NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments! and often have guest bloggers.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who’s your favourite sleuth?

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.

21 comments:

MaureenAMiller said...

Shirley, what a fascinating tale! Your destiny as a mystery writer was preordained.

I think perhaps one day YOU will solve the mystery of what happened to Charles Walton.

Shirley Wells said...

Maureen - preordained. Yes, I like that.
LOL, I might *have* to solve the mystery of what happened to Charles Walton. It bugs me. It's like the horror of reading a book only to find the last couple of pages are missing. :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

Cool post, Shirley. I don't have any real life sleuth heroes, but I am partial to Inspector Gamache of the Louise Penny Three Pines mysteries.

Toni Anderson said...

That is so cool, Shirley. An unsolved murder. I bet if you asked around now someone would know the answers... Muwhahah. There was an unsolved murder in Fife when I was there too. That sparked the idea that you could still get away with murder in Britain in the 20th Century. Great stuff.

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

An interesting tale... Mmmmm... Wonder who done it??
Seriously though - a great post! Good luck with the books.

Rita said...

My favorite detective is Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly’s series about an LAPD detective. There were two unsolved murders in my home town. And everyone knew who did it. One when I was a child, the man said he ran out of skewers to grill meat so he made some more from oleander branches. Oleander is poisonous anyone from Florida knows that and he was a native. His wife ate the ones with the oleander and died. His defense was he didn’t know. Alrighty then. The other was a woman was hacked to death on her front door step with a machete in broad daylight. There were affairs involved. Everyone in town knew who did it. A city official! My Aunt lived a couple of doors away and every time she saw the man she would yell “I know it was you. Shame on you .”

Anne Marie Becker said...

Don't know about real life detectives as much as the made-up ones. :) I loved Nancy Drew growing up. And I adore Columbo's bumbling efficiency.

Denise said...

Are any of you familiar with Merrily Watkins, single mom, minister, and sleuth who finds herself involved in mysteries in the quiet countryside of England where she lives..? Phil Rickman wrote the books and they are eerie - recommend if you don't mind your mystery with a hint of supernatural. As for me, long been a Miss Marple fan - but Poriot, Holmes, Rebus..yeah like 'em all. Love this "story".

Shirley Wells said...

Marcelle - I've heard good things about Inspector Gamache. I must check out the books.

Toni - The fact that you can still get away with murder is great for writers. And Fife - that strikes me as another place where nothing ever happens. :)

Writer Pat - Thank you. I would love to know whodunit. :)

Shirley Wells said...

Rita - Oh my, your aunt sounds wonderful. I can picture her yelling at the culprit.
I'll have to check out Harry Bosch. Ah - so many books and so little time.

Anne Marie - I'm a huge fan of Columbo. Always have been. I love his dog too ... and waiting to see if his wife would ever appear in the show.

Denise - Thank you, you've reminded me that I need to check out Phil Rickman's books. He's a fellow member of the CWA and I've been meaning to read his books for ages. I shall make a note and do it now.

Elise Warner said...

Let me know when you publish your book about Charles Walton. You are destined to write it.

Shirley Wells said...

Elise - I do toy with that idea now and again. Several people have beaten me to it with their theories but I don't think Charles has a whole book to himself. Hmm. (Don't tell my editor I'm even having these thoughts...)

Jenny Schwartz said...

I adore British detectives. Albert Campion by Margery Allingham, Inspector Grant by Josephine Tey, Charlie Priest by Stuart Pawson. So many, I could bore you if I listed them all :)

Carol Stephenson said...

My fav sleuths are Detective Chiefs Foyle [Foyle's War] and Barnaby [Midsomer Murders].[yes, I adore British mysteries].

Shelley Munro said...

Carol - you stole my answers :)
I enjoy Foyle and Inspector Barnaby as well. I've also been watching Miss Marple on TV recently. She's incredibly nosy and makes me smile when she pushes her way into an investigation.

Wynter Daniels said...

Interesting! I'm a Jane Marple fan myself.

Shirley Wells said...

Jenny - Charlie Priest is one of my favourites too. I love it when he strays from Yorkshire and crosses the Pennines into 'my territory'. :)

Carol - Hey, I'm with you. Let's hear it for British mysteries. :)

Shelley - I love Miss Marple. She's nosy in such a polite, upper class way.

Wynter - Great to see the Jane Marple fans out in force.

Debs Carr said...

How fascinating, and to think all that happened where you were born.

Shirley Wells said...

Debs - Yes, right by my back door. And as nothing else ever happened - truly, nothing of note has happened in that village since - we used to talk about it a lot, especially the witchcraft stories. :)

Clare London said...

What a great story! (and just how terribly late am I to the party, trying to catch up after Easter LOL). The very best stories are ones grounded in real life - and the very best detectives those who work with them.

Also British, I love my Brit detectives - Rebus, Morse, Dalziel and Pascoe, Miss Marple, and the deliciously dated Lord Peter Wimsey :).

Shirley Wells said...

Claire - You've reminded me how much I love Dalziel and Pascoe. Haven't seen/read about them for ages. I love Lord Peter Wimsey too. :)

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