A Clear Conscience:
A Helen West Mystery
(Helen West #5)
Mystery, Crime, Thriller
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Witness Impulse, an imprint of HarperCollins
Event organized by: Literati Author Services, Inc.
Helen West, Crown prosecutor in domestic violence court, is working up a good case of burnout: justice-by-the-book doesn’t seem to be working for the women she represents. Plus, Helen’s love affair with Police Superintendent Geoffrey Bailey is losing its fire. Things suddenly heat up when Helen learns that humble Cath, her cleaning woman, is being beaten by her husband. Cath has no family-her beautiful brother, Damien, has recently been brutally murdered-and needs all the help she can get. But as the truth of Cath’s young life, marriage, and her brother’s murder begin to take shape, help and justice seem hard to come by . . . and may prove forever beyond reach.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE MYSTERY GENRE, OR DID IT CHOOSE YOU?
The mystery genre chose me rather than the other way round. Always wanted to write from the days of composing gloomy, teenage poetry and winning the essay prize in school, but it took a while to know what to write about. I became a criminal lawyer, with a wild ambition to write romance as an antidote to the daily diet of homicide, theft and lives of quiet desperation.
I came to write mystery fiction because I wanted to explore the unfinished, incomplete stories that unfold in a court room, where no one knows more than half of what really went on. Storytelling, the use of compassionate imagination, penetrates the darkness and squares the circle of half truth like nothing else.
It also allows for wit, humour, irony and romance, and you can always include the enduring power of love, in which I heartily believe. This genre is the best. What better to write about than Crime and Redemption?
WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED PAINTING, ETC
Don’t get me talking about paintings, or you’ll be here a while. I’ve collected oil paintings, sketches and drawings for as long as I can remember, and every time a book or a short story is produced, I find something new. The latest one enchants me. It’s a small oil sketch, painted circa 1890 by a British artist not known and depicts a woman wearing either a dressing gown or a kimono, sitting at table, reading by the light of a shaded oil lamp that throws a huge shadow of her head against the wall behind. She is entirely unconscious of the shadow, or her own beauty: she is not posing, but is entirely unselfconscious and absorbed in her book. The painting glows in the dark and is utterly serene. Which I am not. I like her so much, I get up in the night to look at her.
WHAT’S THE TOUGHEST CRITICISM YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
From the first Agent to whom I sent a full-length script, these lines; ‘We could be in business here, if only you delete all the introspective crap and cut it down by a third.’
She was right. I cried for three days and then did it. The story is all that matters. I have kept mine lean every since. They aren’t about me; they are about my characters.
WHERE’S THE BEST PLACE TO FIND INSPIRATION?
The Sea, the Sea, always the Sea. Many of my books feature the Sea. My writer’s work room faces the English channel. It’s inspiration and distraction, I breathe alongside it, fear it and love it. Only problem is, every time I hear a dog bark or steps on the shingle, I’m up there, looking out, so the bulk of the work is done after dark, in winter, to the sound of it. The sea laughs and cries and twinkles like an old flirt on a good day, roars otherwise, I might do the same, sometimes,
TEN ITEMS ON YOUR WRITING DESK
Postits, always yellow, with reminders of things for chapter X, covered in shorthand I might not understand the next day.
Pens, many. One favourite coloured purple, alongside,
A bottle of blue/ black ink.
The computer screen, of course, framed with postits.
A box of mints.
An e- cigarette for emergencies.
Above the desk, a painting of children playing on the beach, circa 1910.
A cup of tea, refreshed every hour until,
It is replaced with a large glass of wine and
A bowl of potato crisps.
TEN DRINKS YOU WOULD LIKE TO TRY
Ten varieties of fine Californian wine that we never get a chance to try in the UK.
About the Author
I grew up in rural Derbyshire, but my adult life has been spent mostly in London, with long intervals in Norfolk and Deal, all inspiring places. I was educated mostly in convent schools; then studied English and went on to qualify as a solicitor, working for what is now the Crown Prosecution Service, thus learning a bit about murder at second hand. Years later, writing became the real vocation, although the law and its ramifications still haunt me and inform many of my novels.
I’m a novelist, short story writer for magazines and radio, sometime Radio 4 contributor, (Front Row, Quote Unquote, Night Waves,) and presenter of Tales from the Stave. When I’m not working (which is as often as possible), I can be found in the nearest junk/charity shop or auction, looking for the kind of paintings which enhance my life. Otherwise, with a bit of luck, I’m relaxing by the sea with a bottle of wine and a friend or two.
Connect with the Author:
Ten free downloads of A Clear Conscience. Winner must have access to Bluefire Reader and have an Adobe account to receive free download.