Fiction genres are malleable. Books move in and out of popularity and often straddle several genres. Genealogy fiction is a sub-genre, usually combining murder mystery and crime with genealogical research. But what defines genealogy fiction? Must the protagonist be a genealogist to qualify?
My first foray into genealogy fiction was The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell. I liked it so much I immediately bought Blood Atonement and finished it within days. As a seasoned genealogist, I was hooked. Before long, I had graduated to Steve Robinson and his Jefferson Tayte mysteries and Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s forensic genealogist Morton Farrier. I am currently reading Goodwin’s The Suffragette’s Secret and very good it is too. Top of my genealogy fiction ‘to read’ list is Stephen Molyneau’s The Marriage Certificate and M J Lee’s The Irish Inheritance when time allows.
When I wrote Vote for Murder, it was inevitably going to have a genealogical theme being based on two of my ancestors, one a suffragette and one a convicted poisoner. The Fressingfield Witch is also based on my ancestry and was inspired by a public accusation of witchcraft made against a distant relative. The protagonist in Vote for Murder is an independent young suffragette who unravels a murder using a diary and family records. Private Investigator Lawrence Harpham uses parish and probate records to unmask the murderer in The Fressingfield Witch, but neither Lawrence nor suffragette, Louisa are genealogists. Are the books then worthy of the sub-genre classification of genealogy fiction? And does it matter that they are both set in Victorian times where the opportunity to use family history records was more limited? One never wants to disappoint an audience so getting the genre right is important. But I believe that both books nestle well into the genealogy fiction genre, even if they are not quite the same as their better-known counterparts.
The below is a list of well-known genealogy fiction writers. Some I have yet to read, but I heartily recommend the top three. Enjoy.
Dan Waddell – The Blood Detective & Blood Atonement
Steve Robinson – Any of his Jefferson Tayte offerings
Nathan Dylan Goodwin – Any Morton Farrier, forensic genealogist
M K Jones – The Genealogy Detectives
Geraldine Wall – File under Fear/Family/Fidelity
Stephen Molyneaux – The Marriage Certificate
M J Lee – The Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mysteries
John Nixon – Madeleine Porter Mysteries
Beryl Taylor – Therese
It’s the first day of a week away from work. The weather is disgusting. My dog is sullenly pacing round the house eyeing me with disapproval. It’s so foul outside, that today we are going nowhere.
I like a walk. It keeps the dog happy and my Fitbit from nagging. Today my Fitbit sits redundantly on my arm while I contemplate the pile of books I have been looking forward to reading, but have lain gathering dust on my bedside table while other things take priority.
The Fressingfield Witch, is one of those other things. My latest novel is a Victorian murder mystery set in Suffolk and based on a real news item that hit the local headlines in 1890. It was an allegation of witchcraft. The news item was only short, but had an immediate impact on me. For starters, it involved one of my very distant relatives. That’s always a good lure to a genealogist. And it involved death and witchcraft, so my inner writer pricked up her ears. Before I knew it, we had conjured up a novel from this tiny eleven-lined piece of inspiration.
I’ve taken a risk with this book. The real village of Fressingfield has been populated with actual people from the 1891 census. This will be like marmite to some. They will either appreciate the idea of real people living on in print, or they will disapprove of the merging together of fact and fiction. I hope it is the former.
The final cover and finished drafts are with Publishnation and should be ready for purchase very soon. All of which gives me the rest of the week to catch up with a little light reading of my own. Unless the rain lifts and the dog demands a walk. Doing a little rain dance now…..
My new book has been plotted, written and is now under going a rigorous edit. Set in the 1890’s in an East Anglian village, it combines fact and fiction with a large dose of mystery and a generous sprinkling of genealogy. This illustration gives a teaser of the back theme.
TFW (working title) will be published later on this year. In the meantime, the kindle version of Vote for Murder is on sale in the UK at just 99p. Suffragettes, secrets and sleuthing – what’s not to like…
Download Vote For Murder Amazon Kindle here
This new book, published by Poppyland Publishing with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Overstrand Parish Council, tells the story of all the soldiers, sailors and airmen of Overstrand and Suffield Park who died in the First World War. It also gives accounts of those who returned to the village after the conflict.
With 208 pages & colour throughout, ‘Overstrand in the Great War’ provides a fitting tribute to the young – and sometimes not so young – men and women of Overstrand and Suffield Park from a century ago. General the Lord Dannatt kindly contributes a foreword and puts their sacrifice and service into the context of the continuing commitment required of our armed services.
Author – Tim Bennett
Military Research – Martin Dennis
Autumn has landed with a vengeance in my little corner of Gloucestershire. In true Hygge fashion, I’m snuggled on the couch covered with a wool blanket, sipping a hot drink and letting the smell of cappuccino truffle waft around the room from a burning candle. The research for my next novel is almost finished; just the small matter of writing it now. Set once again in Victorian England, the new book mixes true crime and historical fiction in the blended genre of faction. Or rather it will once I’ve removed myself from the comfort of the sofa and away from cosy distractions.
In the meantime, Vote for Murder is currently free on Amazon Kindle until Wednesday 21st September. Click this link for your copy.
Checking through my Goodreads books yesterday, I realised how deeply entrenched my book tastes have become. Everything I enjoy most is set in England and involves a good old-fashioned murder, preferably not too graphic. Not surprising really since I was bought up on a diet of Agatha Christie & P G Wodehouse.
This intransigent reading habit was one of several reasons I joined a book club. I thought it would be good to expose myself to other genres. In the last six months I have read A history of Lonliness, The Cellist of Sarajevo, Rebecca, The Life of a Banana, Tuesdays with Morrie and The Boy that Never was. And a depressing bunch of books they are, let me tell you. Rebecca is the shining star amongst them (although I enjoyed The Cellist of Sarajevo). But if there’s one thing I have learned from the book club experience, it’s that I like what I like. It may not be highbrow literature, it’s not Booker prize winning stuff, but the books I love have a beginning, a middle and an end – and above all else, they have a plot!
So it’s English murder mysteries all the way for me, particularly anything with a family history or genealogical twist. My top six of all time, in no particular order, are:
Agatha Christie – Crooked House
Robert Goddard – Past Caring
Val McDermid – The Wire in the Blood
Susan Hill – The Various Haunts of Men
James Ruddick – Death at the Priory
Dan Waddell – The Blood Detective
I’m sure there are many deserving English murder mysteries that should be on the list. There are several up and coming genealogy writers (Nathan Dylan Goodwin springs to mind) and some debut authors (Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train) who have captured my attention. Who are the best all time English murder mystery writers? Your suggestions would be appreciated.