Reviews

‘absorbing second mystery . . . stunning resolution.’ [Stage Fright]

- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
Crime-writer Linda Stratmann is my guest

Crime-writer Linda Stratmann is my guest

Linda Stratmann is my guest on the blog today. I got to know Linda when we were both on the CWA committee. It’s not the first time she has featured on my blog. Some time ago I reviewed her fascinating book, Chloroform. She’s also written a lot about true crime. But today she’s talking about her fiction. I began by asking her about her new novel. Over to Linda:

An Appetite For Murder is the fourth book in the Frances Doughty Mysteries featuring a Victorian lady detective, and explores the worlds of dieting, health food and vegetarianism. Frances finds that two apparently innocuous cases are not only connected, but involve several murders.
How do you carve out time to write? What’s your writing routine?
I am a pensioner so don’t have to meet the requirements of either a day job or a young family. Writing is effectively my full-time job. I love it and spend all my available time on it. (I am writing this at 8 am on a Sunday morning) One day I will scare myself by adding up my weekly hours!
What comes first for you: a theme, plot, characters?
It could be any of the three. A book idea starts as a concept like a tiny crystal, which just grows in my mind. An Appetite for Murder started from two separate ideas I wanted to include and then weave together.
How did Frances Doughty come into being and does she have an historical counterpart?
It annoys me that so many fictional heroines are described as beautiful and a lot of the plot revolves about them being able to get their own way by fluttering their eyelashes at a man. I decided from the outset that I wanted my heroine to be a woman who gets what she wants with brains and determination. She is young because I want her to learn and develop over the years. Sarah her trusty sidekick is essential not only as a support for Frances also to ground her.
Lady detectives do appear in fiction from the 1860s and the concept of the female detective is sometimes referred to in the Victorian press. I wouldn’t be surprised if detective agencies employed women in roles for which they were thought especially suitable.
Who are your writing heroes? Whose books do you like to read, and why?
Ruth Rendell and PD James are my great heroines of crime writing and Agatha Christie’s ability to misdirect the reader is second to none. I read very widely; I always have several books on the go at once, both fiction and non-fiction.  When I read for relaxation I go for something that is a complete contrast to what I write myself, usually in a contemporary setting.
A favourite bookshop?
Waterstones in Walthamstow is a big friendly store, and wonderfully supportive to local authors. The staff go to considerable trouble to ensure that writers’ events are well organised.
What are you writing now?
Two books at once!  I am writing the fifth Frances Doughty Mystery entitled The Children of Silence, which concerns the Victorian attitude to people with hearing disabilities. I am also engaged on a history of nineteenth century poison murder. Next year will see the start of a new detective series set in Brighton, and we will be in the world of Victorian spirit mediums.

An Appetite for Murder is out now as an ebook and a paperback.  To find out more about Linda and her books go to http://www.lindastratmann.com

Linda’s Book Launch

Something to add to my last blog. The launch of Linda Stratmann’s new novel, THE POISONOUS SEED, is at Waterstone’s Islington Green on Thursday 2 June from 6.30. I can’t be there, but maybe you can? All are welcome.
While I’m here I’ll mention that Anne Fadiman’s second book of essays, AT LARGE AND AT SMALL: CONFESSIONS OF A LITERARY HEDONIST. Hugely enjoyable, just like EX LIBRIS. Loved it and I enjoyed them all the more for having met her.

Chloroform

I spent Thursday to Sunday last week at Crimefest, where I moderated a couple of panels. Linda Stratmann was on one of them. She is the author of a book entitled CHLOROFORM which I’d heard was good – and it is. As far as I’d thought at all about it, I’d been aware of chloroform as a staple plot device in nineteenth century crime fiction and I might also have been able to come up with the fact that Queen Victoria was one of earliest women to have the pangs of child-birth relieved by it. But there is far more to the story of chloroform and Linda’s carefully researched and well-written account is enthralling. Until its discovery surgery had been an agonising process and the risk of shock was considerable. Chloroform at first seemed nothing short of miraculous. However it was not longer before rumours of a disquieting nature began to circulate; a number of young and apparently patients failed to come round from the anaesthetic. It was to be a very long time before the reasons for this were discovered and for around a hundred years chloroform continued to be in common use. It was superseded by among other things, including ether, which I remember being given at the dentist as a child. It was vile stuff, and chloroform in spite of its risks sounds much nicer. I was amused to learn that it would take far more a whiff of a chloroform-soaked hanky that so often features in early mystery stories to put someone out. However it was nice to learn from Linda at the conference that Agatha Christie, who had worked in a hospital dispensary, was one writer who knew her poisons.
Linda’s own first novel, THE POISONOUS SEED, set in 1880s Bayswater, has just come out.