The Truth About Writing and Comedy

If you find reading comedy difficult, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t easy. You just haven’t found the right funny book for you. But what about writing comedy? We asked the author of the witty Mathematical Mystery series, Jonathan Pinnock.

So how are things going, Jonathan? Glad you asked. As it happens, I’m currently in the early stages of writing Book Five in the Mathematical Mystery series of novels that started back in 2019 with The Truth About Archie and Pye.

Writing the fifth book in an open-ended series is very, very different from writing the first one. When you’re writing the first book in a series, you’re not really writing for anyone at all. You have no idea if anyone’s ever going to publish the thing, even less idea if anyone’s going to actually read the thing and in fact you spend a lot of your time wondering ‘Oh God, what is the point of it all?’

“When you’re writing the first book in a series, you’re not really writing for anyone at all”

However, somehow you finish it and after a search that goes on slightly longer than the hunt for Lord Lucan, you eventually locate a lovely editor at Farrago who thinks you might have something worthy of a wider audience. Even better than that, she wants another book and then the ball keeps rolling on and eventually you get to the point where you suddenly seem to have four books out there with gorgeous matching covers and a signed contract for two more.

By this point, you have established a cast of characters and a rough idea of how they will behave and interact with each other. Some of them are, sadly, dead by now and are therefore of little use to you, but the live ones still have needs to fulfil, slights to avenge and wrongs to right. Somewhere in a trading estate off the M25 there is also an entire warehouse of McGuffins, parcelled up, labelled and waiting to be picked out and forklifted onto the back of a lorry only to be lost in transit a few miles short of Rickmansworth.

So you have plenty of material to play with going into Book Five. You may have a half-decent idea for the overall concept of the book and even a title – which will be revealed in due course, but not quite yet. A couple of new characters have also been knocking on your door, although they’re a bit shy and they haven’t quite got round to introducing themselves properly yet.

“What, then, is the point of writing?”

But you still don’t actually get down to writing it, because deep down there is that existential fear known to all writers that as soon as the words make the leap from brain to screen, the wave form will collapse and you’ll find yourself the proud owner of the literary equivalent of Erwin Schrödinger’s dead cat. So by the time you finally do pluck up the courage to dive in, your delight in discovering that the cat is in fact still alive – albeit on life support – is tempered by the knowledge that you have made a commitment to deliver the entire thing by a point in the future that is rapidly advancing towards you over the horizon. Moreover, past experience tells you that it won’t be long until most of your waking life (and a fair bit of your unconscious life too) is taken up with thinking about the damn thing, while the rest of your time will be spent wondering ‘Oh God, what is the point of it all?’

So perhaps there’s not that much difference between writing book one and book five after all.

“To me, there is no nobler calling than trying to make people laugh”

What, then, is the point of writing? More importantly, what is the point of writing a book like the one I’m currently working on – a daft, implausible mystery full of preposterous characters and absurd situations? Surely the very act of sitting down and devoting time to something like that is as close as I can get to pure self-indulgence? Given the state of the world, is that really the best way to spend my time? Even accepting that I’m going to be spending my time writing, is that really the most appropriate thing to be working on?

The thing is, a lot of genres have got a bit tricky to work in recently. Satire pretty much died a few years ago, and today’s dystopian fiction is looking increasingly like tomorrow’s reportage. This is why I think Farrago are really onto something by highlighting humour. Perhaps it’s escapism, but is that really so bad? We need humour for our mental health and to sustain us in these weird, unsettling times. And if that humour takes care to punch in the right, upwards, direction, so much the better.

“We need humour for our mental health and to sustain us in these weird, unsettling times”

This is basically why I write books like The Truth About Archie and Pye. To me, there is no nobler calling than trying to make people laugh. And if they end up spending five or six hours reading a funny book that shows a bunch of little people taking on the bad guys and winning, I don’t think I’ll have entirely wasted my time.

So maybe there is some point to it, after all.

Jonathan Pinnock is the author of the four books in the Mathematical Mystery series: The Truth About Archie and Pye, A Question of Trust, The Riddle of the Fractal Monks and Bad Day in Minsk. He also hosts the podcast It’s Lit But Is It Funny? which you can find in all the usual places. His website is at www.jonathanpinnock.com and he tweets as @jonpinnock.

A Mathematical Mystery series

Including for Kindle

The Truth About Archie and Pye

What connects the mysterious deaths of twin mathematical geniuses with the Belarusian mafia and a cat called µ?

Including for Kindle

A Question of Trust

Tom Winscombe begins another hair-raising adventure as Dorothy vanishes along with all the company’s equipment (and its money).

Including for Kindle

The Riddle of the Fractal Monks

Tom and Dorothy’s date night is ruined by a mysterious falling figure: another mathematical mystery begins…

Including for Kindle

Bad Day in Minsk

A witty, fast-paced thriller set in Belarus, with a dash of mathematics and a large dose of danger.

Including for Kindle

The Stockwell Park Orchestra Interviews: Two

Guest posts
16/11/2021 | POSTED BY Rob Wilding

In January 2022, The Prize Racket is published: the fourth novel in my Stockwell Park Orchestra series. Over the summer I had a chance to interview some characters from the series.

 

Isabel Rogers

Author of the fabulous Stockwell Park Orchestra series


 

Interview Two – Pearl

I should have expected nothing less. Pearl, viola player and Queen of the Urn, smiled, leaning round an enormous three-tier cake stand. Each layer was so crammed with a mismatched assortment of biscuits and cakes, it looked like the Tower of Babel had been reimagined as a sugary game of Jenga.  

P:   Milk? 

IR: Yes, please. This is amazing, Pearl! You didn’t have to.  

P:    Oh, it’s just a few little somethings to keep us going.  

IR:    You are a marvel. Now – tell me about this European tour. What are you most looking forward to?  

P  Well, I know David has booked our usual coach company, and they have lovely facilities on their vehicles. I think we’ve even got a little kitchenette in this one, so I can do emergency teas and coffees if we need them!   

IR:    Never has an orchestra been so plentifully supplied with beverages. Which reminds me, a reader has asked if you’ll be taking your tea urn on the trip, or have you been assured there will be an urn in each venue?  

P:    I don’t think there’s room on the coach. I’m sure David will have sorted everything out. And anyway, we might be in more of a cold juice situation, weather-wise. 
 
IR:  Do you think this heatwave will make it feel more like a holiday?   

P:    It’s a bit much for me, to be honest. I do like to wear a nice cardigan. The pockets are so useful. But as long as I can keep our players fully refreshed, I’ll be satisfied.  

IR: A professional beverager to the last. I applaud you. And how’s the music going?  

P:    Eliot’s got us working hard, as usual! The quavers in the Figaro overture are a challenge, but at least it’s quite short. Pete’s probably – well. Yes.   

IR:     Pete’s what?   

P:    Oh nothing. He’ll be fine with them. Probably. Mini Battenberg?   

IR:  Thanks. I spoke to Eliot last week, and he seemed concerned about one particular bar of the Bruckner. Do you know why?   

P:   Concerned? Did he say he was concerned? Oh dear. I’m not going to – I mean – Pete and I are … oh dear.  

IR:    What’s going on, Pearl? Do you and Pete have something to do with that bar?  

P:  No! We’ll be fine. Do have a custard cream.  

IR: OK. A few quick-fire questions, if you’re up for it? Bourbons or Jaffa cakes?  

P:   Well, it’s always nice to provide a choice, and some people really don’t like orangey bits, so –  

IR:    Mozart or Bruckner?  

P:   The violas do have gorgeous tunes in the Bruckner. But then if the Mozart weren’t so fast we might enjoy it more.  

IR: Tea or coffee?   

P:   Would you like a top-up?  

IR:    No, I meant if you had to choose, which would it be?  

P:  What an odd question. I’m happy to make another pot?  

IR: Never mind. Very best of luck for your tour. And with whatever this mystery Bruckner bar is.  

P:   Thank you. Golly, look at all this. Shall I pop some cake in a Tupperware for you to take home?

_________________  

If you have a question for any other Stockwell Park Orchestra musician, please send it to me and I’ll ask on your behalf. Find me on Twitter @Isabelwriter, or drop me a line using the contact page on my site isabelrogers.org.

Miss Interview One? Read it here!

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The haunting British seaside spots that inspired Gabby Hutchinson Crouch

Guest posts
01/11/2021 | POSTED BY Rob Wilding

On the wonderful, sorely missed Writers’ Jolly (by which I mean, ‘very business-like industry conference’) Craft of Comedy at Llandudno, I would regularly annoy fellow writers by pointing at the Hydro Hotel and loudly declaring ‘that’s haunted’. In my defence, it’s a very haunted-looking building. The Victorian gothic grandness adorned with Edwardian and 20th-century modernist additions gives it a feeling of not quite belonging to any one time. Add to the fact that, like so many grand Victorian hotels, it faces out to sea and you have got yourself a building that fills my mind’s eye with creeping ghosts.

Hydro Hotel, Llandudno, Wales

I love spaces that don’t feel quite right. ‘Liminal’, as the kids say, and seaside towns, to my mind, usually have that vibe, especially in the winter, when only a few ice cream kiosks are still open, when eating chips is a race against heat loss and seagull gang violence, when the ‘stroll along the prom prom prom’ is an act of attrition against the weather, being taken by brave dog walkers, joggers, and the sheer bloody wilful. This is a silly little archipelago with coastlines full of these slightly faded Victorian seaside resorts.

I’ve wanted to write a story about a haunted island resort for ages, so when Farrago finally gave me the chance with Wish You Weren’t Here, I took inspiration from some of my favourite real-life seaside spots that make me go ‘that’s haunted.’


Anglesey, as seen from Caernarfon

I lived in North West Wales as a young girl, and we used to go sailing on the Menai Strait. At night, there’s something about the disparity between the lights of Caernarfon’s streets and castle, right on the water’s edge, and the comparative darkness of the stretch of Anglesey’s coastline on the other side of the black water that I always found in equal parts disturbing and comforting. The idea of a dark island sitting, waiting across the water from bright, busy streets gives me a pleasant, ASMR-like shiver even now. Also, while it doesn’t have the dilapidated Victorian vibe I went with for Coldbay, the tidal island of Ynys Llanddwyn – where we used to sail – has a desolate, limbo-like beauty. I could cross dark water to that place in sleep or death and find a cold, windswept peace.

View to Anglesey from Caernarfon Castle. Credit: Wander Your Way

Herne Bay, Kent

Even though Coldbay is set near Skegness, it’s much more based on Kent, Sussex, and Wales than it is Lincolnshire. Herne Bay, like Coldbay, lost the majority of its pier to fire and now has a desolate, crumbling zombie of a pierhead left all alone out at sea like a sad little dead wooden island. Sometimes in Herne Bay, you can hear ghostly, echoey explosions from an MoD site on the other side of the estuary, in Essex. This would be creepy enough, but the eeriness is added to by the Maunsell Forts – the rusting, abandoned husks of WW2 gun turrets jutting out of the water on thin legs like alien fighting machines, dead and rotting and the colour of Mars.

Herne Bay Pier, Kent

Hastings, East Sussex

My husband’s home town, still home to my in-laws and therefore the seaside town I visit the most. A good, haunted-atmosphere British seaside town is like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard – kinda crumbly now but by GOD, you should have seen her in her heyday when the moving pictures were silent. Hastings is like that. It’s actually kind of cool and artsy, a slightly more affordable Brighton, but the seafront itself is all once stunningly grand buildings with little bucket & spade kiosks on the ground floor. Occasionally big chunks of the cliff just collapse and there’s nothing you can do about it. One of the main car parks is underneath said cliffs. Good luck with that. Like Herne Bay, it was cursed with a curiously flammable pier and now has a perfectly nice, very cold little new pier with fairy lights and huts selling nick-nacks, which I based Coldbay’s new pier off. ‘The Ship’ pub is based on the wooden fishing huts on the seafront, which remind me of a shipwreck.

Looking eastward along the promenade towards Hastings Pier

Honorable Mention

Cold Harbour in Canterbury. Coldbay was named after a set of boarded up council flats in Canterbury, near a bus stop I used to use. They have since been knocked down for a fancy new retail estate. They looked almost certainly like what you’re picturing right now.

–––––

Gabby Hutchinson Crouch


Want some useless trivia? Well, you’re getting some anyway

Skegness: It has been rumoured that the name ‘Skegness’ means either “Skeggi’s headland” or “beard-shaped headland”. This is because the Old East Norse word “skeg” meaning beard, or “skeggi” meaning bearded one, is thought to have come from the Viking who established the original settlement. As if you needed more of an excuse to let that goatee loose in the bracing winds. Man buns are not acceptable however – put it away.

Llandudno: During lockdown, the wild goats of Llandudno took the town by storm causing chaos as they deemed neighbourhood gardens fair game for a spot of lunch. The randy Great Orme’s missed out on their annual contraceptive programme due to lockdown restrictions and their numbers have continued to rise. Locals remain hopeful that the herd heads for the hills soon and tire of their adolescent lovemaking.

Hastings: If the Hastings Direct jingle is the first thing to pop into your head when we say ‘1066’ you’ll relish in this nugget of myth-busting goodness. The Battle of Hastings – which arguably takes second place following this summer’s Gurning Competition as the greatest event to grace the southern shores – did not actually take place in Hastings. It in fact took place in a field seven miles away, which is now the appropriately named village of Battle…

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Mandy Morton in conversation with Book Hoots Podcast

Humorous Mystery and Crime
20/08/2021 | POSTED BY Rob Wilding

Book Hoots – the all things books and authors podcast from Cambridgeshire Libraries – talk to Mandy Morton about The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series, her background in broadcasting and, of course, cats and food….

Give it a listen on Spotify. 

Give it a listen on Anchor.fm.

Buy the ebook series from Farrago

Related articles

Pest Control ‘The Musical’

Humorous Mystery and Crime
17/08/2021 | POSTED BY Rob Wilding

Bill Fitzhugh, you may not have known, is a big music fan. Perhaps you have noticed the subtle hints within his satirical thrillers – you will if you look closely enough. Therefore, when Pest Control, Book 1 of the Assassin Bugs series, was commissioned for Hollywood theatre, you could say that Bill was buzzing, had checked off a big tick on his ‘to-do’ list, had butterflies in his stomach, didn’t let it fly over his head, [insert more terrible bug-related puns here…]


In Pest Control, all Bob Dillon, a down-on-his-luck pest exterminator, wants is success with his radical new, environmentally friendly pest-killing technique. When his advertisement is answered he thinks his luck has changed, but it turns out his new client is from a dangerous world of assassins.

Now imagine this on stage….

Oh wait! You don’t have to. You can check out some highlights and songs from the show right from your very own screen:

Look Me in the Eye

Pest Control

Looks Can Be Deceiving

The Story of My Life

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

I Was Made in America

I’d Kill For You

Why Can’t I Get Over You

Why Should I Believe a Thing You Say?

Worse Than Dyin’

The Pest is in Control

Chantelle’s Attack

Bug on Top

Undercover

The Bugman Says

She’s There

Legend of the Vanished Killer

The End is Coming

Back Then

All I Need is a Name

So Alive Again

What Doesn’t Kill Us

Eye on the Target

Exterminator Blues

Pheromone Thing

Check out Bill Fizhugh’s YouTube page to see them all in one place.


Buy the ebook Assassin Bugs series bundlePest Control (Book 1) and The Exterminators (Book 2) – from Farrago.

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The Absolute Spit

Guest posts
12/08/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

Beth Miller reveals the inspiration behind her life-swap novel, Starstruck


From the back you’d really think he was Bowie. My friends and I nudged each other excitedly, though we knew it wasn’t really him. Tiny venue, cheap tickets, session musicians on bass and drums, no way was it him. But on the other hand, it really looked like him: his frame, the stance, the way the jacket hung down.

The band tore into the opening bars of Jean Genie, and the main man finally turned round to face us. From the front the resemblance was less uncanny. He was rather fuller in the waist than the Thin White Duke, and his cheekbones wouldn’t cut you like a knife. Plus, his outfit was anachronistic, my pedantic mate Johnno pointed out: he was styled as Bowie from the Young Americans era, not as Aladdin Sane. Oh, do shut up Johnno, and listen! Because by god, the voice! He’d got the exact same voice! The absolute spit! Just thirty seconds and everyone was joining in with the chorus, knowing this wasn’t Bowie, and yet it also sort of was… all you had to do was close your eyes, or squint.

This wasn’t my first tribute act. As a student I saw Voulez Vous – very good – and the Bootleg Beatles, the granddaddy of tributes. The Bootlegs have toured for decades longer than the real Beatles and played thousands more gigs. I enjoyed their relaxed approach to time and space, with ‘John’ saying he couldn’t see the audience ‘because I didn’t wear glasses on stage till 1965’. Even with such fourth wall breaking, you could still think, on and off, and sometimes in a sustained way in the middle of an inspired riff, that this was The Beatles, even as you also knew it wasn’t. But the Bowie tribute was the first time I realised how much I loved the very notion of being a tribute. The doublethink, the whole sort of is/sort of isn’t vibe; the joy of hearing classic songs done live and accurate; the respectful homage of the entire thing.

Not to mention the puns. I love a good pun, and tribute act names are a goldmine. By Jovi might be my favourite, though I have a soft spot for rival tributes Noasis, No Way Sis, and Oasish. Ah, there’s so many: Proxy Music, Nearvana, Fake That, Stereophonies, Pink Fraud…

When I saw the BBC Arena documentary, Into the Limelight, my love for tributes crystallised into something rarer: the germ of an idea. The documentary (still on iPlayer) featured the Limelight Club in Crewe, now sadly defunct, but then home to all the tribute acts. There were several stand-out stars, including John Campbell, interviewed sitting on the sofa and chatting with his mum about how he channelled the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. But my favourite was Wayne Ellis of Limehouse Lizzy, whose thoughtful and melancholy reflections on a career pretending to be someone else stayed with me for years.

Where were the women tributes? I wondered. And lo, The Graham Norton Show answered. It presented an Adele tribute competition with a twist – the real Adele, unrecognizable in prosthetics, took part without the other competitors knowing. It’s an absolute masterpiece of television, which I watch once a month, I love it so. I well up every single time the real Adele steps on stage to sing, because it’s at that moment that it becomes completely obvious to all the other tributes that she is the real deal.

The plot of Starstruck was forming in my head. Adele pretended to be her own tribute act – but what if she swapped places with one of her impersonators? Would people be able to tell that the person playing the massive arenas wasn’t her? And what would it be like if she took the tribute act’s place, performing in little unglamorous venues…

Thus, Sally Marshall was born. Hardworking and gutsy, she’s been a tribute act for twelve years, performing as Epiphanie, the world’s biggest megastar. One ordinary day, she comes home to find Epiphanie – the real, actual Epiphanie – sitting in her kitchen. When Sally picks her jaw up off the floor, she discovers that Epiphanie wants to make her a life swap offer she can’t refuse…

Beth Miller


Buy the Starstruck eBook from Farrago today

Get it in paperback (UK only) from Amazon, Waterstones, or Bookshop.org

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FREE BOOK: The Darkwood Series, Book 1

Promotions
03/08/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

Venture into the Darkwood in this modern fairy tale that will bewitch adults and younger readers alike.

Introducing your free book, Darkwood, Book 1 in The Darkwood Series.

Download my free book



Darkwood
by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch

‘Gabby is one of the funniest writers I know.’ Sarah Millican

Magic is forbidden in Myrsina, along with various other abominations, such as girls doing maths.

This is bad news for Gretel Mudd, who doesn’t perform magic, but does know a lot of maths. When the sinister masked Huntsmen accuse Gretel of witchcraft, she is forced to flee into the neighbouring Darkwood, where witches and monsters dwell.

There, she happens upon Buttercup, a witch who can’t help turning things into gingerbread, Jack Trott, who can make plants grow at will, the White Knight with her band of dwarves and a talking spider called Trevor. These aren’t the terrifying villains she’s been warned about all her life. They’re actually quite nice. Well… most of them.

With the Huntsmen on the warpath, Gretel must act fast to save both the Darkwood and her home village, while unravelling the rhetoric and lies that have demonised magical beings for far too long.

Download my free book

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Death and Croissants – l’inspiration

Guest posts
19/07/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

Death and Croissants has inspired many readers, including us. So, we turned it around and asked comedian and bestselling author Ian Moore…

“What inspired you?”


The germ of the idea for Death and Croissants lies in an uncomfortable truth. The main character, Richard, owns a chambre d’hôtes, a posh B&B and likes, though that may be too strong a word, what that life offers him. That for the most part he can be left to his own devices, without his job getting in the way. Well, I too own a posh B&B and I find the life of a small-time hotelier, and I say this with apologies to my guests, phenomenally dull.

In order to brighten my days of breakfasting, bed making and stopping small uncontrolled Parisien children from throwing stones at the goats, I started to invent stories around the guests. Why were those single businessmen in the area? Why did the family from Lyon behave like they didn’t know each other? And that attractive, exotic lady from Nice, why did she think she had a right to tell me that I had my kitchen-salon ordered ‘entirely the wrong way’?

Well, the lady from Nice became Valérie for the most part, but with elements of other French women we have known since my wife and I moved here. Above all, she had to be one hundred percent sure of herself at all times; Richard had to doubt himself to exactly the same degree. A modern-day Holmes and Watson was the plan, with Valérie as Holmes. And I wanted the dialogue snappy too, playful, even if my two main characters were rarely on the same wavelength. Think Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammet’s The Thin Man or ‘screwball’ comedies of 1930s Hollywood where it’s usually the woman outsmarting the man but not always being aware of it, like Katherine Hepburn is ignorant of Cary Grant’s insecurity in Bringing Up Baby.

I also wanted the plot, and here again I apologise, to be slightly convoluted. I’ve always been intrigued that Raymond Chandler wrote The Big Sleep and even he couldn’t properly explain the plot to it. Also, the wonderful TV series in the 1980s written by Alan Plater called The Beiderbecke Affair comes to mind. It has smart, back-and-forth dialogue performed brilliantly by James Bolam and Barbara Flynn and a plot I still don’t understand today.

Death and Croissants had to be all of these things but mostly, it had to be funny. I wanted those classic ingredients of crackling dialogue but with a physical, farcical element as well; funny enough to be a humorous book on its own while the plot had to have enough depth to be a crime book in its own right. In cricketing terms, it needed to be a top-class all-rounder.

But the main inspiration, the driving force and starting point was France itself. The characters, the countryside, the foibles, the pace of life… if you can’t get inspired by that in some way well, then it really would be time to stick to bed and breakfasting. So, I though of Richard, poured a nice glass of rosé, sat on the terrasse and let the story unfold.


Ian Moore

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FREE BOOK: An Inspector Pel Mystery, Book 1

Promotions
13/07/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

Moody, sharp-tongued and worrying constantly about his health, Inspector Evariste Clovis Désiré Pel ensures that no case goes unsolved, in this mordantly witty French mystery.

Introducing your free book, Death Set to Music, Book 1 in the Inspector Pel Mystery series.

Download my free book



Death Set to Music
by Mark Hebden

‘Written with downbeat humour and some delightful dialogue.’ Financial Times

Deep in the Burgundy countryside, a murder case is perplexing Inspector Pel. The body was found in the salon, an elegant room with a grand piano and a Louis XIV escritoire. The shutters were still closed and the dead end of a record of Rigoletto was still turning.

There are some obvious suspects, yet the clothes of none of them show any signs of blood. And what were the tensions that must have torn at this family? It’s only when a second murder takes place that the method of the first becomes startlingly clear.

Download my free book

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Origins of The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency

Humorous Mystery and Crime
12/01/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

This March 2021, A Pocket Full of Pie will be published: the fourth book in my No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series. With the new year underway, I took time to reflect on the series’ origins.

 

Mandy Morton

Author of the wonderful No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series

No.2-Feline-Detective-Agency-series


 

The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series was never meant to be a series at all.
It was born out of boredom and an idea to raise money for my local cat rescue centre, but as soon as the first book was written, I found myself wanting to carry on the lives of the characters I had created; now, with The Ice Maid’s Tail as the latest book in the series and another one to be published in March, I’m amazed to be planning book ten for 2022.

 

“I found myself wanting to carry on the lives of the characters I had created”.

I had previously spent twenty six years as a BBC arts journalist, and the first winter of my retirement delivered me the inspiration to create a micro world inhabited only by cats. Crime was an obvious choice, as cats are naturally inquisitive, but they can also be cruel, unpredictable and calculating, the perfect mix for a detective series.

My two feline sleuths, Hettie Bagshot and Tilly Jenkins, are personal to me, as they were much loved rescue cats in real life; bringing them back in these books is a joyous thing for me to be able to do, and – in a strange way – their adventures channel bits of my own life.

Lovers of cats will, I hope, find much to enjoy in these books, but once the adventures begin, it’s easy to accept the characters as people, and I leave that decision entirely up to my readers.

 

“…their adventures channel bits of my own life.”

My characters wear cardigans, play guitars, drive motorbikes, smoke pipes of catnip and commit vicious murders on occasions. They have voracious appetites for anything wrapped in pastry, and go about their business in a high street somewhere in the 1970s that includes a post office, a bakery, hardware store, dry cleaners, a four floor department store, an undertakers and a fish and chip shop.

Just outside the town is a stately home, an aristocratic pile where The Ice Maid’s Tail is set amid a dark, atmospheric fairy tale. At this point you may question my sanity, but the world I’ve created makes much more sense to me than the one I actually live in.

 

“…cats are naturally inquisitive, but they can also be cruel, unpredictable and calculating, the perfect mix for a detective series.”

As a journalist, I was taught to become a magpie, a collector of many facts but master of none; researching for my radio shows has taken me into many areas that have become vital in telling these stories, projects on psychics, executioners, cooks and gardeners have proved invaluable, and the fact that my own life has included being a professional musician and a radio presenter offers even more scope for my characters.

My new book, A Pocket Full of Pie, soon to be published, lays bear the competitive world of broadcasting with tongue firmly in cheek, but the essence of all the books has to be to make my readers laugh and cry in equal measure, and there’s a puzzle to solve along the way. They’re playful, and – I hope – thought-provoking.

 

A-Pocket-Full-of-Pie

A Pocket Full of Pie

 

“…the world I’ve created makes much more sense to me than the one I actually live in”.

I love dolls houses, and have always enjoyed collecting tiny miniatures – and that’s exactly what I do when I write my books: I play with my characters, placing them in different rooms, surrounding them with the chattels of everyday life, and I wait to see how they will react.

I have been delighted that so many readers have chosen my series during lockdown, at a time when we would all like to live in a different world.

 

Mandy Morton

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