The Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries are a bit like buses. You wait ages for one and two come along at the same time… or very nearly the same time.
Peril in Palmanova is on pre-order in advance of the official release on Thursday October 26th. The Squire’s Lodge Murders went off to editor, Maureen Vincent-Northam yesterday and we wait her opinion with bated breath. What we’re using as bait, I don’t know, but whatever it is, the breath is set up with it.
Squire’s Lodge has been a pain in the nether regions, hanging round my bloody neck like the proverbial millstone for the last two years. In the grand scheme of things, it should have been written and published within the three months after the release of Trial by Fire (STAC #14). I had the broad outline, I knew what was to happen, and technically it was simply a case of getting on with it.
And I did get on with it. At least half a dozen times. And each one proved to be a false start. I set it in Whitby, I set it in North Wales, I set it Northumberland, I brought it back to West Yorkshire, and none of them made any difference. There was something lacking, and it wasn’t the location.
These early problems coincided with a marked deterioration in my health, for which I alone accept responsibility. I don’t look after myself as I should do. Aside from a couple of hastily written, scrambled together self-published titles, I wrote nothing of any substance between the summer of 2015 and the spring of this year when Crooked Cat put out my comic look at Life With Arfur.
And still Squire’s Lodge hung over me like the sword of Dan wossname. You know who I mean.
Laurence, one of the founders of Crooked Cat, often asked, ‘Any sign of Squire’s Lodge?’ And I kept assuring him that it would be, ‘Soon.’
The missus and I were on holiday in Palmanova, Majorca, in May this year, and we were staying at one of the most bizarrely designed hotels I’ve ever come across. Walk into most Spanish hotels and you’re on the ground floor, you check in and you take the lift up to your room. In this case we walked in on the fifth floor, which was at street level, and took the lift down to our room. The place was an architectural conundrum, made even more puzzling by the arrangement of elevators. One of them was arranged to stop at all floors, another one only went down one floor, and yet another only went up two floors. It was as if someone had given the architect a blank sheet of paper and said, ‘There you go, pal, have a bit of fun.’
Lazing about on the sun terrace, which gave us some spectacular views of Palmanova Bay, it occurred to me that the absurdity of the building’s arrangement would provide the perfect confusion for someone like Joe. The same can be said of the determination of the entertainment staff to dragoon you into their fun and games, which reminded me of the Redcoats at Butlins, and I gave them the same answers as I used to give the redcoats at Butlins. ‘Sod off.’
It was exactly the kind of answer Joe Murray would give them.
And there you have it: the genesis of Peril in Palmanova, and it was only a short step from there to using Peril in Palmanova as a springboard for The Squire’s Lodge Murders.
I’m not gonna tell you anything about the storylines in either of the two books. What I will say is that they represent a slight change of direction for the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries. Less a paradigm shift, more wandering off on a tributary, and it’ll be interesting to see where that tangent takes us.