My Victorian Writing World

Just over a month now to the publication of the sequel to my novel The Shadow of William Quest. The new title will be available for pre-order at a special price a little while before that, so do keep visiting the blog for all the latest news. forgotten_00051-Kindle-Fina

From now until then, I’ll be putting out a few items both about the new book, and the first in the series.

How did it all come about?

I’d long wanted to write a book set in Victorian times, not least because much of the Victorian world is still familiar to those of us living in the UK. As we wander through the streets of Britain we can – if we lift our eyes above the modern fascias on the shops – still see what our Victorian forebears saw.

The same street patterns, by and large, many of the same buildings, and the much of the landscapes they knew. Too much has been lost, and we should be saving what is left, but the Victorian street map may still be traced.

If we could travel back in time, we could enter the world of William Quest – the new book is set in 1854 – with little difficulty. Though there would be some surprises. It could be a brutal world, not as settled as some people have implied. There are many Victorian Values that deserved to be relegated to the history books.

My William Quest is a bit of a reformer. His ideas bore fruit, though it doesn’t always seem like it.

I’ve always been interested in Victorian Britain, since the subject was taught at my primary school. Much of our great literature was written in the 19th century. Reading those classic books plunges back into that world. We are – for good or bad – still little Victorians in so many ways.

I knew some Victorians, of course, though they were all born late in the period. Nevertheless, I remember them well, their attitudes and the way they talked. My grandparents were Victorians, though they were all very young when the old Queen died.

For quite a time, I moved away from Victorian history, into other periods. As some of you will know, I also write historical novels about Robin Hood – Loxley and Wolfshead, with a third book out next year, so I have a passion for the that period. For a long time I’ve had an interest in the English Civil War. I like the Anglo-Saxons too.

The Victorians tended to go on the back-burner.

Then, nearly thirty years ago I became an undergraduate of the Open University, doing an arts course that was almost entirely Victorian. After a couple of years, I went as a full-time undergraduate to the University of East Anglia.

My major was literature, though I did a minor in 19th century social history, some of which looked at the Victorian underworld. It all stayed in my mind, though work pressures kept the writing of fiction at bay. I did, however, write the texts for a series of topographical books about the towns and landscapes of England.

I spent nine years working as chief executive of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, founded in 1883 and very proud of its Victorian campaigning roots.

The Victorians never quite went away.

I wanted to write a novel with a slightly dubious hero set in Victorian times, a kind of Penny Dreadful, the kind of pulp literature of action and derring-do that the Victorians themselves enjoyed reading – though they’d often pretend that their literary tastes were a tad more pretentious.

I’ve always loved such tales myself, and used to hunt them out when I was an undergraduate. They were all good fun, sometimes morally dubious. But a reading of them tells a lot about Victorian popular taste. I go as far as to state that you cannot grasp the complexities of Victorian society if you don’t read them.

While I enjoy the finer works of literature I also worship their slightly more questionable cousins – and that in itself is something I have in common with my Victorian ancestors…

To order the FIRST William Quest novel, The Shadow of William Quest, please just click on the link below. And if you have read it and enjoyed it please do leave a review. The new Quest novel will be available to pre-order in September:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-William-Quest-Victorian-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00JEA3E64/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1472138246&sr=1-4&keywords=John+Bainbridge

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My Great British Bake-Off

On sale on Kindle at 99 Pence/Cents for one week only…

In between fiction writing, I put together a short ebook of my own baking recipes. The title – Easy British Bakes and Cakes – says all you need to know. I’m no Paul Hollywood  but they’re easy to make and taste great. The book contains  20 simple recipes, my own take on traditional British baking. They’re the kind of treats you’d find on offer at a village summer fete or a vintage-style tea-shop and in the cake tin in British homes.  Bakes Cakes Cover

I  love the way you get that fresh, home-made aroma when you lift the lid on your cake tin. No shop-bought bake can give you that. Baking keeps me going when I’m writing and the more portable treats like rock cakes give me energy when out on the hill. Meringues aren’t a good idea for your rucksack but perfect for summer tea in the garden.

My recipes have been tweaked over the years to be as quick and trouble-free as possible. On starting out, I learnt to make fruit cake with the rubbing in method but found results are exactly as good with a mixer. The all-in-one sponge method is just as successful as adding ingredients in stages and so on. If you prefer different dried or fresh fruit etc. they work well as base recipes, so swop away – just make sure you keep the weight the same.

I don’t own a food processor, just a hand-held mixer and I like minimal washing-up. The recipes have been well tested on family and friends.

My baking rarely looks as perfect as factory-made – Paul and Mary would soon kick me out – but isn’t that the point? For me, home-baking is about good quality ingredients – where the hens who laid the eggs scratch around in the sunshine – great flavour full of natural goodness and an individual artisan look. Above all it’s meant to be fun and make people happy.

Please do click on the link below if you’d like to take a look:

Now out on Kindle…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Easy-British-Bakes-Cakes-Bainbridge-ebook/dp/B00KYMBRRY/ref=sr_1_8?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1438786249&sr=1-8&keywords=john+bainbridge

My Book for Just 99 Pence

Time for a British sale of one of my books. You can get my second Robin Hood novel Wolfshead for just 99 pence on Amazon Kindle for a strict seven days only from today, Saturday.
Yes, 99 pence, that’s cheaper than most newspapers and, I promise you, much more fun.
And you don’t even need a Kindle.

Wolfshead: The Chronicles of Robin Hood by [Bainbridge, John]
You can download a free App for your tablet, I-Phone or laptop. My book’s also out in paperback if you do like real books.
So why not give Wolfshead a go?
This is a very limited offer. Robin Hood at a Steal… Please tell your friends – I’ll really appreciate it.
Thanks

Writing a 1930s Detective Novel

Our latest period crime novel The Seafront Corpse, is the first in a projected series set in the early 1930s. We like the idea of spending time in the pre-war England of the Golden Age detective fiction we enjoy so much. Trying our hand at contemporary crime has never appealed – and I’m full of admiration for writers who deliver a compelling mystery while knowing their way around modern police procedure and forensics.

Rather than basing our detectives in London and sending them around the country, we fancied writing about a provincial town. Somewhere large enough to have plots for murders yet with a medium-sized community where people know the more prominent members, at least by reputation. We settled on a Sussex seaside resort, within reach of a day-trip to London.A view of Clevedon Pier in Somerset, England

The Channel resorts of south-east England were at the start of their heyday between the wars. The coastal towns of Sussex and Kent were experiencing a building boom both in housing and distinctive public buildings. Lidos, shopping arcades, ice cream parlours and pavilions were appearing. Victorian piers, theatres, town and concert halls were being given an art deco or moderne facelift. Aerodromes and motor-car showrooms were being built and of course, every large town in England was getting at least one cinema.

Some of these stylish buildings can still be enjoyed today. In Sussex, Worthing has one of the finest moderne piers in England. Opened in 1935, it has featured in an episode of Poirot. Further along the coast, the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-On-Sea was built the same year. One of the most important moderne buildings in England, it is Grade 1 listed and was used in Foyle’s War. Sadly, many fine examples were bulldozed in recent decades before town councils realised what important, historic townscapes they had in their care.

Our initial thought was to use Brighton as a setting. We changed our minds as Brighton’s real-life crime in the 30s was on the hard-boiled side, as depicted in Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. So we created our own Tennysham-On-Sea, influenced by but not based upon any real town. We wanted to describe a genteel resort with repertory players and beach photographers, the sort of place where Miss Marple might stay for a few days. It’s been fun mapping out our fictional town and dreaming up more features for the next book.

Tennysham isn’t meant to be too cosy. We wanted to reflect the seedy back streets, something that hasn’t changed as much as you might think. (I’ve lived in a few resorts along the Channel and rented flats that would fit well in a Patrick Hamilton novel). So Tennysham has its shabby boarding-houses, the bus-depot and laundry, gas-works and coal-yard as well as its chalk cliffs and smart sea-front.

Our detective, Inspector Eddy Chance, is a local who’s been transferred away from the town for some years. Newly promoted as head of the small C.I.D. department, he’s glad to be back home and working with his old pal and former mentor, Sergeant Wilf Bishop.

We didn’t want to write about the classic country house-party setting with an upper-class amateur sleuth, much as we enjoy reading them. Our interest is in working detectives who investigate a wide variety of characters, more Wexford than Wimsey, though we love them both.

It’s been a pleasure to attempt to create the atmosphere of the 30s, a world where the detectives wear trilbys and pipe smoke curls over the typewriter. Where they stop off at phone boxes and press button B, the Chief Constable is a retired colonel and no one’s heard of DNA.

To get the feel of the language, you can’t do better than immerse yourself in the crime fiction of the time before you start writing. Their slang for instance – which varied according to class – as well as all kinds of popular expressions and writing style. Novels of the period are full of fascinating detail such as typical meals and clothing with names of fabrics and colours we no longer say. (I won’t be using ‘nigger’ brown, though it must be remembered it was polite usage at the time).

It’s important to us that our 30s atmosphere feels as authentic as possible but there’s a balance to be struck. Novels where characters ‘ejaculate’ expressions such as ‘what ho’ or ‘top hole, old thing,’ read like a spoof. Bertie Wooster could get away with it – or even Tommy Beresford – but today they could make the reader laugh where you don’t intend it.

We’ve started our series in 1931, partly because it’s a very different time from the 30s of John’s thriller, Balmoral Kill. Set only a few years later in 1937 the world has changed and everything is overshadowed by the coming war.

This time we’re interested to look at how people were, thirteen years after the Great War. In the 1920s the prevailing mood was to try to forget the horrors and look to the future but of course that isn’t always easy. The scars remained, mental and physical. We’ve tried to reflect this in our characters.

These are my favourite reads for research, getting in the mood and enormous pleasure. In no particular order:

Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, E.F Benson’s Lucia novels, Patrick Hamilton and Richmal Crompton’s William novels.

Non-fiction: Orwell’s The Road To Wigan Pier, J.B Priestley’s English Journey and Martin Pugh’s We Danced All Night (a superb social history of Britain between the wars).

To order our Inspector Chance novel The Seafront Corpse, just click on the link below:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Seafront-Corpse-Inspector-Chance-Mystery-ebook/dp/B019N7QQHQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1460037993&sr=1-3&keywords=john+bainbridge

Benedict Cumberbatch and Rogue Male

I was thrilled to hear that a new film version of Geoffrey Household’s classic thriller Rogue Male is to be made, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. I look forward to it but do hope they stay faithful to the book.

I blogged Rogue Male a while age. Here are my thoughts: Rogue Male by [Household, Geoffrey]

Geoffrey Household’s “Rogue Male” has always been one of my favourite thrillers. I’ve read it countless times, not just for the exciting story but for Household’s wonderful descriptions of the countryside.

It jostles in position with John Buchan’s “The Thirty-Nine Steps”, as the greatest chase thriller ever written.

The novel was first published in 1939 on the eve of World War Two, and was immediately popular. Household wrote some memorable and very readable novels afterwards – many with a chase theme – but never quite again touched the greatness of “Rogue Male”, though all of his books are worth seeking out.

The tale of a man who flees to the lonely countryside of Dorset after an attempt to kill an unnamed dictator, in point of fact Adolf Hitler, is gripping and a real page-turner. Even after all my many reads I never want to tear myself away when I pick up the volume once more.

As a fugitive the hero crosses Germany to reach England. There are memorable chapters in a very threatening and sinister London, and a long section set in Dorset.

Household, like Buchan, is particularly brilliant at giving a sense of place. For a thriller there are some quite beautiful portraits of landscape: the long reaches of the Wessex hillsides with their ridge-paths and hollow ways, the forests and rivers of Bavaria, the rural towns where danger lurks.

And the people encountered are realistic too. A shrinking dissident trying to survive in the Nazi state, the farmers of the Westcountry, a merchant navy sailor, shopkeepers, working people on holiday. Every single one beautifully drawn.

And a memorable villain, which to me is a requirement of all good thrillers.

Household really gets over what it’s like to be the subject of a manhunt. The fear and often sheer desperation and tiredness that drives you on and on. The need to cross ground without being observed. The knowledge of when to lie low and when to move on. When to go to earth – which the hero of “Rogue Male” does, literally.

If you’ve ever had to cross country without being seen you’ll know the veracity of Household’s treatment of the theme. Few writers have captured these feelings of escape and evasion quite so well as Household does. And in a writing style that is not only literate but quite beautiful in its descriptions.

There is now a splendid new edition of “Rogue Male” available with a perceptive introduction by the writer and landscape interpreter Robert MacFarlane. I commend it to you. MacFarlane describes an expedition he made with the late Roger Deakin into the depths of the Dorset countryside, in search of Household’s locations.

MacFarlane does an excellent job, whether writing about the tropes of the chase thriller or the countryside that provides the setting of “Rogue Male”. This novel benefits from having an introduction by a writer who loves the English countryside as much as Geoffrey Household clearly did.

I’ve tramped these same places myself and lived rough alongside the ancient paths and hollow ways of Dorset, often for weeks on end. I often used to take my own battered old edition of “Rogue Male” with me, and read it as the dusk fell and the owls began to call.
Fortunately, I never had the Gestapo on my trail.

“Rogue Male” is the hallmark against which all good thrillers should be tested.

Click on the link below for editions:

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