So, as you will have noticed, this feature has changed both in name and in scheduling. The Saturday Series Spotlight will run weekly and feature posts from authors and bloggers alike. This week, I’m thrilled to have Paul Charles on the blog.
Paul Charles was born and raised in Magherafelt in the north of Ireland and divides his time between writing and working in the music business in London. He is the author of ten critically acclaimed Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy mysteries, set in Camden Town, the most recent of which was A Pleasure To Do Death With You.
In addition to his distinguished writing career, Paul is one of the UK music industry’s most respected figures. In a career spanning over 30 years, he has been the agent for a wide range of quality music acts.
Without further ado, I’ll hand you over to the man himself….
So far I have worked on four series of books. The D.I. Christy Kennedy series – 10 mysteries so far; The Inspector Starrett – the 3rd book has just been published; McCusker just one so far, and then of course the Castlemartin titles. One of Our Jeans is Missing (Fahrenheit Press) is the third and final Castlemartin story
I started work on this book a long time ago, as was the case with the other two Castlemartin books (The Last Dance and The Lonesome heart is Angry). Castlemartin is a fictitious village, located about four miles away from (the very real) Magherafelt, on the shores of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, where I spent the first seventeen years of my life. All three books are set in the mid to late1960s. In One of Our Jeans Is Missing, however, David Buchanan, the main character, moves from Castlemartin to London and… well perhaps there’s a wee bit of: you can take the man out of Ulster but you can never take Ulster out of the man.
In one of his many classics, Paul McCartney famously asked, “All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”
Well let’s see now. DAVID BUCHANAN is from Castlemartin in Mid-Ulster; MARY SKEFFINGTON is from Bath; JEAN SIMPSON and JEAN KERR – yes that’s the two Jeans – are childhood best friends from Matlock in Derbyshire; JOHN HARRISON is from Scotland. All are in their late teens – so late, in fact, that they will soon leave them and (hopefully) their innocence behind.
David meets up with Mary, John, Jean and Jean and they start to enjoy each other, and music, and each other a bit more, and then one of them disappears. At least two of remaining quartet start to consider what might be the perfect murder.
I had the title from the get-go for this book. This isn’t always the case for me. Tanita Tikaram an artist I was managing at the time visited China for a holiday. She took her two best friends with her. Both of her friends were (in fact still are) called Gillian. One day Tanita telephoned me from China in a panic.
“One of our Gillians is missing,” she gushed.
I laughed. In my defence I laughed, not so much at the fact that one of her best friends was missing in a foreign land, but more at the way she had put it.
“No PC,” Tanita pleaded, “she’s seriously missing!”
When I set the phone down and had got D.I. Christy Kennedy, Inspector Starrett and McCusker, on the missing Gillians case, I started to think that ‘seriously missing’ – as opposed to ‘casually missing,’ or even just, ‘missing’ – would be a great title for a book, but for some reason or other when it came time to write it up in my wee ideas book I only wrote, ‘One of our Gillians is missing.’
Sometime later when I had the idea for this story of David Buchanan and his four fellow teenage exiles in 1960s’ London, the title presented itself to me at pretty much the same time. In fact the original working title for the book was, One of Our Gillians is Missing. Then I started to date a lady called Gillian (yet another one) for a while, and so in order to protect the three Gillians I changed the title to One of Our Jeans is Missing a.k.a. OOOJim (pronounced ‘Oh Jim!’
Apart from being exiled from the home you grew up in, another of the main themes of the story is how music, big pieces of music, becomes very important as soundtracks to parts of our lives. I suppose the other important point to mention here is that we are all equally passionate about the music we dislike as we are about the music we love. A lot of the music references in the book – Dylan, John Lee Hooker, The Spencer Davies Group, Taste and Stevie Winwood – have all had major influences in my life and, along with quite a few other artists, helped me during my move from Ulster to London in 1967. Yes, music certainly helped me deal with the potentially debilitating illness known as homesickness. Even today every time I listen to Neil Diamond’s classic, I Am… I Said, I can still recall vividly the intensity of the helplessness of the bed-sitter days. With hindsight if I had been a doctor I would have prescribed a twice weekly listening session of I Am… I Said, one or Mr Diamond’s most soulful statements. Just to know that others had suffered and were suffering from your ailment could be a comfort. With the benefit of that same hindsight I would probably add a thrice weekly visit from Jean Simpson into the potent healing mix. Hopefully you’ll see what I mean should you visit the pages of One Of Our Jeans Is Missing.
This is my first title to be published by Fahrenheit Press. I found main man Chris McVeigh refreshingly straightforward to deal with. His view seemed to be that if he read the book and liked it (and assuming that I could spell Fahrenheit) he would publish it without any publisher interference, fuss or delay. His only other observation was, “If you want to be treated like a delicate little snowflake we’re definitely NOT the publisher for you – try Faber & Faber, they’re lovely.” That was certainly good enough for me.
Going back to the series of books theme for a minute, for me one of the all-time great series of books would have to be the Colin Dexter Inspector Morse collection of 14 books (including one volume of short stories) published between 1975 and 1999.
I got into this series thanks to John Thaw’s superb work on the small screen. I remember seeing that he was involved in a new police series but I hadn’t bothered to check it out because the Sweeney and their “crash, bang, wallop, ‘Right you’re nicked!’ wasn’t really my cup of tea. I was touring Italy with an American singer songwriter and my friends back in London were sending me various videos to help while away the hours on the tour bus and there was so much travel each day I was happy to be distracted by anything. So I set up the Morse video. One hour and forty minutes later (the video used to be a great way of missing the adverts!) I was totally floored. There was one scene I remember vividly. Morse (John Thaw) and Lewis (Kevin Whatley) had just been to the scene of the crime for their initial visit and they leave the SOCO unit to complete their work while the two detectives drive back into Oxford to start into the investigation. On the drive back through the countryside they stop off at by the gate to this field before them is this incredible scene where you have the famous burgundy coloured Mark 2 Jaguar, the golden field of corn, the green hedges and trees and all set off by a stunning beautiful blue sky with white fluffy clouds. Morse and Lewis (with backs to the camera) lean on the gate gazing over this incredible inspiring picture. This particular scene was about three minutes long but there was no dialogue, just Barrington Pheloung’s soulful soundtrack. The point of it was to allow Morse, Lewis and the TV audience a chance to reflect on the life that just been lost and the details of the case so far. I thought it was incredible brave television and I immediately started to wonder if it was the writer, Colin Dexter, or the director who had been responsible for such powerful work.
I resolved to try and solve this puzzle and so the next day in Milan in a dusty book store with a humble English language section, I tried to track down some of the work by Colin Dexter and eventually (but nearly not) I managed to purchase two Morse paperbacks, namely, The Dead of Jericho and Last Bus to Woodstock. Anyway I discovered that if the scene had come from the director the mood had most definitely come from Colin Dexter. I absolutely loved both books. I became aware of slowing down my reading pace just so I could savour the experience. That’s one of the great things in the world isn’t it? You know, discovering the work of an author you previously hadn’t read but then when you do and realise how much you love their work and then you find that they have a an entire series of book with the same characters waiting for you. Oh just sheer bliss.
I have a couple of Paul’s books on my TBR and I can’t wait to read them! Here’s a few links if you want to check out some more of Paul’s work…
Fahrenheit Press– Paul’s ultra cool publisher
Thanks for reading! 🙂