back story of the books.
So, on to the questions.
Q. What is the best thing about writing crime stories during this period in history?
A. I like the freedom an author gets when he/she doesn’t have to worry about using, DNA, CCTV or Social Media and phone records, all of which seem to provide the clues that lead to the capture of the perpetrator. None of those things existed in 1939, so it’s always down to the voracity and ingenuity of the investigating team to find the clues without the use of modern technology. I also like the fact that the post mortems of the time only gave investigators a limited amount of information about the deaths.
Q. What is the worst thing about writing crime stories during this period in history?
A. Getting the facts right. A lot of research has to be done before the book can be sent to the publisher. Attitudes, living conditions, retail products, fashion, music and the films of the day all have to be meticulously researched. Because Alice, Amy’s best friend, lives on a farm, particular attention has to be taken regarding farming practices, equipment, machinery, and even the vehicles that were in use at the time. The method of dispatching the victim also has to be carefully researched. It’s no good allowing the murderer to use a poison or medication that couldn’t be detected in the body back then, for instance.
Q. Do you find it difficult to describe the attitudes and language used by the characters in the story?’
A. Not really, as I was born only 14 years or so after the events I’m describing, so social attitudes, much of the language used, and even the food we ate was very similar. Smoking was rife and many characters in the books smoke cigarettes or a pipe. I deliberately chose to make all of my lead characters, non-smokers, though all of them like a drink or two on a Saturday night. Attitudes to women didn’t really change at all until the 1960s when the fledgling women’s liberation movement began to put pressure on the lawmakers. In the late 1930s a woman’s place was in the home and any money they did make from their employment, although desperately needed, was looked upon as pin money. Domestic violence was rife, and even in the better off households, the man was considered the master of all he surveyed, although it was universally acknowledged in private that it was women who held everything together at home.
Q. Why doesn’t Amy join the police force?
A. Simple answer. She would only have been allowed to join as a female policewoman and her main duties would have been making tea, standing silently by when women suspects were being questioned, or being assigned to look after the children of crime victims while the investigation went on around them. At that time, women couldn’t question witnesses and had no power of arrest. Amy would not have been happy in that role and she would never have been allowed to join the CID. This did not really change until the 1970s, but even then their presence was only grudgingly accepted by the men in the force, and their pay was well below what male officers earned when performing the same roles. Amy was far too independently minded to accept such constraints.
Q. Which part of the novels do you enjoy writing the most?
A. As has been said in a few of my reviews, these stories are as much a social commentary as murder mysteries. I do enjoy watching the investigation evolve in front of my eyes, but I also enjoy writing about the dire conditions a lot of people had to endure during that period. Slum housing was the norm in many of the industrial towns at the time. Spinton was no different and I do like to get myself, and Amy involved in their struggle for survival.
You can find the Amy Rowlings mysteries here. Ebook, Paperback and Kindle Unlimited. The Amy Rowlings Mysteries.
If you have a question for the author, please get in touch in the comments section of find me on Facebook.
T. A. Belshaw Author