Introducing Twenty-one-year-old Amy Rowlings, a vivacious, quick-witted collector of imported American music, a movie buff and an avid reader of crime fiction.
January 1939 and the residents of the snow-covered streets of a small Kentish town awake to horrific news.
When young Amy Rowlings meets Detective Sergeant Bodkin at the scene of a robbery on the way to work at The Mill, one snowy, January morning, she is blissfully unaware of how much her life is about to change.
She is drawn into the murky world of murder when the body of Edward Handsley is found lying on the floor of the clothing factory. Edward, a libertine, philanderer, the son of George, the factory owner, a young man with many enemies, many of them female.
Bodkin is new to the area and accepts Amy’s offer to provide local knowledge but she soon becomes an invaluable source of information. When Adam Smethwick is arrested for the murder, Amy, a family friend, is convinced of his innocence and sets out to prove that the detective has arrested the wrong man.
Amy befriends Justine, the young, French fiancé of the elderly George, and soon discovers that it was not all sweetness and light in the Handsley family home. Meanwhile, back at the factory, Amy is sure that the foreman, Mr Pilling, has something to hide.
As the investigation proceeds, Amy finds that her burgeoning relationship with Bodkin is pushed to the limits as the detective becomes even more convinced that he has arrested the right man and while Bodkin relies heavily on the facts as they are presented, Amy has a more nuanced approach to solving the crime, born out of her beloved Agatha Christie books
Murder at the Mill is the first book in a gorgeous 1930’s cosy crime series .
When and where do you prefer to write?
I write virtually every day. If I leave it for more than a week or two, I tend to get lazy and then that little break can last for months. I write on my desktop PC which sits in a space I made under the stairs. I usually write in the afternoon but when I’m in the zone, like yesterday, I will start very early and I can be in the writer’s chair for up to twelve hours with very short breaks for nature’s calls and coffee.
Do you need peace and quiet when you are writing?
It depends what the background noise is to be honest. For instance, I wouldn’t have speech radio or pop music on. (I find pop music stations annoying whether I’m writing or not.) Even Classic FM is out because of the adverts and presenter’s voices. Having said all of that, I’m not a great fan of total silence, as it won’t stay that way for long. Not when you’ve got a cat like Mia who seems to think any spell of silence longer than thirty seconds should be filled with her demands for attention. So, when I’m writing, I stream classical music from my Alexa through my hi-fi, or put a remastered Maria Callas CD on repeat for the entire session. Dvorak, Mozart or Verdi always soothe the soul, leaving me to concentrate on whatever I’m working on. but Maria Callas can sing all day long and my mind will be clear and I’ll be at peace.
If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
Agatha Christie. Firstly, I’m not comparing my books or characters with hers, she was the master of the crime genre and I doubt anyone else will ever come close. The thing is. Agatha wrote concisely. She didn’t go for long convoluted descriptions, it’s all about the plot. Her sentences tended to be short and snappy, you never need a dictionary alongside when you read one of her books, she always wrote in everyday language, as do I. Anyone above fifth grade reading ability will understand what’s happening. Then, of course, there is her forensic knowledge of poisons and their effects on the human body. You wouldn’t need to look any further for advice on that score.
Say someone asks if they can use your name in a book. Would you rather be the ‘good one’ or the ‘bad one’?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. Could I be an antihero? They have the best of both worlds.
Who would you like/have liked to interview?
Author wise, Agatha Christie of course. You would learn so much about the craft of writing. Also, Leslie Thomas, the author of a great many books, including The Virgin Soldiers, Tropic of Ruislip and the Dangerous Davies detective novels. Again, he wrote everyday language but the way he put those words together always left me wanting more. He could have me laughing or crying, sometimes in the same paragraph. Leslie had a very interesting life too. He was a Barnardo boy who made good, as a young man he was conscripted and sent to fight the communist uprising in Malaya, his experiences led to his first novel, The Virgin
Soldiers. Outside of writing I’d love to have interviewed my all-time hero, Brian Clough or one of my all time musical heroes, John Lennon.
Where can I find you when you are reading?
If I’m researching the thirties/forties era that I write so much about, I’ll be on my computer, iPad or sitting on the sofa with one of the paperbacks I use for such purposes. (I have many nonfiction books that explain how the world was at that time.) If I’m reading fiction, it’s always in bed, on my kindle. I read for at least an hour every night.
Where can I find you wen you are not writing/reading?
Watching my team, Nottingham Forest at the World-Famous City Ground or some lesser football club on the TV. I enjoy crime drama and serial killer documentaries. I have a large area of decking out the back where I spend time looking after my many container plants. A lot of my time is spent listening to my extensive record collection. I’ll play anything from The Beatles to Nick Drake, but most of the time you’ll find one of my many Maria Callas CDs on the player. It could be a CD of famous arias or a full-blown opera. I enjoy the theatre and I’ll go to watch Opera North at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham when I can.
What goes through your mind when you hold your new book in your hands for the first time?
A mixture of joy, anticipation and excitement. Books have always and will always make me feel that way. Even if a few of them end up disappointing me, I’ll still feel the same when I open the cover of the next one on the TBR list.
How do you come up with a title for your book?
It differs. Sometimes I have the title in my head before it’s written. I don’t know where that comes from, I’ll be honest, it’s just something that comes into my head when I’m lying in bed at night in that strange dimension between sleep and wakefulness. That’s the place the vast majority of my story ideas come together.
Other times it’s long painful hours listing words that might describe what happens inside the book, then shuffling them around until I find something I like. When I have a shortlist, I telephone my fab, editor Maureen to see what she thinks and we’ll kick things around for a while until we settle on something we like. Unspoken, for instance, was Maureen’s idea, as soon as she said it, I knew that would be the title of the first book in my Family Saga series.
How do you pick a cover for your book?
Until I joined Spellbound Books, I used the services of the incredible cover designer, Jane Dixon-Smith. I’d give her an outline of the story, then she’d go off and find a dozen or so character models and background images which she’d send to me to make my selection from. I’d choose the models that I thought best suited my characters and a scene to set them in, but the magic of fitting them together and conjuring up a cover that made peoplewant to read the book was all down to her. The six book covers she created were given a Catherine Cookson vibe and they were all wonderful.
Spellbound book covers have a quirkier feel to them. Murder at the Mill has an Art-Deco, Agatha Christie feel that fits right in with the era the book is set in. Spellbound’s cover designer, Nikki East, sent me three Art-Deco style images and I chose the one I liked best. As it turned out that my choice was the cover the rest of the Spellbound team preferred too, so it was a unanimous decision in the end.
I can see the cover of the next book in my cosy crime, murder mystery series, Death at the Lychgate having a very similar vibe.
About the author
T A Belshaw is from Derbyshire in the United Kingdom where he shares a house with his chatty rescue cat, Mia. He writes for both children and adults. A former miner and computer technician, Trevor studied Advanced Creative Writing at the Open University. He is the author of Tracy’s Hot Mail, Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail and the noir, suspense novella, Out of Control. Following the sudden death of his wife in 2015 Trevor took a five-year break from writing, returning during lockdown in 2020, when an injury forced him to take time off work. The result of this new creative burst was the Dual Timeline, Family Saga, Unspoken and the Historical Cosy Crime Whodunnit, Murder at the Mill.
Trevor signed his first contract with Spellbound Books Ltd in April 2021. He signed a further mullti-book contract with them in the spring of 2022.
His short stories have been published in various anthologies including 100 Stories for Haiti, 50 Stories for Pakistan, Another Haircut, Shambelurkling and Other Stories, Deck the Halls, 100 Stories for Queensland and The Cafe Lit anthology 2011, 2012 and 2013. He also has two pieces in Shambelurklers Return. 2014
Trevor is also the author of 15 children’s adventure books written under the name of Trevor Forest.
His children’s poem, Clicking Gran, was long listed for the Plough prize (children’s section) in 2009 and his short poem, My Mistake, was rated Highly Commended and published in an anthology of the best entries in the Farringdon Poetry Competition.
Trevor’s articles have been published in magazines as diverse as Ireland’s Own, The Best of British and First Edition.
He is currently working on the sequel to Murder at the Mill, another cosy crime murder mystery set in 1939, Death at the Lychgate.
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/trevorbelshaw