CSI Portsmouth was replaced in 2017 by Portsmouth Coppers
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Nearly ninety people turned out for Portsmouth Coppers at Portsmouth Central Library on Saturday 4 March where crime authors Pauline Rowson and Graham Hurley were quizzed by fellow crime author and former criminal barrister Diana Bretherwick about why they set their detective novels in the waterfront city of Portsmouth.
Portsmouth Coppers was part of Portsmouth BookFest organised by Portsmouth City Library Service and supported by the Hayling Island Bookshop.
Pauline Rowson was raised in Portsmouth, a city which she shares with her flawed and rugged sailing detective, Andy Horton, who appears in thirteen crime novels with the latest Lethal Waves, published in February 2017. It is Pauline's love of the sea and in particular the Solent, that has led her to use it almost as a character in her novels. As well as the Inspector Andy Horton series she is author of two standalone crime novels and two in the series featuring Art Marvik, a former Royal Marine Commando, turned undercover investigator for the UK’s National Intelligence Marine Squad (NIMS).
When asked about why she chose Portsmouth as a setting for her crime novels she said, 'The city is one of contrasts, which appeals to me. It is very diverse, modern life rubs shoulders with the historic. It has a high level of deprivation sitting not quite cheek by jowl but close to a great deal of wealth and it has the seafront, a busy commercial international port, historic dockyard, fishing fleet and is home of the Royal Navy. It is one of the busiest harbours in the world, and the surrounding areas and the Isle of Wight across the Solent provide some great variety of locations for putting a body. I can't pass a boatyard, beach or cove without thinking there must be a dead body or a skeleton there somewhere.'
Graham Hurley is well known in Portsmouth for his DI Joe Faraday and DC Paul Winter crime novels set in the rough and busy city. For him the Portsmouth setting for his crime novels was ideal because it is the kind of place where you are what you are, not what the aspirational label on the box says you want to be. In the self-contained island city he said there was life in the raw that a crime writer could successfully draw on.
Graham Hurley and Pauline Rowson were quizzed by Diana Bretherick on the subject of research. Both said they had researched for their police procedural crime novels with the Portsmouth Police. Graham having spent many days working closely with detectives in researching his first crime novel to feature DI Joe Faraday and he continued to work alongside them while developing the series. Graham explained that the inspiration for Faraday came from a detective he met at Portsmouth's Kingston Police station, while Pauline said that her detective, Andy Horton, was a combination of many of the fire fighters she had met during her husband's career as a fire fighter.
All three authors, Pauline Rowson, Diana Bretherick and Graham Hurley agreed that characters had to be well drawn and believable and Graham and Pauline stated that in writing a series they had both got very close to their main characters so much so that they had become a part of their lives, a family member.
Pauline also went on to say that in creating villains she found that those who weren't obvious baddies attracted her when writing her crime novels. 'People can appear to be one thing on the surface but often when you dig deeper they can be something completely different. Fraudsters for example can be charming and highly plausible on the outside but are manipulative, callous and greedy and care nothing for their victims. Baddies don't always go round with it tattooed on their foreheads.'
When it came to plotting all three crime authors seemed to have the same approach. Quiz mistress and interrogator, Diana Bretherick, author of two crime novels, The City of Devils and The Devil's Daughters set in the northern Italian city of Turin in the late 1880s said she has the outline plot idea for the beginning of a novel and the ending but often has no idea what happens in the middle and that often the endings change, a sentiment shared by Pauline. She, like Graham, also spends minimal time on plotting but likes to get down the creative writing as soon as possible.
After Diana had completed her interrogation she opened the floor to the audience where a lively question and answer session took place. This was followed by a book signing.
Graham Hurley's latest novel Finisterre is published by Head of Zeus and is an international thriller linked to the Second World War.
Diana Bretherick's latest novel, The Devil's Daughters, is published by Orion.
Pauline Rowson's latest novel, Lethal Waves, is an Andy Horton mystery, number thirteen in the series published by Severn House.
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