Saturday 5 December 2009


Chester is a marvellous city, brimming with history. As a small boy, I used to love visits there, especially when I had the chance to walk along the Roman walls. I’ve spent most of my life living within easy reach of the place, and I’m not quite sure why I don’t visit it more often. Lack of time is the only excuse. But last night I had the chance to return to Chester, for my final Victorian Murder Mystery event of the year.

It was a good evening, all the more so because the week which led up to it had quite a few stressful moments. But one of the pleasures for me of detective fiction is the opportunity that it affords for escapism, and last night I was delighted to have the chance to meet crime fans and other readers, as well as the amiable staff of Chester Library.

One member of the audience asked why I don’t set my books in Cheshire, given that it’s the county I know best. My off the cuff answer was that Cheshire is far too peaceful a place for murder and mayhem, but of course one only has only to think of fictional Midsomer to realise that rural settings are very far from murder-free. And of course I write the Lake District Mysteries, set in a county that on the surface is even quieter than Cheshire. 

I was invited to Chester by Debbie Owen, who was involved with my first production of Who Killed George Hargrave? at Ellesmere Port – I can hardly believe that it was five years ago. Since then I’ve taken the event around the country, and I continue to find it a fun way of spending an evening. For as long as audiences continue to give great feedback on the mystery, I aim to keep running. And perhaps to write another.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I love Chester. The two-tiered shopping walk always fascinated me. Oh, I hope I get back there soon, but this year is Paris. Not such a bad place either.

Anonymous said...

Martin - It looks as though you had a lovely visit; I'm glad for you : ). The Murder Mystery event sounds like fun, too.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think that's one of the most rewarding things about being a writer--meeting readers and hearing their opinions and feedback.

We have a Chester very nearby Charlotte--in South Carolina. I think it's a sister city. I'm afraid it's very different, though. The horrid economic situation has really done a number on it.

Mystery Writing is Murder

seana graham said...

Chester was one of the first cities I ever went to on my first trip abroad--right after London and Oxford. It's a lovely place. I remember it fondly.

Martin Edwards said...

Patti and Seana - I'm glad (though not at all surprised) you like Chester too. I'd recommend the city to anyone coming to England and wanting a taste of the country's heritage.

Paul Beech said...

Martin – Chester will always be a truly special place for me too, a place with a quite unique atmosphere and resonance due to personal associations – I lived and worked there in my younger days and my father’s home is on the Welch side of the Dee. How well I remember the Swinging Sixties in Chester, hanging over The Rows or sauntering along the riverbank during summertime lunch breaks to watch the gorgeous girls parading in miniskirts, attending dances at Quaintways and The Jazz Club…those were the days!

A city steeped in history, as you say, though it was always the Civil War period that particularly interested me rather than the Roman period – the King’s defeat at Rowton Moor, observed by him from Phoenix Tower, on 24th September 1645, and the Siege of Chester, which continued through the severe winter of that year with the Royalist inhabitants reduced to eating rats before Lord Byron (under pressure from the Mayor) surrendered to the Parliamentarian commander, Sir William Brereton, in January 1646.

It was in Chester, during the hippy Hari Krishna period of the early-70s, that I first attended a book signing. This was at Smiths with Raymond Foxall, author of the Georgian-Regency crime series featuring Bow Street Runner Harry Adkins. Foxall was a striking, bearded figure strongly resembling the British actor James Robertson Justice in appearance, and I enjoyed a chat with him, during which he told me that he ever only wrote one draft of a book but rewrote every paragraph as many as five times. I was thrilled when he inscribed a copy of ‘The Dark Forest’ for me.

Very pleased your Victorian Murder Mystery went well at the Library on Friday night. Funny to think it was there I discovered Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and Dashiell Hammett all those years ago.

Best wishes – hope you have a less stressful week.