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WRITING the JACK CALLUM MYSTERIES (part two)
Once Jack had introduced himself to me and I had set the era in which the books were set, I had to find a location for them.
Enfield, a Middlesex town close to Tottenham, in North London was the obvious choice. I was born and spent my formative years there, but I moved from there to Hertfordshire many years ago, to Letchworth Garden City to be precise, stopping off along the way in Hatfield, a few miles up the A1.
What attracted me to Letchworth was its similarity to the Enfield of my childhood. In many ways the place hadn’t suffered the urbanization, or London Spread, that was affecting and infecting many of the areas close to the city.
I was more familiar now with Letchworth than I was with my hometown. I could write with ease about such locales as Broadway and Norton Common. I could even take a walk and visit them if I wanted to check anything, but the pull of Enfield was strong. So I decided to combine the two, thus getting the best of both worlds. So Jack has his home in Letchworth and works in Hatfield, but many of the other locations are Enfield with a thin disguise.
I found a photograph online of the old Welwyn and Hatfield police station, and it was so evocative that it became the base of operations for Jack and his colleagues.
The elements were gradually dropping into place.
All I needed now to complete the infrastructure of the series was a cast of characters, both police and civilians, whose lives would be an unending source of plots and sub-plots.
The first people on that list were Jack’s family.
I decided there would be a wife, a woman worthy of Jack’s love and devotion, someone charming and passionate who could act as his confidante as well as lover, a strong woman, every inch his equal, but a warm, caring mother and homemaker. Annie Callum has all these attributes and I must confess I’ve slightly fallen in love with her myself.
He has three children.
Joan is the eldest and spent some time away from the family home after eloping with Ivan, a Czech émigré, causing Jack and Annie much pain and soul-searching.
Rosie is the next eldest. Just starting out in the world after leaving school, Rosie has many of her mother’s attributes. Strong and fiercely independent she also has a fine singing voice, a gift on which she will come to capitalize as the series progresses.
Finally there’s fourteen-year-old Eric who, for better or worse, is the fictional teenage version of myself. Bright, but not at all academic, with a passion for pop music that manifests itself when he buys his first guitar and learns to play.
Three children who will delight and frustrate Jack in equal measure, and represent the march of progress and the way his world is going to change forever.
Foremost among his colleagues are DS Eddie Fuller and WPC Myra Banks who head up Jack’s team – each of them with their own stories to tell, and will as the series unfolds.
Other characters will enter Jack’s world, each impacting on it in different ways. I’ve met them over the course of the four books I have written for the series so far and I’ve found many of them colourful, some of them infuriating, some of them murderous and some downright tragic.
In part three of this blog I’ll look at the challenges of researching the background of a historical crime series. There are many, believe me.
Letchworth Nov 2016