I’m just back from giving a talk at Histon library, in a village about two miles outside Cambridge. There weren’t many there – five visitors and the two librarians – but we had a whale of a time, talking about Sam and self-publishing. And it seems that historical financial crime fills a niche that I had not anticipated: it is ideal for people who like a puzzle but don’t want too much graphic sex or violence. Agatha Christie was there first, of course, but I think she did concentrate on murder, albeit of the sanitised variety.
I’d like to claim that I realised this and that’s why I write the Sam novels the way I do, but in reality it’s because I am no good at writing those graphic descriptions. As the Plank stories are told from Sam’s perspective, it would be unconscionable to have him going into detail about his marital relations with Martha – we would all three be cringing so much that we’d just about turn inside out. And although Sam could probably cope quite well with a bloody crime scene, I certainly couldn’t – I put my fingers in my ears, close my eyes and sing “La la la!” to myself during anything grisly on the telly. I’m fine if someone mentions that a character has met an unfortunate end, but I don’t want details. So when a friend emailed recently to ask whether the books would be suitable for his elderly aunt – subtext: are there any heaving buttocks or victim’s gizzards on show? – I was able to reassure him completely. And the Histon library audience was pleased to hear it too.