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Thursday 1 March 2018

Peter Tickler

Carol Westron talks with Peter Tickler

Having started his writing career with the successful, non-fiction book
The Modern Mercenary, Peter Tickler moved on to write detective fiction and thrillers.
Peter has lived in Oxford for over 30 years and explains that

‘it is the side streets, the sense of local community, and water ways of non-tourist
Oxford that I love.’
 It is this Oxford in which he has chosen to set his novels.

Carol: Most of your novels are set in Oxford and I understand that you were a student in the city and have spent much of your adult life there. It seems that Oxford has influenced your writing. Where were you born and brought up and has that also influenced your writing?
Peter: I was born and brought up in rural Lincolnshire, a farmer’s son. I can’t say I have wanted to set my fiction in any similar community, but one day I might! I think one thing my early upbringing did do was to cause me to read a lot. I devoured Enid Blyton and Rosemary Sutcliffe and through them and other discovered the joy of a good tale well told.

Carol:   You had your first short piece of writing accepted for publication when you were just eighteen, for which you were paid £20. Had you always known you wanted to be a writer?
Peter:    Not in the sense of “writer” in quotation marks. But it did give me the confidence to think that I could write something which others might enjoy.

Carol: Your first published book was the successful non-fiction book The Modern Mercenary. What captured your interest regarding this subject and how did you set about the research?
Peter: As a classicist, I got very interested in mercenaries in the ancient world, but the publisher I approached encouraged me to consider the twentieth century as he felt there was a gap in the market.  And he was right. As for research, I read books by mercenaries who fought in the Congo and Angola, but I also tried to contact mercenaries directly. Not easy. I even tried an advert in the personal columns of The Times. In the end, it was the personal stuff I got from the people who responded which really gave the book its edge. I wasn’t interested in the mere military stuff, but in what these guys thought they were doing and how they were recruited. 

Carol: You have written three police procedurals, Blood on the Cowley Road, Blood in Grandpoint and Blood on the Marsh, all set in the environs of Oxford. How rigorously do you stay with the accurate
geographical and architectural features of Oxford? Do you improvise and place things where you need them for your story?
Peter: I do try to be very true to Oxford. What is the point of setting a novel in a real place and then changing everything? Of course, I make up places (not least to avoid libel!) and I have been known to move car parks a mile or so to suit my story. But the interesting thing is that if everything else is accurate, people barely notice.

Carol: Tell us a bit about your writing process. Are you a writer who plots in detail before you start writing or do you prefer to explore where the story and characters take you?
Peter: In an ideal world, I would have a fully formed plot-line in place and a fully featured group of characters ready to drive the story along. But I have never reached that Eutopia! I usually have a very strong idea of the beginning, but getting to the end can be a tortuous journey, with a few dead-ends en route.

Carol: Continuing with the theme of characters, your main protagonist in the Blood in Oxford books is Detective Inspector Susan Holden, an aggressive woman with anger-management issues. What are Holden’s positive characteristics that make her a successful cop?
Peter: Determination and a pretty incisive brain.

Carol: I have read that you are a great fan of Oxford United Football Club. Does Oxford United and football feature in your books?
Peter:    Oh, yes. I have scenes set in the OUFC football stadium, OUFC fans being murdered and a string of
solicitors who happen to have the same surname as Oxford players I have watched.

Carol:   I love The Girl Who Stole the Apple. Everything about it is great – the title, the incredible opening scene and the fast-paced, tense plot. Have you got any more crime thrillers in the pipeline?
Peter:    I’m glad you enjoyed it. I do have an idea for one, but I am not sure if/when it will see the light of day. My next (sixth) book is due out in October and centres on private investigator Doug Mullen, who appeared in my fourth book (Dead in the Water). The big question for me now is will number seven be a thriller or another Doug Mullen mystery.

Carol: You do a large number of speaking engagements every year and have even, brave man that you are, twice been a Guest Chevalier with The Deadly Dames. Do you know how many events you speak at each year? What do you enjoy most about these speaking engagements?
Peter: Maybe seven or eight. I am currently pretty popular in the Oxfordshire Federation of WIs, and I have always made a point of supporting libraries. I have a couple of festivals lined up for this year too. I love talking! I love engaging with the audience. I try to get my audience involved, which can be risky at times, but usually we all have a lot of fun. 

Carol: In your advice to novice writers, you have told them to read a lot. Who are your favourite authors?
Peter: Kate Atkinson is my stand-out favourite currently. Both her crime novels (Case Histories for example) and her more recent books. She is a brilliant stylist and story teller. I try to read crime quite widely, but of course Agatha Christie was the woman who got me hooked! And I devoured Daphne du Maurier when younger.

Carol: To wind up, please tell us a bit about yourself and your hobbies.
Peter:    Not much to tell. Gardening, film, theatre, Oxford United, children and grandchildren, writing and travel. I also do a little bit of work in the mental health field. Oh yes, I almost forgot: there is some home decorating awaiting me!

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats, the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her latest book Strangers and Angels published 28 November 2017 is set in Victorian England.  Also published in 2017 is her fourth novel in her scene of Crimes Series Karma and the Singing Frogs.  

To to read a review of Karma and the Singing Frogs, click on the title

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