Crime scene – the place is important

I attended the Leicestershire ‘Everybody’s Reading’ event and heard Elly Griffiths, author of six very successful Ruth Galloway mysteries set in North Norfolk; Mark Wright, first time author of Heartman and heading for stardom; and John Martin, author of Crime Scene Great Britain and Ireland.
They were propounding their views on locations of crime fiction. Elly (North Norfolk) says the location dictates the characters; Mark (Bristol), that the locations develop the characters; and John (expert on crime writing)) tied it up nicely and neatly with a message that it could be both, but locations were integrally important factors in crime novels.
My view is that it is usually easier for the reader to grasp the location as a foundation of reality on which the more complex, ethereal, fictional characters and their foibles can be developed and woven.
Derby is the core base for the Simon Jardine series (First Dead Body launched it in summer this year), and the Derby Evening Telegraph in the old danced hall on Albert Street is central for logic and geography. Jardine pivots the story on the fulcrum of his office and radiates to extant pubs like the Dolphin and Exeter Arms, along with now disappeared venues such as: the Crown Club, Spondon (jazz); Cleopatras on Babington Lane (rock), closed, re-opened closed and shut and redeveloped; and Tiffanys, Babington Lane (disco and dance bands), where the building remains, but the sweet sounds have dissipated into the ether.
Derby is important, not just because it is where I began my career in newspapers there in 1970, but also because it was at a time when the town was going through big changes. Rolls-Royce crashed, putting tens of thousands of jobs in jeopardy; Brian Clough and Peter Taylor were about to take on the management of Derby County; the town’s heavy engineering industries (such as large conveyor belts) were thriving, but facing foreign competition; rock music was going through a mini hey-day; and in 1977 the town, which already had a cathedral, was about to become a city.
The 70s was also the decade when the ‘Free Love’ of the 60s actually happened. Girls became emancipated and boys were no longer the sole decision makers in life. ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ is a 21st century phrase, but it flowered 40+ years ago … more of that anon.

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