Thursday, May 19, 2022

THIS DEADLY ISLE: Guest Post by Martin Edwards

Martin Edwards: This Deadly Isle

Maps have always fascinated me. As a small child with a vivid imagination (if limited artistic skills) I loved drawing maps of places I’d invented. When I discovered detective novels with maps, I was thrilled. Classic novels such as Agatha Christie’s Towards Zero, Dorothy L. Sayers’ Five Red Herrings and Edmund Crispin’s The Moving Toyshop appealed to me all the more because of the maps they featured. Maps which conjured up in visual form the neighbourhood in which the murder took place, giving the storyline an added dimension. 

Now my interests have coalesced in This Deadly Isle, a mystery map of Britain focusing on Golden Age detective fiction. I’ve written the text and the publishers, Herb Lester, have (thankfully!) done the design work. They enlisted the services of an American artist, Ryan Bosse, who was responsible for their earlier map of Agatha Christie’s England, with text by Caroline Crampton. The result is a map that I think is rather gorgeous. A framed version adorns my wall. 

This Deadly Isle came about because, during last winter, I was working long hours on my history of the genre, The Life of Crime. Because that was such an ambitious and extensive project, it risked becoming all-consuming. But I am a strong believer in remaining fresh as a writer, so far as one possibly can. Taking a few breaks in the course of working on a major project helps to keep motivation at a high level and to minimise the risk of staleness, which can so easily feed into one’s writing. Writing introductions for books in the British Library’s Crime Classics series offers breaks of this kind. But during the UK’s winter lockdown, with the pandemic at its height, I craved something different. 

The idea of creating a mystery map came to me as a way of having fun while still ‘keeping my hand in’ as a writer about the genre. To be commissioned to create This Deadly Isle really was a lucky break. The question in my mind at that point was whether to focus merely on mysteries that everyone knows. This approach is tempting, I’m the first to admit. However, in my writing about detective fiction – books like The Golden Age of Murder and The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books – I prefer not to confine myself to writing about ‘the usual suspects’. I relish introducing fellow mystery fans to books and authors they may not previously have considered. 

One obvious downside of this approach may be that some books are very hard to find – and expensive to acquire even if they turn up. But bringing these obscurities to light creates the possibility that a contemporary publisher – the British Library, perhaps, or one of the many presses that have followed its lead in reissuing vintage titles – may decide to bring them back to the shelves at affordable prices. 

So I decided to choose well-known books and also many which are much less familiar. The next challenge was to select titles with a suitable geographic spread. Golden Age mysteries were often set in London or the south east of England, often in mythical villages, towns, and counties. I aimed to cover the whole country, from Guernsey to the north of Scotland, and not forgetting the Isle of Man (yes, I know that technically the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man aren’t part of Britain, but this is a map for fans, not constitutional experts). I wrote roughly one hundred words about each book and the map has a key to the books featuring each location. 

The result is something quite different from the rest of my work in the genre, yet complementary to it. Creating This Deadly Isle was a fun project that carried me merrily through the winter lockdown and I hope it will give pleasure to plenty of fans who share my love of both maps and mysteries. 


Martin Edwards received the CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in UK crime writing, and his other awards include an Edgar and two Macavitys. He is the author of twenty-one novels, including The Girl They All Forgot, his latest Lake District Cold Case Mystery. His other books include The Life of Crime, a ground-breaking history of the genre.’

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