Friday, 13 March 2015

Guest Post and Giveaway for Cosy Crime Series: Cherringham: A Lesson in Murder

Today I am part of the tour for the latest in the cosy crime series Cherringham: A Lesson in Murder and on my blog today I am thrilled to feature a Guest Post from the authors, Matthew Costello & Neil Richards on how the series began, together with a fabulous Giveaway!


And on the Eighth Day… The fictional village of Cherringham has grown faster than a gold-rush town since Matt and I invented it two years ago, sitting outside a Cotswolds pub in the autumn sunshine, sipping our pints of Marstons and making up stories. We were in the Cotswolds to research our new crime series about an ex-NYC cop Jack Brennan and local single mum Sarah Edwards who team up to solve all kinds of murder and mystery together. We wanted the series to be set in the very heart of the real Cotswolds, with all the variation of housing, class, industry, tourism, locals, that the area offers. But we also needed a village that had the Thames flowing through it - because Jack lives on an old Dutch barge. And we had a problem. We’d spent a week driving everywhere – but no single town or village fitted the bill. The perfect stretches of the Thames didn’t have quite the right village – and the perfect villages were miles away from the Thames. So we decided to invent our own Cotswolds town. What could be easier or more fun? We decided to use one village that we both loved for the core geography – then we took a couple of other villages and grafted them on. All we had to do then was pick up our favourite stretch of the Thames (complete with barges, medieval bridge and weir) and lay it in a delicate curve in the meadows below. And what writers could resist the opportunity to build a whole community from scratch? A market square and a set of medieval stocks? It shall be so! A charming little pub with a great landlord that not only does terrific food but always has a quiet table at the back whenever you need one? Voila! A police station with just one cop, who’s genial enough but no great shakes at solving murders? Put it there! Next step was to give our little village a name. At first it was going to have the suffix ‘on-Thames’ but then we decided to call the whole series ‘Murder on Thames’ so that had to change. For a while we ran with Sheringham, which has an evocative ‘olde Englande’ sound to it but our market research (wives and families) responded that everybody knew there already was a Sheringham in Norfolk… So then in a moment of genius (or to be more truthful a moment of sheer chance) we realized what Chippenham, Cheltenham, Chipping Norton, and Chipping Camden all had in common – and came up with the name Cherringham. And Cherringham worked so well – it actually became the title of the whole series. ‘Murder on Thames’ then became the title of the first book. But – back to creating our story world. Even then – right at the beginning – we also knew we’d have to map our village. If we didn’t – then as co-writers we’d quickly lose track. Matt lives in New York – I live in England – and we write our books across the Atlantic, across time zones: it was vital that we saw exactly the same geography, the same layout. Especially in a crime novel where sometimes the plot itself depends on the movement of characters across the landscape, the distances between homes and crime scenes, the relative location of suspects and victims… We knew our fictional Cherringham had to be laid down with as much logic as a town planner would apply when creating a new community from scratch. It started as a few scribbles on a pub napkin: “Here’s the High Street. And here’s where Sarah lives. So… down here must be the road that leads down to the river. And here’s Jack’s houseboat – half a mile north from the bridge? Which way does the river flow? Hmm – let’s put a loop in it... Sarah’s mum and dad – they have a place half a mile down-river. And let’s put a pub here on the crossroads. What shall we call it? The Ploughman’s. Oh and here’s Huffington’s – the coffee place – near the market square and the church. Here’s the primary school, and here’s…” And so on and so on… Until now our map of Cherringham is so big, so comprehensive, that it has to be drawn on a flip-chart sheet. We’ve created streets, businesses, chicken farms, studs, shops, stores, restaurants, farm shops, cafes, pubs, hotels, offices. We’ve set up Mothers and Toddlers Groups, a choir, a Cherringham Historical Society, the local drama group, an opera club, a whole church congregation, bell ringers. We’ve invented cops, solicitors, priests, electricians, plumbers, tyre-fitters, parish councillors, teachers, immigrant workers, kitchen porters, school pupils, cricketers, footballers, a tennis club, runners… And we know all their names and addresses and relationships (the secret ones too). Little did we know when we started that Cherringham would grow into a vibrant, functioning community. Now – two years later – we have just returned from another week staying in the Cotswolds to storyline the final episodes of Season Two. We stayed in the heart of a village which – secretly - is the heart of Cherringham. And all week long we kept catching each other out referring to the village as Cherringham – suggesting eating at the Ploughmans, or a meal at The Spotted Pig, or tea and scones at the Hobbit CafĂ©. Or wanting to bump into Tony Standish our friendly solicitor. Or Alan the cop. Or Sarah’s dad Michael. Or the Buckland sisters who run the toll bridge. Or Pete Bull the plumber… All of whom are so very real in our minds. But, sadly, are only fiction. The trouble with making up a fictional world is – you end up wanting to live there. And you really miss it when you’re away. Neil Richards Co-creator – with Matt Costello - of ‘Cherringham’


What a brilliant guest post! Thank you so much for this insight into the series beginnings.

I love this series and have read the first two books

If you love cosy mysteries, especially ones set in small english villages, then I would urge you to check out this series. They are not huge blockbusters, they're relatively short stories that you could devour in one sitting, packed full of fabulous characters, great plotlines, all in a wonderful setting.


Cherringham: A Lesson In Murder
Matthew Costello and Neil Richards

Nothing ever happens in the small Cotswold village of Cherringham, making it the perfect place to retire to – or so ex-NYPD Detective Jack Brennan thought. But before long, local web designer and single mother Sarah Edwards had convinced him to help her investigate a suspicious suicide. Since then, he and Sarah have solved mysterious deaths, unlikely accidents and perplexing robberies. “Peace and quiet” never really suited Jack anyway…

Cherringham is an ongoing “cosy crime” eBook series, that launched in December 2013 and features unlikely sleuthing duo Sarah and Jack. Released in monthly episode, it is written by award-winning game and TV writers UK-based Neil Richards and US-based Matthew Costello in a transatlantic collaboration – which mirrors that of Jack and Sarah. The new series, released from March, launches with A Lesson in Murder, in which the two are asked to investigate the violent death of a popular teacher at Cherringham Girls School.


Co-authors Neil Richards and Matthew Costello are known for their script work on major computer games. The Cherringham crime series is their first fictional transatlantic collaboration. Matthew has written and designed dozens of bestselling games including the critically acclaimed The 7th Guest, Doom 3, Rage and Pirates of the Caribbean. He is also the author of a number of successful novels, including Vacation (2011) and Beneath Still Waters (1989), which was made into a movie. Neil has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way. He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including The Da Vinci Code and Starship Titanic, co-written with Douglas Adams, and consults around the world on digital storytelling.


1st Prize – Winner written into a Cherringham episode plus an ecopy of the book
2nd Prize – ecopy of the book

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