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A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

An Interview with Geraldine Evans


In 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 with her.

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, Dead 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 Dance, 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,, 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.

Myshelf: 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. Why?

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.

Myshelf: 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. 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 Block, Reg Hill and his Dalziel & Pascoe series, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Christopher Brookmyre and Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. I also enjoy Tess Gerritsen, Mark 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.

2010 Past Columns

  Geraldine Evans


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