About the Teifi Valley Coroner series
Coroner Harry Probert-Lloyd and his assistant, John Davies, ply their trade in a corner of the three counties that make up West Wales, in the 1850s.
Why the Teifi Valley?
I grew up in the Teifi valley and much of my family still lives there. It’s a beautiful area with a fascinating history but the most compelling reason – the reason that there’s a series in the first place – is because I wanted to write about the Rebecca Riots. My first novel, Testament (see the tab above) was set in the fourtneenth century and I had already written another set in the same century (The Black and the White, as yet unpublished) when the idea for None So Blind – the first in the Teifi Valley Coroner series – came to me and refused to leave. I thought that, once I’d written it, I’d go humming and skipping back to the late medieval period but I fell in love with Harry and John and couldn’t stop writing about them.
In actual fact, the post of coroner to the Teifi Valley does not – and never did – exist. In the period when the series is set, there was a coroner for the southern half of Cardiganshire and I’ve given that patch, along with a thin slice of north Carmarthenshire and an even smaller slice of Pembrokeshire to Harry for reasons of local identity. The towns along both banks of the river Teifi (which forms the border between Cardiganshire and the other two counties along most of its lower reaches) have more in common with each other than they do with the towns and countryside elswhere in their own counties.
The view from my family’s farmyard in the lower Teifi valley, the Frenni Fach mountain in the distance.
Why the 1850s?
The Rebecca Riots happened between 1839 and 1843 so I had no choice about the timeframe for None So Blind. But, apart from falling in love with the characters in that first book, I also realised what a fascinating time the mid-nineteenth century was for crime fans. Because it was incredibly easy to murder somebody and not be found out. Click on the Getting Away with Murder tab above to find out more.
Why write about a coroner and not a policeman?
The police force had barely got its uniformed boots on the ground in the three counties by 1850 and, even with its boots on, it wasn’t much of an investigative force. The rural police forces of the mid-Victorian period were much more about peacekeeping and preventing crime; they didn’t investigate much. And that included deaths. (The Welsh word for police – heddlu – is interesting in this context. Translated, it means ‘peace host’- as in angelic host, not hospitality host – and that’s a pretty accurate description of their role in the mid nineteenth century.)
The real nineteenth century investigators were the coroners. Some were hopeless, entirely under the thumb of the magistrates who wanted to keep costs down and inquests to a minimum. Others – like Harry – were a lot more zealous. They were the ones who were constantly at odds with authority. And I like characters who are at odds with authority both as a writer and a reader.