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Talking Location With author Decima Blake – SOUTH DEVON

30th August 2023

TalkingLocationWith…. Decima Blake, author of Hingston’s Box – SOUTH DEVON

Hingston’s Box is the first book in my genre-bending Detective Sergeant Hingston series, which blends crime fiction with history and a touch of spookiness. It is in the riverside town of Dartmouth where an investigative race unexpectedly begins, and Hingston finds himself changed forever.

Bayard’s Cove, Dartmouth, TQ6 9AX

“Hingston took an early evening walk along Dartmouth’s cobbled quayside to the historic Bayard’s Cove Fort. Its solid and rugged presence seemed to protect the colourful townhouses in the same way a marble bookend supports a collection of paperbacks. Hingston felt equally protected as he stepped through the wide, irregularly shaped archway into the fort and found himself a place to sit in one of the gunports facing towards the sea.”

Decima Blake

Bayard’s Cove Fort

It’s May 2011 in Hingston’s Box. Today, the River Dart is as beautiful and active as ever. Bayard’s Cove continues to be a perfect spot to pause to admire the boats, yachts, Britannia Royal Naval College training ships, occasional cruise ship and the even more occasional galleon. The backdrop created by the houses set into the Kingswear hillside reflect the setting sun, and the comings and goings of the steam train maintain memories of halcyon days. As of 2013, the river has benefitted from the return of the coal fired paddle steamer, the Kingswear Castle, originally built in 1924. The nearby English Riviera and the beauty of South Hams are particularly special:

“Hingston hurried to Dartmouth Harbour. Having sailed up the River Dart before, a cruise to Totnes was beckoning him to hop aboard and enjoy the skipper’s quips; gaze at the undulating hills, decorated with dense woodland and segmented fields; admire the tiny villages nestled like kittens on a huge patchwork quilt; spot seals and seabirds and pass the boathouse at Greenway which inspired a fictional murder scene penned by his hero, Agatha Christie.”

River Dart as seen from Townstall Road

Totnes, TQ9 5NJ

A significant scene takes place in Totnes. It’s a wonderfully eclectic town with lots of history and some superb independent shops (and bookshops)!

“The dominant East Gate Arch loomed ahead of Hingston as he walked up Totnes Fore Street. He observed its clock face, bell tower and ornate weather vane and peered up at its thrupenny bit window, wondering what lay inside and how often, if at all, anyone peered back out. The arch spanned and adjoined the buildings once owned by merchants of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and which were now occupied by an eclectic mix of shops. On passing under the arch, Hingston continued up the hill, browsing the High Street windows and dodging the Saturday shoppers who included a surprising number of hippies, many of whom had continued to live their chilled, Bohemian lifestyle since the 1960s.”

Decima Blake

River Dart as seen from Jawbone Hill

Blackpool Sands, TQ6 0RG

View from Dartmouth to Kingswear

“The sea sparkled and small foaming waves bowed in appreciation over the glistening smooth stones and sand; the perfect stage within a natural amphitheatre of fiery slate cliffs and luscious plant life. Hingston trudged through the deep hoards of pebbles, inhaled and savoured the salty air and listened to the hypnotic mantra of the sea whilst he made his way to a large boulder at stage right of the cove.”

This stunning Blue Flag beach is only a short distance away from Dartmouth town centre. It was at Blackpool Sands where Hingston relaxed, skimming stones into the expanse.

Newton St Cyres, EX5 5BN

Hingston’s investigation leads him beyond South Hams to Newton St Cyres where a cluster of “chocolate box” style thatched cottages painted in shades of marshmallow pink and white, and the calm Shuttern Brook, hark back to bygone days.

“To his left loomed the church of St Cyr and St Julitta, a dominant, robust stone giant seated upon a hillside throne with its thirteenth century tower reaching towards the Creator. Its powerful presence continued to draw mortal eyes up to the heavens and the clock face reliably recorded the minutes and hours of the centuries like a mute, knowledgeable watchman to whom the seasons and life cycles merged into one continuous stream of repetition.”

Newton St Cyres

Back to Dartmouth!

“The Indian restaurant beckoned. Hingston thought about the surge of tangy fragrances which danced exotically each night through Dartmouth’s historic streets; a combination which brought to mind the sixteenth century sailors and their perilous journeys to worlds which were once merely imagined by most and where the treasures brought back were tasted by few.” Hingston and Uncle Zack enjoy a meal at the Taj Mahal Indian restaurant, the details of which are below, along with other places of interest that feature in Hingston’s Box:

DECIMA BLAKE

Catch the author on Twitter @decimablake

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