As soon as people know my novels feature crime solving detectives and private investigators, they want to know the identity of my favourite sleuth. Am I a Morse fan or do I prefer Rebus? Kojak or Columbo? Miss Marple or Poirot?
There’s a clue in the title of this post that I’m British. (Thankfully, Carina Press allows me to keep British spellings in my books.) I was born in a tiny village in the lee of Meon Hill where you would be safe to assume that nothing happened. Ever.
But… One day, years before I was born, something did happen. On Valentine’s Day, 1945, a seventy-four-year-old man was brutally murdered.
Charles Walton, a farm labourer, was tending fences on Meon Hill. Walton was a recluse so he wasn’t a popular man. Also, he had a gift for calling animals and birds to his hand to feed. Some believed Walton was clairvoyant. Others swore he was involved in witchcraft.
The fact is that his body was found on that barren hillside. He’d been badly beaten, his neck had been slashed and he’d been pinned to the ground with his own pitchfork. There were no witnesses and no suspects. Warwickshire police officers were baffled and Scotland Yard was asked to assist.
Enter ace detective Inspector Robert Fabian.
All this may have happened long before I was born, but I still get a thrill from knowing that Fabian came to my little village where nothing ever happened. (Except the odd murder, that is.)
One of the earliest police procedurals made for British TV, Fabian of the Yard, was based on Fabian’s memoirs. The episodes were broadcast in 1954/55 and were later shown in the US under the name Fabian of Scotland Yard. Each episode was based on a real crime that had made national headlines at the time. And each episode ended with the real Fabian explaining what had happened to the criminal.
So did Charles Walton’s case appear on Fabian of the Yard? No. It remains unsolved to this day. Fabian says he was met with a wall of silence. Locals were tight-lipped. Tales of witchcraft continued to circulate. All these years later, a search on the internet for “witchcraft murder” will bring up the case of Charles Walton.
As children, we heard about the murder and frightened ourselves silly with tales of ghostly black dogs and murderous witches roaming our hill. Adults would say, in hushed tones, that even Fabian of the Yard had been unable to solve the mystery.
Robert Fabian died in 1978, but he remains my favourite detective. He showed flashes of genius, he was way ahead of his time when it came to forensic science and he possessed the ability to get inside a killer’s mind which is exactly what I try to do when I write.
(Talking of writing, if you look at the book cover, you’ll see that Fabian was published by none other than Harlequin).
So who’s your favourite detective? Is he/she real or fictional? Enquiring minds need to know.