Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.
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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History
A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.
By Fay Sampson ~ April 20, 2015
t’s strange how some ideas haunt you, turning up repeatedly in your work, even when you don’t consciously will it.
When I set out to write the Aidan Mysteries I wanted to set them in sacred places that had seized my imagination when I first visited them – a wonderful excuse, too, for a second, in-depth pilgrimage. I set the third of these, A Corpse in Holy Waters, around the sacred wells of Cornwall and Devon. In particular, there was that little chapel of St Clether, out on the moor, where the stream comes into the church from one well-house, flows behind the altar, and out into a second sacred well on the south side. And the spectacular pools of St Nectan’s Kieve, where the water leaps through a natural hole in an arch of rock.
Corpse in Holy Waters (Greenbrier) is available on all the main ebook platforms.
But I was not expecting sacred wells when I started researching for the second novel in my new crime series, The Wounded Snake. I chose for my setting the wonderful medieval Dartington Hall and the fascinating nearby town of Totnes.
This is well known as the landing-place of the legendary Brutus, who is supposed to have given his name to Britain, for its Elizabethan street market, its fondness for alternative lifestyles, the supposed ‘leper squint’ in the church, where victims were said to watch the services through the aperture, though it’s probably something else, and the narrow ‘leper paths’ leading down from where the Magdalen Hospital once was.
What I had not known about, curiously, were the Leechwells. ‘Leech’ is an old name for a healer. Almost all healing wells are dedicated to saints, like the ones I had used in Cornwall. Totnes’s Leechwells are different. Three springs flow into a rectangular basin. Each is received by a separate trough, edged with granite. These individual pools each have a name: the Toad, the Snake and the Long Crippler. That wonderful last name is the local word for a Slowworm, also known as the Blindworm. Paradoxically, its waters are said to be good for the eyesight, just as the pool of the warty Toad cures skin ailments.
No one knows the origin of these curious names and their attribution to the three springs.
Needless to say, once I had discovered them, the Leechwells came to play a crucial part in the plot.
When you are a writer of imaginative literature you don’t always have to look hard for your best material – it often comes to you unbidden.
The fist in this new series about two female sleuths, is The Wounded Thorn, set in the marvellously evocative town of Glastonbury. It is published by Severn House in hardback, with ebook and possibly paperback later. The Wounded Snake will follow it.
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
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