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Why I set my new mystery series in the 1950s

Inspector Ryga Mysteries by Pauline RowsonMost of my crime novels and thrillers are contemporary but a few years ago I decided to pen an historical crime fiction novel. It was something I had been wanting to write for some time, in fact it started many years ago and could be said to be my original intention.

When I first started writing novels they were in fact historical sagas. As I wrote more of them a criminal element kept creeping into the story line. None of those novels have ever been published and after many rejections I turned to writing contemporary crime fiction. DI Andy Horton was created in TIDE OF DEATH and published in 2006 and the rest as they say is history.

But somewhere within me must have lurked that historical itch and so, after writing twenty contemporary crime novels, I decided to scratch it. Hence Inspector Alun Ryga was born. DEATH IN THE COVE is the Scotland Yard detective's first investigation which takes him to the Royal Island of Portland, Dorset with his second baffling case set in the port of Newhaven, East Sussex in DEATH IN THE HARBOUR (2020).  His third which will be published in October 2021 DEATH IN THE NETS sees Ryga, and former war photographer Eva Paisley, on an investigation in Brixham, Devon.

I chose the starting point for the novels as 1950 because it is a fascinating time. An era caught between the aftermath of the war and the beginning of the cultural and social revolution of the ‘swinging sixties’. Memories of the war are very strong, and the fear of more world conflicts haunt people. The Korean War is in progress and National Service has been extended. All around is the legacy of the war with bombsites and rubble, bombed out buildings and houses, abandoned military bases in the country and overgrown pillboxes and batteries littering the coast.

With the housing shortages caused by the bombing many are living in privately rented dinghy cramped bedsits and poor quality houses with little privacy, comfort and warmth. Or in prefabs, railway carriages, houseboats, or huts. The housing boom and erection of new towns and cities has yet to materialise.

Rationing of some goods is still in operation. There are severe shortages of many consumer products, ‘make-do-and-mend’ carries on as does the black market.

And there are many fractured lives – widows and widowers, mothers and fathers who have lost sons and daughters, people maimed and scarred both physically and emotionally. Others, who after experiencing the adrenaline rush of combat and a varied and exciting life, are finding it hard to adjust, some seek ways to cope through alcohol, crime, and substance abuse.

Many women who worked in the war are now back at home, some pleased to be, others very much less so. They’re not expected to have careers, but jobs to tide them over before they marry and have children.

After the war came the nationalisation of the coal mines, the railways, the Bank of England and the iron and steel industry. The creation of the free National Health Service improved the quality of medical care, especially for the elderly, women and the poor.

Abortions are illegal, so back street practitioners flourish. There is a social stigma attached to illegitimacy.  Divorce is not acceptable in many circles. Homosexuality is illegal. Capital punishment is still in operation.

Policing in the 1950s is also vastly different, no mobile phones, no dashing about and no computers so it was extremely interesting to research and write from both the social and the police point of view.

1950 then, and the ensuing decade, is an interesting and fascinating era to set down my new detective, Inspector Alun Ryga who is sent out from Scotland Yard to investigate baffling coastal crimes. Ryga teams up with former war photographer, Eva Paisley,  

Ryga's experience at sea, and as a  German prisoner-of-war, has made him unique in his approach to solving coastal based  crimes.  He's observant, analytical and reflective.  He's witnessed compassion, cruelty, cowardice  and heroism, mental breakdown and despair. He’s made a promise to himself that  whatever happens after the war he’ll keep an open mind and never judge. 

Whereas Ryga is quiet, reflective, analytical, Eva is very self-assured.  She’s forthright, sociable, and comfortable in her own skin, professional with a successful career, a formidable reputation behind her, along with a taste for danger. Her observations seen through the lens of her camera are disturbing, enlightening and thought provoking.

They make a formidable team - villains beware! 

Death in the Cove, an Inspector Alun Ryga 1950 crime novel

'Death in the Cove is a great read and one I recommend to any crime fans.' BH Living Magazine

Newly promoted at Scotland Yard, Ryga is on his first solo investigation outside of London, he has to solve the mystery of why a man in a pin-striped suit is found murdered in an isolated cove on the Island of Portland in Dorset.

"Ryga studied the face of the dead man with interest. Death no longer had the power to shock him. He’d seen too much of it. That didn’t mean he didn’t feel sorrow, pity, anger or despair, or sometimes all four emotions and in such a swift succession that they became one. This time he felt none of these, only professional curiosity.”

Death in the Harbour, Inspector Ryga Mystery (2)

Death in the Harbour an Inspector Ryga mystery by Pauline Rowson

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

ScotlandYard's Inspector Alun Ryga is sent to Newhaven, East Sussex to unravel themystery of why an ordinary police constable was murdered and his wife has gonemissing

"Pure detection… a great read.”

 Buy now

Available in paperback, as an ebook, on Amazon Kindle  Kobo and an audio book, narrated by Jonathan Rhodes and published by B7 Media available on Audible or from B7 Media Download the audio book

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MARCH 9TH, 2021 @ 6:48:19 GMT

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