Welcome to the Saturday edition of the book reading at the cafe and my guest today is William Savage who writes murder mysteries set in the Georgian period. Before we dive into the interview and the book reading, let’s take a look at the official biography behind the author.
About William Savage
William started to write fiction as a way of keeping his mind active in retirement. He had always lectured and written extensively on business topics, including three books, many articles and a successful leadership blog which garnered more than 5000 regular followers.
He has no intention of letting his mind stagnate or his creativity wither. This means finding new sources of interest and inspiration.Throughout his life, William has read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of his other loves is history, especially the local history of the many places where he has lived. It seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk. Four books have appeared so far and he is currently at work on a fifth.
William’s books are set between 1760 and around 1800. This was a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, the revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with Napoleon.
The Ashmole Foxe series takes place at the start of this time and is located in Norwich. Mr Foxe is a dandy, a bookseller and, unknown to most around him, the mayor’s immediate choice to deal with anything likely to upset the peace or economic security of the city.
The series featuring Dr Adam Bascom, a young gentleman-physician caught up in the beginning of the Napoleonic wars, takes place in a variety of locations nearer to the North Norfolk coast. Adam tries to build a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and a knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.
William has spent a good deal of his life travelling in Britain and overseas. After obtaining his degree at Cambridge, he set out on a business career, during which he lived in most parts of the UK, as well as spending eleven years in the USA. He has been a senior executive, an academic and a consultant to many multinational companies.
Books by William Savage
One of the top reviews for The Fabric of Murder an Ashmole Foxe Georgian Mysteries Book 1
Having just finished William Savage’s The Code for Killing, I could read nothing else but another book by him, so started this one immediately! I loved it as much, if not more; whereas this author’s other two 18th century Norfolk murder mysteries centre round the earnest young doctor Adam Bascom, this one’s hero is the intriguing, charming man about town, Ashmole Fox, a different kettle of fish entirely.
The story is situated in Norwich, and portrays so well the different layers of society, from the upper echelons populated by Mr Foxe, to the underclasses, and illustrates that nothing changes when it comes to corruption and social pretensions. The mystery itself concerns the city’s textile industry and that of rare books, which I found fascinating, aside from the plot itself, which is intricate and well thought out, with a clever outcome that I hadn’t guessed.
One of the reasons I think this might be my favourite of this author’s books so far (although there is not much between them), is that there is more description and creation of atmosphere; I really got the feeling of 18th century Norwich, from the coffee houses, to the dwellings of the well-to-do. Because it’s a city I know quite well, this was of much interest to me.
The characterisation in this novel is terrific, as always, the dialogue subtle and witty ~ I adored Foxe and his associates. There is one character, an urchin messenger boy called Charlie Dillon, who I felt might benefit from more development in the future – I must agree with Foxe that he shows great promise 🙂
There is only one thing left to say: Mr Savage, hurry up and write me another book!
Read all the reviews and buy the books Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/William-Savage/e/B00RZBGQ0K
Find more reviews and follow William on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/814395.William_Savage
William has chosen an extract from “This Parody of Death” an Ashmole Foxe mystery for his book reading.
Once he was fixed on a topic, George Tate was one of those people who couldn’t bear to leave a single detail out. “The ringing chamber is the lowest room in the tower, Mr Foxe. It’s got a high ceiling to allow the next chamber, the one holding the bells, to be placed just below the tower roof on a level with the slatted windows that let the sound out. The higher up they are, the further the sound spreads. Our bells —”
If he wasn’t interrupted, he’d explain every rope, frame and ladder.
“Who found the man’s body?” Foxe repeated.
Mr Tate looked hurt. “I’m telling you, aren’t I? It was the watchman. He came by the church as it was getting light and noticed the west door was open a little way. That’s the one in the tower that lets you into the place where the stairway —”
Now he was going to describe the church layout. It would be the stonework next and then the stained glass.
“So he went in,” Foxe said.
Another frown. Mr Tate did not like to be hurried. “Aye, he did. Thought some vagabonds might have taken the chance to bed down in the church. Always some hanging about the Market Place. They like to sleep anywhere they can get out of the wind. Some of them build little shelters in corners —”
Heaven help us all! If Foxe didn’t stop him he was going to explain the sleeping habits of Norwich’s tramps and drunkards. It was enough to drive a man insane.
“Were there any?”
“Vagabonds in the church?”
“No. Well … there may have been, I suppose, but the watchman never got that far. As soon as he was inside, he saw the door that leads to the stairs up the tower was open. That’s always kept shut and locked. Safety, see? Bells are dangerous things if you play about with them. A few years ago —”
“He went up?”
“Of course he did. Might be someone messing about up there. Took him a while too. He’s an old man and not strong in his wind.”
Most of the city’s watchmen were old. The pay was poor and younger people didn’t want to be wandering the streets at night in all weathers. This particular watchman must be unusually bold. They generally ran away from anything that might be dangerous.
“When he got to the ringing chamber he found Richard Logan lying there in a great pool of blood. Blood everywhere. It’ll take hours to clean it up.”
“What did the watchman do next?”
“Went back down the stairs a good deal quicker than he came up. Then ran out into the street, shaking his clapper and yelling ‘Murder! Murder!’ at the top of his lungs. That fetched a good crowd even that early.”
“And then?” It was infuriating. You either got everything, or had to drag things out of him. When he was describing things of no importance, Mr Tate rattled on and on. Once he got to what mattered, he kept stopping and staring at Foxe as if he had no idea what to say next.
“All the commotion brought one of the constables. He took charge. Sent someone to tell the magistrate what had happened. Then he had the good sense to send for me as well.”
Now it is time to put William in the hot seat for his interview.
Welcome William and can you tell us about your chosen genre of books that you write and why?
I write historical mysteries. Historical ones because history fascinates me and sets me free from the technological and procedural biases of whodunit books set in modern times. Mysteries because they demand intellect, intuition, curiosity, reason and attention from writer and reader. What more can you ask of a book?
What adventures have you had publishing your work?
I wouldn’t claim any adventures, but I have found the path surprising. I began to write fiction very late in life (aged 69) and decided to take a Creative Writing course, which I hated! Everything was so regimented and simplistic. I almost gave up, then decided to go my own way entirely. After all, I wasn’t intending to make a career of it. I avoided the whole traditional path, self-published my first book and was convinced no one would ever read it. In the subsequent two-and-a-half years, I have published a total of six books and found more people like them than I could ever have believed possible.
Tell us about your blog and your main features. With a link to what you consider best sums you up as a blogger.
The blog arose from the research needed for my fiction. I couldn’t bear to waste all the discoveries that wouldn’t fit into the stories. Rather than make the mistake of trying to cram more in somewhere, I found my ‘spare’ research a different outlet. I blog about 18th century England — and especially Norfolk — since that’s when and where my books are set. Readers seem to like the added authenticity that comes from researching far beyond what the books themselves demand. Here is the link to William’s recent post on Dealing with Habitual Offenders in Georgian England. https://penandpension.com/2017/06/14/dealing-with-habitual-offenders-in-georgian-times/
Your books are set between 1760 and 1800 – what appealed to you about that early to mid Georgian era?
It was so exciting. A period of massive change and development, much like today. Our modern world was being born in a maelstrom of war, constant scientific discoveries, burgeoning trade and the beginnings of the British Empire. America and France had their revolutions and we fought them both. Despite the enormous cost of these wars, we still became the richest nation in the Western world at that time. Even our landscape was changed for ever. Think of all the Georgian houses in our cities; the vast houses of the gentry and their estates landscaped by Capability Brown and Repton; and even the revolutions in agriculture and industry that let us feed and employ a population greater than ever before.
How much time did you have to spend researching for the character of Dr. Adam Bascom and the medical practices of the day?
Quite a lot, though even now I am wary of getting into too much detail in medical matters. It’s too easy to get things wrong! Fortunately, the medicine of the period from around 1770 to 1800 or so was fairly primitive compared even to Victorian times. I’ve made Dr Bascom something of a progressive amongst physicians, but the techniques available to him would still have been extremely limited. By giving him a friend who is an apothecary, Peter Lassimer, I’ve been able to include a few more techniques, including the primary drugs of the day like laudanum. Fortunately, determining the cause of death in a murder at the time wasn’t much better than taking a close look and using your common sense.
You have travelled extensively and finally settled in Norfolk. What are the key attractions for living in East Anglia?
Where I live, the landscape is rural, the small towns delightful and the sea not very far away. Norfolk must be one of the most historically rich counties in England. That’s not to denigrate anywhere else. It’s a simple fact. I believe that more finds are reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Norfolk than in most of the rest of the country combined. It has more surviving mediaeval rood screens that all the rest of Europe put together.
Norwich has the greatest density of remaining mediaeval churches. The county’s full of Georgian buildings and grand mansions like Holkham Hall and Houghton. It may be barely 100 miles from London, but it’s another world. Not a flat one, either. That’s the fens, which lie mostly in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. I live on top of a hill — albeit not a very tall one — so when the rising sea levels reach Cambridge, we’ll be safe on our new island.
My thanks to William for sharing his book extract and his writing with us and you can connect to him at these sites.
Author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/William-Savage/e/B00RZBGQ0K