Sunday, March 04, 2012

Guest Blog: Martin Edwards

Aline here.  I'm delighted to be introducing Martin Edwards to you today..  He is a remarkable man: award-winning author of more than a dozen novels and over forty short stories,  reviewer, archivist for the Crime  Writers Association and the Detection Club - oh yes, and doing the day job he's been described as 'one of the leading employment lawyers in the country'.  He was even legal adviser for the film Letter to Brezhnev.  It's not surprising that his books are so popular both in Britain, published by Allison & Busby and the Poison Pen Press in the US.  The Hanging Wood is his latest title.

Martin:   Fiction deals with human relationships. Naturally, though, the way in which writers deal with relationships changes over time.  This is certainly true of detective fiction.  The early detective stories often used a template that was highly successful - the first person narration by an admiring friend of the great sleuth.

This model was introduced by Poe for his three short stories about Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin, and adopted by Conan Doyle, with Dr Watson immortalising Sherlock Holmes in his notebooks.  When he experimented with Holmes as a narrator, the results were much less successful.  Agatha Christie, when she was  starting out, used the same method - Captain Arthur Hastings recounted the investigations of Hercule Poirot in her early books.

But it's a method with limitations.  Christie couldn't resist the temptation to give a sensational twist to it in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which is narrated by Poirot's neighbour, a village doctor, rather than by Hastings.  Before long, she'd sent Hastings off to a new life in South America, although he did return from time to time - most notably in The ABC Murders.

The snag was that the 'Watson' relationship, between superstar detective and less than brilliant friend, was limited in its potential.  Dorothy L. Sayers recognised this, and when Lord Peter Wimsey fell for the crime writer Harriet Vane, the way was open for a relationship between key characters to develop over a series of books.  Along the way, Wimsey, who began as a sort of Bertie Wooster with a magnifying glass, morphed into a sensitive and three-dimensional character.

My first series, featuring Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin, kicked off with the murder of Harry's estranged wife Liz in All the Lonely People.  That relationship, with a woman he'd loved but who was now dead, inevitably affected his other relationships with women as the series progressed.  I was fascinated by the potential of tracing the effect of bereavement on a person who is trying o move on but finds it far from easy.  This was a sub-text in the seven books that followed Harry's debut, although it's not often been highlighted by reviewers.  Now that the books are due to reappear both in print and in e-book format, I'll be interested to see if reader reaction focuses to any extent on Harry's attempts to get past the loss of Liz.

In recent years I've focused on the Lake District Mysteries, which have a different kind of relationship, one that is live and developing in the here and now, at their heart.  Daniel Kind is a historian who downshifts to the Lakes to start a new life.  He becomes involved with Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett, who is in charge of the local Cold Case Squad.  But in the first book, The Coffin Trail, both of them are in relationships with other people.

I've found the experience of charting the relationship between Hannah and Daniel enormously exciting.  And one of the key reasons for this is connected with one of the great truths about human relationships.  We can never be entirely certain how they will work out in the long run.  For sure, I don't know whether Daniel or Hannah will eventually finish up together.  Finding out (one of these days) will be fun for me - and, I hope, for my readers.



Hannah Dennison said...

Welcome to Type M Martin and what a treat to have you as our guest today! I love your books and I really enjoy your wonderful blogspot - Do You Write Under Your Own Name.
This is a great post and very informative - I learned a lot!

Rick Blechta said...

Great post! Many thanks.

write my essay said...

Nice article, thank you.

Martin Edwards said...

Very kind of you, and my grateful thanks to Aline for the invitation to be part of this terrific blog and her very generous intro.