my travels around mystery writer’s forums I happened to stumble
across a British crime writer named Geraldine
Evans. Her work seemed quite interesting and so I had a chat
Geraldine Evans is a British writer, born in London of Irish Catholic
parents. She has been writing for publication since 1991, when her
first book, a romance, entitled Land of Dreams, was published
in the UK by Robert Hale. But romance had never really been her
thing, so after six romances, one a year, five of which received
nothing but rejections, she turned to crime. Her first crime novel,
Before Morning, was published in 1993 (Macmillan, St Martin's,
Worldwide), having been taken from Macmillan's slush pile. That
book was the first in her Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series.
She has just finished Deadly
Reunion, her eighteenth novel and the fourteenth in the
Rafferty series. Her latest to be published, is Death
another Rafferty & Llewellyn crime novel (US Nov 2010). She
also has a second crime series, Casey & Catt, of which two have
so far been published (Up
in Flames and A
Killing Karma). She has a website, www.geraldineevans.com,
which she created and maintains herself.
Geraldine has long had an interest in history and in 2004 Reluctant
Queen, her story about Mary Rose Tudor, Henry VIII's little
sister, was published under the name Geraldine Hartnett. It received
a rave review from Historical Novels Review.
Geraldine Evans is married to George and lives in Norfolk in East
Anglia, England, where she moved, from London, in 2000.
Myshelf: The reviews that you have received suggest that
your books have a lot of humor. Why is that?
Geraldine: Yes, they do have a lot of humour. I knew, when
I first turned my hand to writing crime novels that I didn't want
to write just a puzzle, with stuffy, middle-class characters. I
wanted to write a book with a few laughs in it. My novels are set
in England and most British police officers, as I imagine are America's,
are drawn from a working-class background, although recently it
has attracted more university graduates who are often fast-tracked
up the ladder.
Very lapsed Catholic Joseph Aloysius Rafferty was never going to
be on anyone's fast-track. He left school at sixteen following a
basic (Catholic) education. After a couple of years working on building
sites with his uncle and cousins, he joins the police, passes the
sergeant's exams, then the inspector's exams and works his way up
to the rank of Detective Inspector in the CID, the plain-clothes
branch. We first encounter him after he's been promoted to the rank
of Detective Inspector.
He works out of Elmhurst police station, a fictitious town, based
on Colchester in Essex, 'the oldest town in Britain', the place
where that original 'Essex Girl' Queen Boadicea, used to hang out
and harry the centurions.
His family, not at all impressed that he is now a detective, are
of the opinion that, if they must have a copper in the family, he
might at least have the decency to be a bent one. Anyway, between
his ma, Kitty Rafferty, always one with an eye for a (usually bent)
bargain,, his smarmy real estate broker cousin, Nigel Blythe (aka
Jerry Kelly, a name he dumped as being too down-market for words),
Father Kelly, his local Catholic priest, several other members of
the family, who turn up from time to time, the risen-above-his-roots,
Rafferty has a lot to cope with. And that's before we even consider
his high moral ground Welsh sergeant, Dafyd Llewellyn, who, unlike
Rafferty, is a by-the-book man.
There is a lot of scope for humour in amongst the murders and each
book contains a humorous subplot in which Rafferty's family ensnare
him in one problem after another. I think of them as a fun read.
As a writer, I don't take myself too seriously.
Rafferty's background is Irish, although he was born in Streatham
in south London. What made you give him an Irish family background?
Geraldine: I suppose because that's my background. And,
from my reading in the genre, many well-known crime writers seem
to do the same, so I'm in good company! Apart from anything else,
it makes life so much easier! When I and my three siblings were
children, we used to go to stay with my maternal grandmother in
Dublin every summer holiday. But we were poor and we could only
do this because my dad worked for London Underground and we were
all able to travel for free! What a perk! Those Dublin summers have
left their mark on me in the shape of Ma Rafferty, who, I suppose,
is an amalgam of my own mother and several other middle-aged Dublin
matrons I encountered during my summer sojourns.
Myshelf: You have chosen Dafyd Llewellyn as Rafferty's sidekick.
Geraldine: Oh! Get me started on the business of class
and/or education! Britain is still a class-ridden society. When
I left school at sixteen I was a bottom-of-the heap, dead-end job
youngster. I suppose I have my mum to thank for the extremely unlikely
life change into published author. Mum always encouraged us to read
and signed me and my three siblings up for the local public library.
It was because I had always read that I dared to consider becoming
a writer. Well, that and blissful ignorance! But to get back to
Llewellyn. I wanted Rafferty to have a sidekick who was as opposite
to him as I could get. And that meant he had to be university educated,
sniffy, nose-in-the-air at Rafferty's family's ducking and diving
and other immoral/illegal pursuits and taking the logical, educated
view to Raffertyi's Irish flights of fancy that he calls theories.
Myshelf: I think it was British author Mark Billingham.
who is also a stand-up comic, who said he had been advised against
writing humorous crime novels as they tend, on the whole. to be
disregarded by critics. What are your views on this?
Geraldine: Yes, in my experience, he's right, apart from
a few lucky ones, like Sue Grafton. I occasionally wish I'd been
advised to steer well clear of humour, as well. But I wasn't. I
didn't know anyone in publishing back in the early nineties when
I wrote my first crime novel. I just wrote what I wanted to read,
as I found a lot of crime novels deadly dull, with characters who
wouldn't know a funny line or subplot if they nibbled their toes
clean away. I don't regret writing my Rafferty books or my Casey
& Catt books, which also have a lot of humour, featuring my
main character's unreconstructed, hippie, parents.
You have also written a more serious, historical novel, Reluctant
Queen. Tell me about that
Geraldine: I can thank the late historical novelist, Jean
Plaidy, for giving rise to my interest in history. She brought so
many people, so many periods, to life for me. I suppose it was through
her books that I realized that history is made up of people just
like me. Oh, they might have high-fallutin' titles, but they still
experience love and hate and jealousy and friendship and all those
other emotions that are so human.
Anyway, amongst several other periods, I'm interested in Tudor history,
so, after reading so much about Henry VIII and his six wives and
children, when I read a little about his younger sister, Mary Rose,
after whom he named the famous sunken ship of that name, I was intrigued.
Mary Rose, although blonde and beautiful and who, in spite of her
brother, Henry VIII, managed to marry for love, after a first, State
marriage, seemed to be a woman no one had heard of. I decided to
write a book about her after that. And so Reluctant Queen was born,
which tells Mary Rose Tudor's story, from her marriage to the gouty,
not-long-for-this-world, fifty-something French Louis, to her dangerous
and secret marriage to Charles Brandon the love of her eighteen-year-old
life, to her reaction to Anne Boleyn one of the young girls about
the chamber during her French marriage, to the meeting of the three
queens and the May-Day apprentice riots, Mary Rose was there, in
the centre of history, sometimes making it, sometimes observing
it as part of the inner circle.
Myshelf: So what are you writing now?
Geraldine: At the moment, like most mid-listers, I'm producing
my marketing materials. So I'm producing stuff for Death Dance,
which comes out in the US in November 2010. I'm currently creating
my postcards, bookmarks, flyers and updating my website, www. geraldineevans.com.
Once I've done that, I'll get going on my next Rafferty. I've altready
got an idea for my next novel, but it takes a lot of thinking about.
When you decide on a novel, you are commiting yourself to upwards
of a year's work, so you've got to be confident the idea is the
right one. It's a difficult conundum.
Myshelf: Who, among other crime writers, do you most admire?
Geraldine: I tend to look for a writer who can amuse as
well as intrigue me. So, for that reason, I go for Laurence
Hill and his Dalziel & Pascoe series, Ruth
Dudley Edwards, Christopher
Brookmyre and Cynthia
Harrod-Eagles. I also enjoy Tess
Billingham and P
D James, amongst the more serious authors.
Myshelf: You speak about Rafferty being a lapsed-Catholic
Anglo-Irishman. Why is he so lapsed?
Geraldine: I suppose because I'm a lapsed Catholic: Another bit
of 'me' that's crept into Rafferty's background! Poor Rafferty,
he's tormented by a Ma who's got the Catholic God down to her knickers,
and a local Catholic priest, in Father Kelly, who is always looking
to recapture Raffety's lapsed Catholic soul. He's also lapsed because
he had Catholicism thrust down his throat too forcibly when he was
young. Not a good idea when a person has a mind of their own. Like
Joe Rafferty And me.
Bibliography Death Dance, All the Lonely People, A Killing Karma,
Death Dues, A Thrust to the Vitals, Blood on the Bones, Love Lies
Bleeding, Up In Flames, Bad Blood, Dying for You., Reluctant Queen,
Absolute Poison, The Hanging Tree, Death Line, Down Among the Dead
Men and Dead Before Morning, plus, my very first published
novel, Land of Dreams, a romance. set in the Canadian Arctic.