Exclusive interview with author Frances Brody and a review of her female detective novel *** 3 Stars
By Gabrielle Pantera
Hollywood CA (Gosh!TV) 2012/3 / 1 -“It delighted me to discover how many readers love the 1920s, as I do,” says Dying in the Wool author Frances Brody. “The art deco style, the fashions and the dances. This is the book that turned me into a crime writer. In a flash, I saw a man, behind a high wall and a locked gate. Someone had to find out what was going on. Sleuth Kate Shackleton sprang to life, smart, tenacious and intrepid. ”
Dying in the Wool is first in a new series by Frances Brody. This female sleuth novel is set in Yorkshire post-WWI. If you enjoy female detective novels by authors like Hannah Dennison, Rhys Bowen, Catriona McPherson and Carola Dunn you’ll want to read Frances Brody too.
In Dying in the Wool, Kate Shackleton is an amateur sleuth turning professional with her first paying case. Accustomed to helping women find missing fathers, sons and husbands, Kate needs a paying case because her husband was lost fighting in WWI. The mystery of her missing husband is lightly interwoven in the story and will likely be a theme through out the series. You’ll want to read closely to keep up with the unexpected plot twists in this story.
Kate’s friend Tabitha Braithwaite asks Kate to find Joshua Braithwaite, her father who’s been missing for over six years. Tabitha doesn’t believe he’s dead and wants Kate to find him so he can walk her down the aisle. Kate learns Tabitha’s father is not the shinning example of a family man that Tabitha thinks he is. Tabitha’s mother Evelyn doesn’t seem to miss having him around. Hector, Tabitha’s fiancé, seems to know more about Tabitha’s missing father than he should. Where is Tabitha’s father is he dead or hiding?
To make the imaginary village of Bridgestead seem authentic, Brody based her setting on the English town of Cottingley. In 1917, young Elsie Griffiths and Frances Wright created photographs of fairies near the stream Cottingley beck. “They fooled all sorts of people, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who makes a fleeting appearance in Dying in the Wool,” says Brody.
Before the First World War, Germans had all the expertise in dyeing. “When they left Britain in 1914, we had a lot of catching up to do,” says Brody. “I tried my hand at weaving, and talked to experts in textiles and dyeing. A district of Bradford is called Little Germany.”
Brody says she loved visiting Cottingley and doing research. “The Industrial Museum in Bradford has a collection of documents that give a flavour of life in the mills. We have family albums with a hundred years of photographs, and an old family friend is a dead ringer for Kate. For more detailed stuff on photography, I went to the archive at the National Media Museum. The local library was my source for contemporary newspaper accounts.”
Brody created a timeline for the story as part of her research. “One day, when I was stuck, I plucked a date from the air and thought that I would just see what was happening on that day in 1916. There was a newspaper account of an explosion at a munitions factory in Low Moor, Bradford, just a few miles from where I once lived. Stumbling on the precise date felt uncanny.”
“There is a character in the book who feels cheated by the master of the mill out of returns on his invention,” says Brody. “One elderly reader told me that exactly the same thing happened to her uncle. She was glad I had written about it.”
Brody’s New York editor is Anne Bensson of Thomas Dunne Books at Minotaur. In London, Brody’s editor is Lucy Icke at Piatkus, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group. “Working with Lucy and Anne is an absolute pleasure,” says Brody. “I think the secret is in knowing what schedule you are working to, and keeping in touch about it.”
Brody started with writing short stories that were broadcast on BBC Radio and published in magazines. “My first major piece of work was a 90-minute BBC Radio play based on the story of the Pendle witches. Its producer said to me, ‘Don’t write novels, it takes too long. You’re good at dialogue. Write scripts.’ At that point, I had two unpublished novels in a drawer, so his advice seemed sound. I wrote for radio, television and theatre. But, I am very glad that I returned to novel writing.”
One of Brody’s sagas, Somewhere Behind the Morning, written as Frances McNeil, won the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin Award for the most regionally evocative saga of the millennium. Brody’s one-woman stage play, Jehad, was nominated for a Time Out Award. Brody says it’s been a great pleasure to join the Crime Writers’ Association, to attend crime festivals and make new friends with other writers and readers. She recently joined Sisters in Crime.
Brody lives in Leeds, in Yorkshire, the largest county in England and home of the Brontes. “If you have seen Calendar Girls, Heartbeat or Last of the Summer Wine, you will know what a beautiful place Yorkshire is,” says Brody.
In May, Brody will be at the Bristol CrimeFest. In August she’ll be at the Annual Mystery & Crime Weekend at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford.
Brody’s website is www.frances-brody.com. She also has an author page on Facebook and a Twitter account.
Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody
Hardcover, 368 pages, Publisher: Minotaur Books (February 14, 2012)
Language: English, ISBN: 9780312622398 $24.99