Jim Kelly: in the fens
Excerpts from the interview by Pam Lawrence in the June/July 2008 issue of Mystery News
Jim Kelly's first book, The Water Clock, marked a stunning debut for the British writer. I remember vividly being so drawn into the freezing landscape, intricate plot and eloquent writing that I was reluctant to read the final pages. The novel combines the three ultimate ingredients which, for me, make what is possibly the "perfect" crime novel: a dramatic setting, the impact of historical events on the present, and fine writing.
The critics evidently agreed, as the book was nominated for the prestigious John Creasey Award for best first novel of 2002. Subsequent novels featuring reporter Philip Dryden and his laconic sidekick Humph were equally well received, and Kelly was awarded the Dagger in the Library in 2006. Nominees for this award are selected by readers' groups and librarians, for a body of work providing great reading satisfaction and pleasure...
...The new novel centers on a "lost village" and a skeleton discovered there under very mysterious circumstances. I understood that Kelly had always wanted to write about a "lost village," and wondered about the genesis of this story.
"I had always really admired Peter Robinson's In A Dry Season--about a village appearing from a reservoir during the summer of 1976. Bizarrely I actually saw that village as I was at university in Sheffield and the village was Lady Bower--now lost lost behind the dam. But I'd always had a thing about lost villages--my brother studied economic history at Leeds under Prof Maurice Beresford--he wrote The Lost Villages of England. I did geography, with my "special" subject the perception of landscape. When I worked in York as a reporter, there was a lost village up on the Wolds called Wharram Percy. When they began the dig there--it was the first big success for Beresford--they found a skeleton in one of the houses--not in the graveyard. Sot that was a centuries old mystery which will never be solved. They called him Percy--and I guess I stole him for The Skeleton Man. (I later tried to track down the bones, and guess what? They've gone missing.)"...
...Kelly reveals that his next novel will be a complete change of direction...Although the new novel will feature policemen, it won't be a straight procedural.
"In the sense that while they may be coppers it's not set within the technical minutiae of a real copper's world. Think more Morse and Lewis...but not as off beam as Waking the Dead! [BBC police drama featuring a cold case squad]. What I like about police work is that it's about getting people nicked: the pursuit of evidence is paramount, not some moral game of good and evil. It's much more direct. Although Peter Shaw and George Valentine have their own, more subtle, tensions. They don't really like each other, but they have to work together. Not buddies, but partners. It's much spikier than Dryden and Humph."
Whatever new characters Kelly chooses to explore, we can be assured of some of the most complex plotting and literate prose in the genre.
Read the complete interview in the June/July 2008 issue of Mystery News