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Tuesday 13 May 2014

Janie Bolitho

In addition to reviews, interviews, reports on conferences and Mystery People events, competitions and Mary Mystery (agony aunt),  the Mystery People monthly e-zine also contains articles on Forgotten Authors, Golden Age Authors and many other crime fiction related topics.  Recently, Lynne Patrick (former publisher) has been contributing articles on authors who have gone before their time.   It has been suggested to me that maybe I could post some of these to my blogspot, so here is the one that appeared in the May issue.  Should anyone like a complimentary copy of the May issue, or any previous issue, please email me

Gone Before Their Time
Janie Bolitho
(1 January 1950 - 3 October 2002)
by Lynne Patrick

It’s something of a clich√© among pundits that authors follow an eclectic working life before, and often during, their writing career, though to the majority of other writers this comes as no surprise. Even among regularly
published novelists, earning a living is frequently a separate endeavour from writing, and can take many different forms.

Cornish crime writer Janie Bolitho worked as a psychiatric nurse, debt collector, tour guide and bookmaker’s clerk in the years before her D I Roper police procedural series allowed her to become a full-time writer. She was mainly published by Allison and Busby, and thus best known to library borrowers. She also attracted the attention of audio book company Isis, and much of her work still exists on tape and CD.

Janie was a West Country woman born and bred, and Cornwall is the setting for much of her work. The books are remarkable for her portrayal of the landscape which was so familiar to her; they fall broadly into the ‘cosy’ sub-genre in that she sidesteps the blood and gore, but there is plenty of action and atmosphere, and they move along at a cracking pace.

I met Janie Bolitho just once, when she attended a weekend workshop I was running in north

Cornwall in the summer of 1996. By then she already had a handful of the Roper police procedurals under her belt, but she still felt she had a lot to learn about the craft of writing, and was eager to build on the knowledge she had acquired.

Janie was keen to contribute to the workshop, and modest about her achievements, though willing to share her experience with the rest of the group, who were understandably intrigued to have a published novelist among their number.  She was about to embark on a second series, this time featuring a female protagonist and  ‘accidental’ sleuth: young widow Rose Trevelyan, an artist and photographer who has retreated to Cornwall for a quiet life after the death of her husband. Since the topic of the weekend workshop was Women Writing For and About Women, I hope it’s fair to say that Janie took something useful away with her.

Her writing career was destined to last only ten years before breast cancer intervened, but they were prolific ones. As well as the twelve Roper novels and seven in the Trevelyan series, she also wrote a handful of more ambitious standalones, dubbed romantic thrillers and published by Constable; and as Jodie Sinclair, she indulged her darker side in a couple of novels published by Piatkus.

When she died she left behind an unusual memorial. A keen football fan, she had been a sponsor of Plymouth Parkway FC, and a year after her death their ground was renamed Bolitho Park in her honour.

Twelve years after her death, remarkably little is known about her life, so her continued popularity might be
regarded as something of a surprise. But thanks to new technology her books are largely still available, some in print, others as eBooks.

Janie’s many fans have set up a website and blog in her honour:

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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