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Talking Location with author Martin Edwards – West Yorkshire

29th September 2022

#TalkingLocationWith... author Martin Edwards, writer of Blackstone Fell

Blackstone Fell is the third and latest novel in my series featuring the mysterious Rachel Savernake. The books are set in the early 1930s, the period when Golden Age detective fiction was all the rage. The stories are twisty mysteries, but with a distinctly Gothic flavour. I like to give a fresh slant on the tropes familiar from Golden Age puzzles, and this novel boasts clues aplenty, not to mention an ancient cipher and a locked room mystery (how and why did two men vanish from a locked gatehouse, three hundred years apart?) And each book has a classic Golden Age setting.

In this new book, the setting is a remote English village. Blackstone Fell lies at the foot of the south Pennines and was inspired by a visit to a National Trust property. Its real life counterpart is Hardcastle Crags, a rugged, wooded valley just north of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire. I escaped there when the first pandemic lockdown ended and realised at once that it would make the perfect setting for the story I had in mind.

author Martin Edwards

Hardcastle Crags

I wanted Blackstone Fell to be an eerie, sinister location – the sort of place where anything could happen. This led me to draw on other areas of England for some of the village’s distinguishing features. Just before the pandemic, I’d stayed at the Salomons Estate near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. The dominant landmark on the Estate is Salomons Tower, which became (with various changes) the model for Blackstone Tower, a brooding presence throughout the story.

Kinver Edge

As the crow flies, Bolton Strid is about three-quarters of an hour from Hebden Bridge by car. The Strid is said to be the deadliest stretch of water on Earth, and in the novel I transformed it into Blackstone Leap, an equally dangerous spot close to the Fell. The Leap is where – thanks to a ‘leap’ of imagination – Rachel solves the main murder mystery.

author Martin Edwards

Salomons Tower

The cave beneath the Fell is based on those which can be found at another National Trust property – Kinver Edge, on the Staffordshire border, visited on another of my post-lockdown trips. People lived in the Kinver Edge caves until quite recently, and in the fictional version, murder is committed there.

So Blackstone Fell is an imaginary place, but it’s made up from a variety of real life tourist destinations. And researching them was almost as enjoyable as writing the story.

Martin Edwards

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