Ann Granger was born in Portsmouth where she was a pupil at the then Northern Grammar School for Girls and went from there to London University where she achieved a BA in Modern Languages.
After a period spent first teaching English in France and then working in the Visa Section of British Embassies around the world. She met her husband, who was also working for the British Embassy in Prague. They lived first in Zambia, then Germany before returning to the UK.
She is the author of four series of detective fiction books and has to date written a total of 40 books.
She lives near Oxford.
Lizzie: Ann, when I first met you in 1997, you were the author of ten books featuring Chief Inspector Markby and Consular Officer Meredith Mitchell. You continued with this series until 2004. Although, you had also started a second series in 1997, featuring Fran Varady. Before we get on to talking about Fran, I am interested that your most recent book Deadly Company published this year features Meredith and Markby. What prompted your return to this series after a gap of eighteen years?
Ann: Over the years I had been asked many times for another Mitchell and Markby book. I had missed them too! However, after such a long gap, I had to make them older, facing retirement, but still going strong on the detection. After all, in the very first book, they didn’t even have mobile phones!
Lizzie: I have enjoyed all your books, but my favourite of your series are the Fran Varady books. Can you tell me how nearly homeless Fran came about? Had you met someone in that situation, or did she just jump into your head?
Ann: I have a kind of rag box in my head into which go all sorts of things, seen, overheard, fragments of conversations with strangers. Fran was based on a girl I saw, sitting with her boyfriend, in a pub in Golders Green. I did not speak to her and know nothing about her. But she was striking in appearance. I was particularly impressed by the fishnet tights and Doc Marten boots! She looked self-assured and capable: someone who, if she set herself to tackle a problem, wouldn’t let go until she’d solved it. Eventually she jumped out of the rag box and into print as Fran.
Lizzie: In 2006 you wrote the first Inspector Ben Ross mystery. These mysteries are set in the mid 1800’s. Had you always wanted to write historical fiction? And is this a period that particularly interests you? Ann: Victorian policework has long fascinated me. A police force, as we would recognise it, had been set up. The detectives were brave and determined and enterprising. They needed to be because they had little science to help them. Although it was known that fingerprints were individual, there was at first no way of checking them against records. Scotland Yard did not get its fingerprint department until 1901. The same year saw the first scientific dentification blood groups, in a simple form. So, for the detective of mid nineteenth century, it was ‘dogged as does it.’ The population of the big cities had increased at an amazing rate. Places that had been villages outside of London at the beginning of the century, were now incorporated within the metropolis. Travel that had been restricted by the cost and difficulties at the beginning of the century had been transformed by the railway. No wonder police officers like Ben Ross and his colleagues were run off their feet.
Lizzie: Did you find it more challenging writing stories set in the past? Is there more research required?
Ann: All books need research. It is always fascinating. But it is important not to put everything into a book, just because it is interesting. The writer has to tell him or herself that this is not a history book. This is story, hopefully an intriguing and exciting one. If an interesting fact that turns up but doesn’t have a part to play in the plot; then leave it out.
Lizzie: Your Campbell and Carter mysteries are set in the Cotswolds. And looking at the settings of your first three series I am wondering as you clearly spent much of your working life around Embassies, were you not tempted to set a series in that environment?
Ann: No. In the first book, Say it with Poison, I made Meredith Mitchell a returning consular officer who had been working abroad for quite a while, because after such a long absence, she would notice any little difference in surroundings or people she had hitherto thought she knew quite well. She has a strong sense of responsibility and is resourceful. Her instinct is to find out what is going on and to help. As for Alan Markby, I needed a police presence so invented him. The two characters worked well together, so I kept them as a duo.
Lizzie: What triggers the idea for a new book? Something that you see or read about, or a personal experience ….?
Ann: Really, almost anything. After a while, the writer starts to think in book terms. I was once on a train which came to a halt in the countryside. By the track was a steep bank with trees atop. I thought, well, I could put a body up there… I went to the Chelsea Flower Show on a rainy day. Every visitor wanted to keep dry. The main marquee was packed. I thought, someone could be stabbed in here and would not fall to the ground. People were struggling to reach the exhibits. They were oblivious to all else.
Lizzie: Do you plan your books, or have an idea – start off and see where it takes you? Have you ever started a book knowing who the perpetrator is and changed your mind as the book takes shape?
Ann: I have only once changed my mind as to the murderer’s identity. Generally, I know where I am starting and where I hope to end. In between, a lot changes. Original ideas don’t play out as hoped. New ideas, characters etc, come along.
Lizzie: Are you a disciplined writer i.e., do you write for a certain number of hours each day, or set yourself a target of x amount of words?
Ann: It’s easy to try to do too much in one stint. Walk away from the computer. Have a cup of tea. Come back and read what you wrote before you took a break. Try to see it with fresh eyes.
Lizzie: When embarking on a new book, what area of the book challenges you the most?
Ann: Not giving the game away. One has to play fair with the reader. There are clues in the text. But not too many!
Lizzie: So, what’s next?
Ann: I have just finished a new ‘Victorian’: The Old Rogue of Limehouse. I am not sure what I shall do next. Possibly Campbell and Carter will make another appearance. Perhaps something else?
Books by Ann Granger
Mitchell and Markby
1. Say It With Poison (1991)
2. A Season For Murder (1991)
3. Cold In The Earth (1920)
4. Murder Among Us (1992)
5. Where Old Bones Lie (1993)
6. A Fine Place For Death (1994)
7. Flowers For His Funeral (1994)
8. Candle For A Corpse (1995)
9. A Touch Of Mortality (1996)
10. A Word After Dying (1996)
11. Call The Dead Again (1998)
12. Beneath These Stones (1999)
13. Shades of Murder (2000)
14. A Restless Evil (2002)
15. That Way Murder Lies (2004)
16. Deadly Company (2022)
1. Asking For Trouble (1997)
2. Keeping Bad Company (1997)
3. Running Scared (1998)
4. Risking It All (2001)
5. Watching Out (2003)
6. Mixing with Murder (2005)
7. Rattling the Bones (2007)
Inspector Ben Ross
1. A Rare Interest in Corpses (2006)
aka The Companion
2. A Mortal Curiosity (2008)
3. A Better Quality of Murder (2010)
4. A Particular Eye for Villainy (2012)
5. The Testimony of the Hanged Man (2014)
6. The Dead Woman of Deptford (2016)
7. The Murderer's Apprentice (2019)
8. The Truth-Seeker's Wife (2021)
9. The Old Rogue of Limehouse (2023)
Campbell and Carter Mysteries
1. Mud, Muck and Dead Things (2009)
2. Rack, Ruin and Murder (2011)
3. Bricks and Mortality (2013)
4. Dead In The Water (2015)
5. Rooted In Evil (2017)
6. An Unfinished Murder (2018)
7. A Matter of Murder (2020)
Mystery in the Making (2021)