Thank you so much Katrina for welcoming me to your beautiful blog to talk about our inspiration and the setting for Riverside Lane, the first in a series of four village mysteries we are setting along the river Thames.
The Thames has been an artery of artistic inspiration for centuries and making it the setting for the Riverside Lane series has given Gaynor and I a perfect excuse to enjoy the mercurial muse that has inspired musicians, writers and artists since before the Magna Carta. The section of water from Marlow to Bray is littered with literary landmarks and punctuated by poetry and blue plaques and this stretch of river provides the narrative spine to our stories, giving life blood to our plots and flowing through every character and chapter that we write.
We were delighted to launch our first novel, Riverside Lane at The Marlow Bookshop in a town whose literary history dates back to when Thomas Love Peacock wrote his Gothic satire Nightmare Abby and his friends, Percy and Mary Shelley composed The Revolt of Islam and the horror story Frankenstein. Seventy years later Jerome K Jerome returned from his boating honeymoon on the Thames and wrote part of his comic novel Three Men in a Boat at the Two Brewers pub. T.S Elliot is said to have expressed his resentment at the entrapment of marriage in ”Ode on Independence Day, July 4th 1918″, written from the house he and his wife rented together in Marlow’s West Street.
The watery wanderings of Wind in the Willow’s characters were dreamed up within earshot of Cookham where we have set the second novel in our series. The Wild Wood is an image of Quarry Wood on the borders of the neighbouring town Bourne End and follow the river further into the village and you come across The Edwardian Boathouse said to be the model for Mr Toad’s boathouse, then the riverside garden that inspired Enid Blyton.
Further downstream is Monkey Island, featured in Riverside Lane and where Rebecca West and HG Wells conducted some of their affair and she wrote her novel, Return of the Soldier, telling the tale of a young war hero pining for his first love, the innkeeper’s daughter on Monkey Island.
A writer aspires to a literary snapshot and we often pass people sitting pen in hand, toes in the water and head in the clouds. Another common sight along the banks of the world’s most painted river is an artist and easel. A hundred years ago Stanley Spencer, who produced some of the Thames most legendary paintings, transported his brushes and equipment along the towpath in a pram.
Many famous artists have been caught by the river. JMW Turner depicted Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Sounding Arch in ‘Rain, Speed & Steam’ and Edward Gregory famously painted Boulter’s Lock, a popular place to visit after Royal Ascot when the wealthy and well known could be seen passing through on their way to Cliveden at the end of the nineteenth century. Shortly afterwards Henry H Parker depicted a more peaceful scene in his painting “The Silent Waters of the Thames”.
“Sweet Thames, run softly, ‘till I end my song.” (Edmund Spenser & T S Eliot)
Edward Elgar is said to have composed his Violin Concerto from The Hut on Monkey Island, his refrains audible to fishermen and artists sitting quietly by the river. It is also recorded that the exquisite notes of Australian opera star Dame Nellie Melba, practising her arias in Quarry Wood carried along the river on the breeze. Nearly a century later the Thames’ creative pulse still beat when Kate Bush sang of “that old river poet that never, ever ends”.
While Gaynor and I have no delusions towards the literary excellence cited above, it is hard not to feel inspired by the beauty of the Thames. Perhaps, if we stand silently with the herons and the fishermen as it meanders with quiet purpose through its serpentine curves, the ghosts of this magical river might just tell us a tale.
Blurb for Riverside Lane
After arranging a house swap with an antiques dealer from a quaint English village, a darkly handsome American named Luca Tempesta arrives in Riverside Lane.
Luca, who claims to run a detective agency in Los Angeles, is supposedly on holiday – but the inhabitants f the village are unconvinced: someone turns up a Russian connection, and there are hints of espionage …. As they attempt to discern the truth about the stranger in their idst, however, it transpires that there are more than enough secrets to go around in the village itself.
The tension set off by Luca’s appearance begins to mount, taking in an MP and his uptight, ambitious wife; a has-been former game show host, a local journalist desperate for a career-reviving scoop and, most enigmatic of all, an elderly church organist who appears to be the repository of the town’s deepest mysteries …..
Behind perfect privets and brightly painted front doors, and between dinner parties, cricket matches, evenings at the pun and charming festivals along the Thames, the lives of the village’s residents slowly unravel, culminating in an unexpected death that brings them all together ….
Tautly paced and sumptuously set, this debut novel peels back the genteel façade of a picture-postcard village while gently satirizing middle-class English manners
The ebook Version of Riverside Lane is now 99p for this month.