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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.

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.

History and Mystery with a Dash of Romance in the 30's

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ September 13, 2010

I am delighted to have as my guest today DeAnna Julie Dodson, author of the popular Chastelayne Trilogy and the Annie's Attic Mystery Series.  Her books which fulfill her motto "Step Into Time" has won her thousands of devoted readers who are sure to be thrilled with her new historical mystery series set in the 1930's.  The book covers are mock-ups, but I think you'll agree with me that the final ones can't possibly be more stunning.  Over to you, DeAnna.

Good morning, Donna.  You ask, "What's it like to set a mystery series in 1930s England?"

The answer is:  Interesting. Frustrating. Wonderful.

After decades of reading Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple), Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey) and the unjustly forgotten and underrated Margery Allingham (Albert Campion), I decided to try my hand at writing something similar. Besides that, my first three books were medieval, very serious, very lush and romantic, and I wanted to do something a bit lighter and more fun.

The 1920s and '30s were the golden age of crime fiction and are still a great time to set a story. There had just been a world war and another was looming black on the horizon. Industry was becoming more and more mechanized. Women were increasingly taking their place in business and in politics. Everything was changing, change causes conflict and conflict is essential to a great story. Jackpot!

Naturally, some of the most appealing aspects of writing about this era are the clothing, the modes of transportation and the social conventions. These things are the "jewelry" of the historical novel. I love to watch Masterpiece Mystery and "ooh" and "ah" over the men in eveningwear, the women in glorious formal gowns, the most astonishing hats ever, the grand touring cars, and the manor houses teeming with servants and seething with history and mystery. I love that certain classes of people dressed for dinner every single night and family honor was something they were willing to die - or kill - for.

Of course, what draws a reader into the story world is the judicious use of accurate historical detail (just as the lack of same will quickly and firmly pull him out). Thanks to the internet, it has become easier to give a novel those touches of authenticity that make the story seem real.

In researching my new series, The Drew Farthering Mysteries, I've found wonderful websites that detail such things as the hierarchy of domestic servants, the proper attire for any 1932 social function, and even the kinds of golf clubs and balls that would have been used. I've been able to see how specific streets are laid out and where certain landmarks are, all without leaving my office. And since 1932 is fixed in time, I don't have to worry about the technology in my story becoming outmoded or emerging world events affecting my plot.

I do have to make sure I get all the details right. My series is set mostly in Drew's family manor, Farthering Place, and in the fictional English village of Farthering St. John. Since I wanted Drew and his friends to be able to visit real places, I set them down in a spot about 70 miles southwest of London and five miles south of Winchester. I created a fictional bank in a neighboring real town, but I made sure to put it in a real street that would have been likely to have such an institution. As long as the places I create are described consistently and are believable in the real world, readers will accept them as real in the story world.

Fortunately for my research, talking pictures were really coming into their own in the early '30s, and they afford one of the best ways to see and feel and absorb the era. Keeping in mind that they were entertainment and, as such, not always a perfect reflection of real life, they're a wealth of information about social customs as well as details about food, clothing, slang, work, play and just about anything else. Just remember to add color to your descriptions. In much the same way, books written in that time period, books that portray "modern" life, are also invaluable. Reading Christie, Sayers and Allingham and a host of others has helped give me a sense of what does and doesn't belong in Drew Farthering's 1932 world.

Once I know that, I can focus helping Drew and his American sweetheart Madeline figure out what to do about the dead body in the greenhouse.

And who's trying to destroy the family business and the family name.

And why no one, even Drew himself, is who he appears to be.



DeANNA JULIE DODSON is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of romance novels set in medieval times, and the contemporary mystery, Letters in the Attic. She is currently working on a new series set in 1930s England, The Drew Farthering Mysteries: Rules of Murder and Civil as an Orange.

A graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, she lives in North Texas with her four cats and a house full of books. When not writing, she loves to quilt, cross-stitch and watch NHL hockey.



From his black Homburg hat to the crease in his stylish cheviot trousers, Drew Farthering is the epitome of the well-bred English gentleman of 1932, but things at Farthering Place are not quite so ideal. There’s been a murder at the old manor house, and with the help of the alluring Madeline Parker, Drew sets out to solve the crime and save the family fortune.

Before long, he realizes no one at Farthering Place is who he appears to be – not the blackmailer, not the adulterer, not the embezzler and not even Drew himself.


A simple desire to update his will has Drew Farthering involved in another mysterious case. The family lawyer has been found dead in a Winchester hotel room, skewered through the heart by an antique hat pin with a cryptic message attached: Advice to Jack.

Evidence of secret meetings and a young girl's tearful confession point to the man's double life, but what does that have to do with the murder of a physician on the local golf course? Nothing, it would seem. Nothing except for another puzzling note and the antique hat pin affixing it to the doctor's chest. Could the killer be one of Drew's society friends, or is it someone much closer than that?

And you can read excerpts from both on DeAnna's website:

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.

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Reader Comments:

DeAnna, best of luck with your new series. This is a time period I especially enjoy--truly the Golden Age-- so I look forward to reading your books.
-Donna, September 13, 2010

Thanks for letting me visit, Donna. It's an honor!
-DeAnna Julie Dodson, September 13, 2010

All the very best with your series set in a time I love. It sounds fascinating!
-Dolores, September 13, 2010

Oh, I love Agatha Christie books! I'm sure these two books are going to be wonderful mysteries, but can I say that I love the covers! They are just perfect.
-Sylvia M., September 29, 2010

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