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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

Guest Post By D.E. Meredith, Author Of ….. ‘The Devil’s Ribbon’

Today, I am handing the ‘Meet The Authors’ page, here at Fiction Books, to author D.E. (Denise) Meredith.
I have Denise’s latest book, ‘The Devil’s Ribbon’ on my review shelf and today Denise herself, would like to share the journey which she undertook, to gather material ideas, characterisations and storyline inspiration, towards writing the first two books in this excellent new thriller series
Over to you Denise …
Publisher Approved Image Of D.E. (Denise) MeredithI have travelled far and wide to some of the remotest places on earth, which has fuelled my imagination and continuing lust for travel.
After reading English at Cambridge University I became a campaigner for the WWF, and spent ten years working for the environment movement.
I have flown over the Arctic in a bi-plane, skinny dipped in Siberia, hung out with Inuit and Evenki tribes people and dodged the Russian mafia in downtown Vladivostock.
I later became a spokesperson for the British Red Cross, spending six years travelling through war zones and witnessing humanitarian crises. The experience strongly influenced my crime writing, with its themes of injustice and inequality.
I currently live on the outskirts of London with my husband and two teenage sons. When not writing I run, bake cakes and do yoga to relax.

‘Devoured’ and ‘The Devils Ribbon’ are the first books in the Hatton and Roumande series, featuring the first forensic “Detectives” – pathologist, Professor Adolphus Hatton and his morgue assistant (though he is far more than that) , Monsieur Albert Roumande who crack crimes on the mean streets of London. According to my readers- because who am I to say? “Think CSI meets Sherlock Holmes….”

All novels are just stories, right? Of course they are, but it’s no surprise that many thriller writers also happen to have been crime reporters, lawyers, worked in the police force or even, in Stella Rimmington’s case, for   MI5. All these writers, plundering the dark ravines of their past lives for material, characters and themes, weaving fiction with fact, fact with imagination and using the power of words to tell their stories. But can the novel be used, indeed should it be used, as some kind of therapy? How far should a writer dig in the dirt of their own minds?

If you were abused as a child, experienced murder or rape directly, should you write about it?  And dress it up as fiction? And can you ever do the memory justice?  It’s a hard call because the line between memory and imagination is a thin one, almost invisible at times.

I’ve had some strange experiences in my life, perhaps a little weirder than most. I witnessed humanitarian catastrophes and injustice on an almost unimaginable scale. I was in Rwanda during the height of the genocide, working for the Red Cross as a press officer. I went to Bosnia during the war, Cambodia to look at the impact of seven million landmines, Afghanistan just before it fell to the Taliban in 1994. I’ve seen people dying at my feet, killers coming through the marshes over the border of Tanzania with blood on their clothes, bloated bodies bobbing down a river in Rwanda, massacre sites, doctors screaming at me because they haven’t got a dialysis machine. I’ve witnessed mangled bodies, met raped women and desperate children as enemy planes swooped overhead. I’ve seen men decapitated by shells. These are the hard, bald facts. They are easy to write, but even now, even for me, almost impossible to connect to.

Why are your books so gory?
Why are you so obsessed with death.?
Doesn’t it bother you?
How can you write such things?
Is it something to do with the work you used to do?

These are the things readers ask me and well, it’s easy to write about these things because they’re not real, they’re the imagination. But are they connected in some way with my past work and reality? Quite likely. Like many crime writers, I write novels about justice and I am interested in the process and impact of death.

Let’s take justice first. It’s something we all want and believe in. I’m a political animal and in my writing I wanted to look at themes of justice on a human as well as a universal scale. The desire for revenge and retribution which often results from injustice offers a writer a rich and compelling canvas to explore because it it’s an age-old struggle between right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate. As a narrative for a story, it’s hard to improve on. It’s biblical, Shakespearean, Gothic, Jacobean Tragedy and Victorian melodrama all rolled into one.

As for an obsession with body parts, decomposition and the nature of death – I’ll put my hands up and say yes, I admit it. It’s hardly an avoidable theme when you write about a pathologist working in a morgue in Victorian England. Dissection and cutting up bodies is Professor Hatton’s business. And as for justice?  He has a Frenchman at his side call Monsieur Roumande who lives in the slums round Spitalfields, has a family to feed and a strong moral imperative. He’s from Revolutionary France. Righting social in-justice is part of who he is. Added to which , the mid-Victorian period saw an explosion of new ideas: Marx was writing Das Kapital in the British Library, the middle classes were growing, faith was waning, working-class people were becoming organized with the beginnings of trade unions. So the setting for my novels lends itself beautifully to the consideration of social justice.

London in 1856 is gripped by a frightening obsession. The specimen-collecting craze is growing, and discoveries in far-off jungles are reshaping the known world in terrible and unimaginable ways. The new theories of evolution threaten to disrupt the fragile balance of power that keeps this chaotic city in order – a disruption that many would do anything to prevent.

When the glamorous Lady Bessingham is found murdered in her bedroom, surrounded by her vast collection of fossils and tribal masks, Professor Adolphus Hatton and his morgue assistant, Albert Roumande, are called into to examine the crime scene – and the body. In the new and suspicious world of forensics, Hatton and Roumande are the best. But the crime scene is not confined to one room. In their efforts to help Scotland Yard’s infamous Inspector Adams track down Lady Bessingham’s killer, Hatton and Roumande uncover a trail of murders which seem connected to a scroll of seditious letters that, if published, would change the face of society and religion forever.

 The first book in the series, ‘Devoured’, explores what it means to be Victorian, when evolutionary ideas hit home – loss of faith, a fractured world, survival of the fittest, the jungle that is the industrialized city. The second book, ‘The Devil’s Ribbon’, explores early Fenianism and the Irish radicals living in the slums of London, ten years after the famine – itself an act of genocide by the British Government, which saw the death and uprooting of two million people. For me, after working in Rwanda, there’s an obvious parallel.

London swelters in July 1858, and trouble is brewing. Scotland Yard calls on forensic scientist Adolphus Hatton and his trusty assistant, Albert Roumande to help stop a series of violent murders of seemingly unconnected people, linked by the same macabre calling card.The investigators, who have a morgue full of cholera victims – all Irish, the poorest of the poor – must also unravel a bombing campaign led by agitator and priest Father O’Brian and his gang of would-be terrorists.  Meanwhile Hatton finds himself falling under the spell of a beautiful woman.

As the kaleidoscope of outlandish characters, dockside strikes, bomb blasts and violent retribution reaches a crescendo, Hatton’s skills are tested to the limit, taking readers from the wildflower meadows of Kent to an island with a shipwreck and a secret on a nail-biting race against time.

Although I’ve never seen my work as any kind of therapy, it’s true to say that by writing stories, you objectify your experiences. You explore images held in your memory bank but the very process of putting them down on paper maybe helps the writer make sense of them. Twisting them and re-casting them, using the tool of imagination, helps separate these experiences from yourself. The writer can look at their experiences in a different context, observe them as if in a gallery or through a prism and perhaps even find a kind of truth. The writer provides a dramatic frame for the individual’s dreams, memories and experiences – in my case, death and being a witness to gross miscarriages of justice on a monumental scale.
In Devoured, a character is compelled to kill in order to mete out justice. That rage for revenge is something that resonates with me having seen so much suffering. Until I started to write, I kept locked down in a dark recess in my mind. Now I draw on them and use them to make sense of my characters’ world. Justice and death. Good and evil. Love and hate. These are the elements which make up the world of Hatton and Roumande.


Follow me on Twitter: @DE_Meredith
Author’s Website: www.demeredith.com

Publisher Website : www.allisonandbusby.com

Thanks for stopping by Denise and for making your guest post such an interesting and thought provoking piece.

You have had such an interesting, at times I am sure traumatic and always seemingly hectic career to date. I am looking forward to discovering more about the world of ‘Hatton and Roumande’ and would like to wish you every success with the series.

As requested, I am providing a link to a similar article, written by yourself and published over at www.bookoxygen.com, although with the necessary confirmation that you wish for an updated version of the article to be published, here at Fiction Books.

As this was an author invitation to read and review, a signed and dedicated, hardcover edition of ‘TheDevil’s Ribbon’ was sent to me free of charge, by its author, D.E. (Denise) Meredith.

This will in no way influence any comments I may express about the book, in any blog article I may post. Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.

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I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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Written by Yvonne