What About Wales?

I read an interesting piece at online resource Publishing Perspectives today by Alastair Horne about the popularity of crime fiction in Britain.

One sentence, quoted from academic Alison Baverstock, particularly jumped out at me:

When crime fiction is … strongly associated with a particular place, it tends to build a following amongst people who themselves identify with that location.

But, if people like reading crime novels set in places they love, why is Wales so singularly underrepresented? Because, though holidaymakers of a hardy stripe flock to my part of south west Wales for its beaches, mountains, lakes and rivers, what they don’t tend to look there for is crime novels.

As the article was not slow to point out, Scotland is big in this area of the book trade because of the whole Tartan noir thing. And success (I’m looking at you, here, Ian Rankin) breeds success, so Scottish crime is massive. Scottish crime fiction, I mean there, obviously…

But if we don’t celebrate writers who are setting their crime novels in Wales, what hope is there that more writers will get on the Celtic crime bandwagon along with established names like Harry Bingham and Malcolm Pryce and up-and-coming names like Rosie Claverton?

So, cheekily, I tweeted Alastair Horne, whom I had never met – not even electronically – before today . Ah, the democracy which is Twitter.

What about Wales? I asked.

And, within minutes, the lovely Mr Horne had Tweeted back that he hadn’t deliberately omitted Wales and that he was enjoying Hinterland.

Which is good news, obviously. Except that Hinterland isn’t a book, isn’t based on a book and probably won’t sell any books. At least, not until S4C decide to ask somebody to write up the scripts as novels. (Probably being done as we speak, given that the TV series has sold in countries from Denmark to Canada)

I’m hoping – I was going to say secretly hoping but you can’t secretly hope in a blog which you’re intending to publicise on Facebook and Twitter – that Hinterland does for Ceredigion specifically and Wales more generally what Ann Cleeves’ Jimmy Perez has done for Shetland, ie put it on the map for crime lovers.

My Teifi Valley Coroner series which begins with None So Blind is also set in Ceredigion. But Harry Probert-Lloyd doesn’t hoof it around the bleakly beautiful Cambrian mountains like Richard Harrington’s unsmiling Tom Mathias. Harry gets to investigate untimely deaths – as the name of the series implies – in the vale of Teifi which runs through gentler, greener, more rolling countryside.

The first book takes place in and around Newcastle Emlyn, a town of about 2000 souls which a literally ludicrous number of people have heard of, been to or have friends/family living in. I suppose it’s less of a surprise to find that people know Castellnewy’, as its residents call it fondly, now that I live within a spit of the border between England and Wales, but it was considerably more astonishing when I lived in Kent.

Once I’d heard, more than a couple of times, ‘Oh yes, we were on holiday there last year’ or ‘Funnily enough, my aunty Gwen lives just outside town’ I began to think that the backwater where I’d grown up was actually not a backwater at all but the centre of some kind of emotional force-field which acts on anybody who’s ever visited West Wales. A force-field that pulls you back again and again, makes you feel a part of something.

I need the password for that forcefield. Then I’m putting it in every chapter of every book in the series.




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