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Thursday, 15 August 2019

Stephen Booth - His new book published today.

‘Drowned Lives by Stephen Booth
Published by Sphere, 
15 August 29019.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-7628-3 (HB)

When the author of a favourite series turns his hand to something different, there are sure to be mixed reactions. But fans of Stephen Booth's Cooper and Fry need have no qualms: his sideways move to the canals of the south midlands is up there with the best of the Peak District series.

Apart from cracking good plots, Booth's novels seem to specialize in two things: repairing damaged souls, and bringing locations to such realistic life that you feel as if you're there. In Drowned Lives, his protagonist Chris Buckley drinks too much and has lost his sense of adventure after a repressed childhood and a succession of personal misfortunes and disappointments. So, when he is approached by an elderly man seeking help in mending an old family feud, his first reaction is to back away.

But fate intervenes, and Chris finds himself not only looking into the historical origins of the feud but also trying to solve a murder which the police have written off as a hit-and-run accident. Needless to say, things prove very complicated, in the past as well as the present, and both help and hindrance come from some unexpected quarters.

Booth assembles as varied a cast of characters as in any of the Peak District series, and some turn out to be quite different from the initial image they present. I especially enjoyed the spiky relationships between Chris Buckley and the opposite sex, mainly (but far from exclusively) his assertive neighbour Rachel and snooty Caroline Longden. Even minor players, like slightly smarmy MP Lindley Simpson and DC Hanlon with her detective's suspicious mind, leave a lasting impression.

For readers familiar with Stephen Booth's vivid evocation of the Peak District, his equally detailed conjuring of the canals around Lichfield and the unique juxtaposition of ancient and modern in the city itself will come as no surprise. This almost tactile background, with its narrowboats, overgrown banks and wealth of history, gives the novel a richness and texture that raises it far above the mainstream of crime fiction.

The underlying mystery and the moments of high drama place the novel firmly in the crime genre, but the mix of ingredients adds up to far more. There are elements of history, a romance strand, even a touch of coming-of-age (even though Chris Buckley is in his thirties!). Drowned Lives is Stephen Booth at the top of his game. 
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick 

Stephen Booth was born in the English Pennine mill town of Burnley. He was brought up on the Lancashire coast at Blackpool, where he attended Arnold School. He began his career in journalism by editing his school magazine, and wrote his first novel at the age of 12. After graduating from City of Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham University), Stephen moved to Manchester to train as a teacher, but escaped from the profession after a terrifying spell as a trainee teacher in a big city comprehensive school.  Starting work on his first newspaper in Wilmslow, Cheshire, in 1974, Stephen was a specialist rugby union reporter, as well as working night shifts as a sub-editor on the Daily Express and The Guardian. This was followed by periods with local newspapers in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. He was at various times Production Editor of the Farming Guardian magazine, Regional Secretary of the British Guild of Editors, and one of the UK's first qualified assessors for the NVQ in Production Journalism.  Freelance work began with rugby reports for national newspapers and local radio stations. Stephen has also had articles and photographs published in a wide range of specialist magazines, from Scottish Memories to Country lovers Magazine, from Cat World to Canal and Riverboat, and one short story broadcast on BBC radio. In 1999, his writing career changed direction when, in rapid succession, he was shortlisted for the Dundee Bool Prize and the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger competition for new writers, then won the £5,000 Lichfield Prize for his unpublished novel The Only Dead Thing, and signed a two-book contract with HarperCollins for a series of crime novels.  In 2000, Stephen's first published novel, Black Dog, marked the arrival in print of his best-known creations - two young Derbyshire police detectives, DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry. Black Dog was the named by the London Evening Standard as one of the six best crime novels of the year - the only book on their list written by a British author. In the USA, it won the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel and was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Mystery. The second Cooper & Fry novel, Dancing with the Virgins, was shortlisted for the UK's top crime writing award, the Gold Dagger, and went on to win Stephen a Barry Award for the second year running.  The publication of Blind to the Bones that year resulted in Stephen winning the Crime Writers' Association's 'Dagger in the Library' Award, presented to the author whose books have given readers most pleasure. There are now 18 books in the series. All are set in England's beautiful and atmospheric Peak District.

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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