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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick. http://www.faysampson.co.uk

Children of Silence--New Frances Doughty Release

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ April 15, 2015

 In America April 15 is the dreaded day taxes are due. But to lovers of Victorian mysteries it is a day of celebration this year, because Children of Silence, Linda Stratmann's latest Frances Doughty novel is now available— at least in ebook form, we'll have to wait until July 1 for the print edition, but it can be pre-ordered now.

To welcome Frances to this side of the Atlantic her creator Linda Stratmann, whom I first met a year ago at the Queens of Crime conference in London, is here to tell us about creating Frances' latest adventures.

Linda, thank you so much for visiting with us today on "Deeds of Darkness; Deeds of Light". For your purposes, however, it might be better if the title were "Deeds of Noise; Deeds of Silence" because your wonderful novel is all about the contrast between noise and silence and how painful noise can be to those who suffer with hyperacusis. 

Let’s jump right in— tell us about how you conceived the story for Children of Silence

I read a book about British Sign Language where I learned the extraordinary fact that in 1880 it was decided with the best of intentions to ban its teaching  and use in schools. It caused a revolution in the teaching of deaf children and I just knew I had to incorporate this event in a book. I also read about the draining of the Paddington Canal basin in 1880 when fragmentary human remains were found buried in the mud. It was a fabulous starting point for a book and I couldn’t resist using it. By writing about hyperacusis I wanted to raise public awareness of this little-known yet life-shattering hearing disability.

 One of the things I liked the best about this book is the excellent period detail. Even though you had background with hyperacusis writing this must have taken extensive research. What were some of your most interesting research experiences? 

I read a great number of nineteenth century books about teaching of deaf children, and diseases of the ear.  I did make one new discovery - I had attended a lecture on hyperacusis by one of the leading UK experts who said that the first use of the word in the literature that he had seen was about 1948.  I found it in a book written in 1873! For someone like me, who loves research this was quite exciting.  Interesting too to find out about Victorian attitudes to tinnitus, which was not well understood then. One poor man was treated for insanity for seven years before it was recognised that he had tinnitus.

 If I counted right, this is the fifth adventure for your strong-willed heroine Frances Doughty. Tell us about some of her earlier cases. 

In her first case, in The Poisonous Seed, the one in which she learns to be a detective, her chemist father is thought to have accidentally poisoned a customer and Frances has to defend the family reputation. Each case thereafter takes us into a different area of Victorian life. The Daughters of Gentlemen in which Frances investigates who has distributed shocking pamphlets in a girls’ school, deals with education of girls and women’s rights, A Case of Doubtful Death in which Frances searches for the missing attendant of an unconventional mortuary, concerns the fear of premature burial, An Appetite for Murder where Frances’ client is arrested for the murder of his wife, looks at Victorian ideas of healthy eating, dieting and vegetarianism. 

And we don’t want to leave out her faithful and determined assistant. Tell us about Sarah.  

Sarah starts as the family maid of all work, and later becomes an assistant detective. She comes from an East End family, has eight brothers, and is tough and fiercely loyal to Frances. Her robust common sense is greatly valued as is her strength and courage. She is the perfect foil for Frances’ more cerebral approach. 

Linda, you are also known for your nonfiction books on the Victorian era. What spurred your interest in the Victorians?

 I have always been interested in classic crimes, but many years ago, before I was published, I decided to research the 1886 murder of Edwin Bartlett, and I soon realised that in order to understand what was happening in that case I needed to understand the Victorians - how they thought and how they lived. This led to an absorbing fascination which has never abated. I loved studying the old maps, and delving into census returns,  documents, newspapers and literature - and I still love it! 

You have tackled such fascinating subjects as: Greater London Murders, Kent Murders, The Marquess of Queensberry, the use of Chloroform. . . the list of Victorian crimes is really quite exhaustive. Can you pick out any one or two of your subjects you’ve found most fascinating to share with our readers? 

The whole history of chloroform  (Chloroform: the Quest for Oblivion) is an extraordinary story filled with dramatic incidents. And of course I am always on my hobby-horse explaining to people that what you see on TV or in films or read in crime fiction where chloroform is involved, just isn’t true!  The story of the Marquess of Queensberry  (The Marquess of Queensberry: Wilde’s Nemesis) is a turbulent tale  of crisis, conflict and tragedies that just demanded to be written. I was thrilled to be able to bring this complex character to life, to show why he behaved as he did, and I even succeeded in uncovering information which cast more light on the Oscar Wilde case. 

And what’s next for Linda Stratmann and Frances Doughty? 

I am writing book 6 of the Frances Doughty Mysteries which is called Death in Bayswater.  It is set in 1881, and a serial killer is stalking the streets of Bayswater. In this book, Frances will find out a startling piece of information about her family, there will be a shocking revelation concerning her past, and by the end of the book the reader ought to be able to work out who she will eventually marry!

 I am also in the process of completing a non-fiction book, called The Secret Poisoner, to be published by Yale University Press next year, about the 19th century history of homicidal poisoning.

 They both sound fascinating. I can’t wait to find out more about Frances. She’s a wonderfully complex character. What have I failed to ask that you would like to share with our readers?

Later this year I will be starting a new Victorian fiction series with Mr Scarletti’s Ghost, about a young woman in 1871 Brighton who exposes fraudulent spirit mediums. I do hope that readers will like Mina Scarletti and her faithful sidekick Dr Hamid, as much as they like Frances and Sarah.

Amazing! You never run out of intriguing ideas, Linda. Where can readers find you on the web?

My website is: www.lindastratmann.com

My Facebook page is here and you can follow me on Twitter.

I was delighted to have my review quoted on the cover of The Children of Silence. Here's the complete blurb:

"Another triumph for Frances Doughty— and her creator Linda Stratmann. Frances’ unblinking determination to unearth the truth of an exceedingly tangled series of missing persons and unexplained deaths provides the stage for an engaging story full of excellent detail of Victorian life. The author’s sensitive handling of issues surrounding living with hearing difficulties gives the book added depth. And the conclusion is full of surprises."

 

 

 

 

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Thank you again for visiting, Linda. I hope all my readers will get to know both you and Frances better.
-Donna, April 17, 2015

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