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How research on the Island of Portland inspired two crime novels

Isle of Portland, DorsetI first fell in love with the Royal Island of Portland in Dorset while researching for one of my Art Marvik mystery thrillers, DANGEROUS CARGO, no. 2 in the series, which is set on the Jurassic coast of Dorset. I was so taken with the island's rugged coastline, its wild beauty, scarred landscape of abandoned quarries and isolated bays that I felt compelled to set another crime novel there, this time Portland of the past. DEATH IN THE COVE, the first in the 1950s set Inspector Ryga mysteries is therefore set on the island, when Scotland Yard detective, Ryga, is sent there to investigate the death of a man wearing a pin striped suit found on the secluded Chuch Ope Cove. Here he meets war photographer, Eva Paisley.

I spent two days in June in glorious sunshine exploring part of the Jurassic coast of Dorset, from the seaside resort of Weymouth to the Isle of Portland.

Pauline Rowson Boarding the ferry across the river at Weymouth Harbour After arriving at Weymouth by train it was a short walk to the sandy bay and to the harbour where the small ferry - a row boat actually - took myself and my husband, Bob, across the harbour to the Nothe Peninsula, which juts eastwards from the town of Weymouth into the sea to the north of ex-military Portland Harbour.

Pauline Rowson on research on the Isle of Portland, DorsetFrom there we walked to where the Isle of Portland joins the mainland of Weymouth by road (in Inspector Ryga's day he caught the train - long since shut down- across the causeway to the island.) It is on this stretch of land that the famous Chesil Beach is located, a pebble beach 18 miles long, 660 ft wide and 50 ft high. For much of its length it is separated from the mainland by an area of saline water called the Fleet Lagoon and is part of the Jurassic Coast and the location for a 2007 novel, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. But he's not the only author who features this beach, I'll be joining him soon.

Just one part of Chesil Beach looking back towards WeymouthIt is an amazing place with fresh sea winds rolling straight off the Atlantic and nothing in between. It is hard going walking on the stones, so after a while we dived off and made for Portland Marina where Marvik puts into on his powerful motor cruiser. In Inspector Ryga's day, 1950, there was, of course, no marina but a very vibrant dockyard and naval base.

Chesil Cove, West Weares, Portland, DorsetWe crossed the narrow spit to the other side of the island and Chesil Cove, the scene of many shipwrecks, which was named by Thomas Hardy as "Dead Man's Bay".

Looking down at Fortunes Well, Chesil Beach across to WeymouthThe next morning we set off from Fortuneswell to the cliff tops and around the Westcliff coastal path, through the remains of the quarries - still in use in Inspector Ryga novel DEATH IN THE COVE. Portland is famous for its Portland Stone which was used by Sir Christopher Wren for the building of St Paul's Cathedral, London as well as in Buckingham Palace and elsewhere in the UK and abroad, for example Portland stone is used in the United Nations headquarters building in New York City.

Portland Bill LighthouseEventually we came to the lighthouse on the very end of the island, called Portland Bill. Here Ryga climbs the steps to talk to the head housekeeper in 1950.

Continuing on our journey around the coast, more quarries, move caves and coves, ideal spots to put a body, always given that the killer could lure the victim there to begin with!

Looking down into Church Ope Cove, Isle of PortlandAh and then Church Ope Cove, looks a likely spot. It's a long way down and up but there's always the chance a small boat could put in there! The perfect setting for DEATH IN THE COVE.

Rugged Portland Coastline and quarriesThe Isle of Portland has stunning coastal scenery and a great atmosphere with its narrow, twisting roads, wild quarry landscapes, caves, coves and boats.

I came away with lots of inspiration and ideas for more crime novels. It's a perfect location for my sea based crime novels and I look forward to a return trip in the future.

Dangerous Cargo, Art Marvik Mystery Thriller (2)



Dangerous Cargo an Art Marvik Mystery by Pauline RowsonUndercover investigator Art Marvik is tasked to find the truth behind a fifty year old mystery but as he unravels its dark and dangerous secrets someone is determined to stop him from ever revealing them.

'Rowson’s superhero, Art Marvik, returns in another pulse-pounding adventure. Delivering more than enough action to keep adrenaline junkies reading.' Booklist

'The sort of book where you can’t look away for a second, or you’ll be sunk, so to speak. Pauline Rowson is the queen of misdirection in this outing for former marine Art Marvik." Crime Review


Death in the Cove - Inspector Ryga Mystery (1)

Death in the Cove, an Inspector Alun Ryga 1950 crime novelDEATH IN THE COVE, introducing Inspector Alun Ryga of Scotland Yard

England 1950, a country still struggling to come to terms with peace in the grip of austerity and rationing.

When the body of a man wearing a pinstriped suit is found in a secluded bay on Portland Island, Dorset Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Alun Ryga is sent to investigate.

'A great read and one I recommend to any crime fans.' BH Living Magazine


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OCTOBER 12TH, 2020 @ 7:01:59 BST

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