Everyone keeps asking how I fell into a life of crime. My previous fiction, set in the bucolic French Pyrenees, couldn’t really be categorised as criminal in intent. Although there was quite a bit of lawbreaking and villainy – but that’s French politics for you. So how did the shift come about?
Sheep. Lots of them outside my window in the Yorkshire Dales. I was editing the last novel in my Fogas Chronicles and was idly distracted by the coming and goings of the farmers in the fields surrounding my house. They’d drive up, load a waggon full of sheep and drive off. Without anyone challenging them. It set me thinking. About crime. About stealing sheep.
It’s a serious problem in this area. Although typical urban crimes are rare, there’s a fair amount of rustling – of stock, machinery and even hay. I once had an entire conversation with my bank manager about how she’d had all her hay stolen the night before. It was far more fascinating than discussing mortgage rates.
So there is crime here in these idyllic hills. But it’s very different to that experienced by our metropolitan cousins. Which set me thinking. How frustrating would it be for a law enforcement officer relocating to the area from the rush and buzz of policing in London? Throw in a disciplinary hearing hanging over him, a suspension and a dark past, and Samson O’Brien is bound to throw the small town of Bruncliffe into disarray. Especially as he’s one of theirs, having left the place fourteen years before under a black cloud. Now he’s back. And he’s set up a detective agency.
Ironically, the first crime committed is by him. Through deception, he manages to rent offices in the building owned by Delilah Metcalfe, part of the Metcalfe clan who have no time for O’Brien and his wayward past. What’s worse, the building now houses both the Dales Detective Agency and Delilah’s already established Dales Dating Agency. It’s a situation that’s destined to cause confusion. And that’s even before the cases start piling up for Bruncliffe’s only private detective.
So there you have it, the beginning of my new life as a crime writer. On the cusp of publication of Date with Death, the first book in the Dales Detective Series, I’m currently editing the second and writing the third and I still have plenty of ideas for wrongdoing in the wonderful Yorkshire Dales – not all of them involving sheep!
Date with Death by Julia Chapman, the first in the Dales Detective Series, is published by Pan on March 9th 2017