Ann Cleeves, bestselling author of crime novels and creator of characters, like Vera Stanhope, that are now familiar to millions more through their TV adaptions, was interviewed on Open Book on BBC Radio 4 a few days ago.
She talked about the earliest years of her marriage, living on the remote Hilbre Island in the Dee Estuary. The island is accessible on foot across sand and mud at low tide.
I caught it whilst driving up to the Peak District on Sunday and made a mental note to listen again. Here is a transcript of the part of the interview that made my ears prick up. You’ll see why.
“Islands are a great place to set stories, especially if you write the kind of traditional detective fiction that I do. Because they are classic enclosed communities, only the people who are on the island could have committed the murder.
It brought us very close together because we had to depend on each other and there were dark times and foggy times as well… I thought I knew the path to the mainland so well that I got a bit blasé and one day I remember going out in thick fog and getting very lost and very scared and… saw my footprints in the sand and I realised that I was just walking round and round in circles and that the tide was coming in and.. once, I just heard a dog bark and realised that that was the mainland and just headed for the barking dog and got there. So it was a time, I suppose, of drama, which is brilliant if you’re going to be a crime writer.”
Fans, like me, will be urging Ann to take care on foggy islands in future, lest the dogs go quiet!