When I’m contemplating a new novel sometimes an intriguing situation, a strange historical fact or a particularly strong and engaging character can trigger all sorts of ideas. But once in a while I come across a fantastic title which sticks in my mind and leads to one murderous thought after another.
I have forgotten where exactly I heard the term ‘Flesh Tailor’, which is, apparently, an archaic title for a surgeon. But once those two words were planted in my head, they sparked off a series of ideas which brewed in my mind for a couple of years and led eventually to the creation of my latest novel, The Flesh Tailor, a story of wartime evacuees, a house which once belonged to an Elizabethan anatomist and the execution style murder of a country doctor.
Before embarking on the actual writing of The Flesh Tailor I carried out a good deal of research, both into the evacuation of children to rural Devon during World War II and into the study of anatomy in the sixteenth century and, as always, I found delving into the past extremely enjoyable. Reading up on the history of medicine, I came across characters such as Andreas Vesalius who in 1539 was granted permission by a Paduan judge to dissect executed criminals, thus enabling him to publish The Fabric of the Human Body, a well illustrated book on anatomy which transformed the study of medicine. As well as this I had the less gruesome task of reading first hand accounts of wartime evacuees and learning about my own father’s experience of being evacuated from Liverpool to the countryside as a child. I found these wartime stories particularly fascinating and poignant and I couldn’t help marvelling at the resilience of those children sent so far away from home to an alien way of life with complete strangers.
The Flesh Tailor begins when Dr James Dalcott, a popular country GP, is found dead in his Devon cottage with a single bullet wound to his head and as DI Wesley Peterson begins to investigate, he discovers that the amiable doctor was harbouring some bizarre and bloody family secrets. Meanwhile archaeologist, Neil Watson, unearths several skeletons in the grounds of an Elizabethan house called Tailors Court and, from marks on the bones, he suspects a link to tales of body snatching by a rogue physician who lived there back in the sixteenth century. However, when the bones of a child are found buried with a 1930s coin, the investigation takes a sinister turn. Who were the children evacuated to Tailors Court during World War II and where are they now? When a link is established between Dr Dalcott’s murder and the wartime evacuees, Wesley Peterson faces one of his most intriguing and dangerous cases yet.
The Flesh Tailor is out in paperback at the beginning of August 2010 and I’m now working on my next book ‘The Jackal Man’ which will see Wesley facing a serial killer with an ancient Egyptian connection.
The Flesh Tailor is published by Piatkus @ £7.99