CLAY THE 15th - JUDGMENT CLAY.
Judgment Clay was released by MX Publishing on May the 15th, the latest in the series of humorous mysteries featuring York private investigator Bernie Quist.
A modern-day Sherlock Holmes, the eccentric Quist operates as a consultant detective from an office on Baker Avenue in York. His assistant is Watson, although this Watson is a streetwise youth from the Grimpen council estate and he's definitely no doctor. The mismatched duo take on bizarre cases which invariably lead into the realms of the supernatural, a shadowy world that, thanks to his dark secret, Quist is all too familiar with.
In Judgment Clay the north of England has a new political group headed by the charismatic Dominic Churchill. Popular with the tabloid press, the White Rose Party are outwardly similar to the Yorkshire Party and other regionalist organisations, campaigning for Yorkshire independence, fairer wages and pensions, and the adoption of Yorkshire Pudding as Britain’s national dish. Unfortunately, white is the appropriate word for this bunch, and their amiable façade conceals a far right group with a sinister racist agenda. Watson’s Jewish girlfriend has been attacked by Churchill’s paid thugs and Quist is determined to expose these white supremacists and end their rise to power.
The detective soon realises that Churchill and his people have been targeted by someone else, a highly dangerous individual with a terrifying supernatural weapon. This man also plans to end White Rose, but his idea of ending is a touch more homicidal and gruesome.
A dark and very peculiar game is afoot…
As usual, the story is set in York, one of my favourite cities and a place which rivals Prague, Vienna, Krakow and Saltsburg for architectural beauty and medieval splendour. Every stroll through the cobbled streets and snickleways is a stroll through history, with each turn bringing you face-to-face with Elizabethan ramparts, Tudor buildings and ancient taverns.
York is the perfect setting for these Quist supernatural mysteries and I’ve attempted to use it as an actual character, in the same way that the Morse and Rebus novels breathe life into Oxford and Edinburgh. The Shambles, the Minster and the circuit of walls are all visited in Judgment Clay, but there are many other places that local readers will know: the King’s Arms inn by the river, for example, and the York Dungeon chamber of horrors.
The little port of Whitby features prominently in Judgment Clay too, along with the coastal resort of Scarborough, where Quist has a peculiar meeting with a seafront clairvoyant and deals with a grisly murder in the Grand Hotel.
The market town of Beverley is also visited and the mystery surrounding the legend of the Barmston Drain werewolf is finally solved, albeit solved with tongue firmly in cheek.
One of the main characters in Judgment Clay is a female firefighter based at the Kent Street station in York. I spent three decades with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, but this is the first time I’ve used my insider knowledge in a novel. Some of the incidents and officers described are based on real life episodes and people from my career and there are cynical looks at government spending cuts, brigade policies and some of the officers who slavishly obey these policies no matter what. Names and places have obviously been changed to, er, protect against litigation, but many fire service readers will laugh and nod knowingly.
I joined the fire service in January 1986, too late for the York Minster blaze of July 84, but that was a North Yorkshire fire and my station wouldn’t have been called. That night was very like the recent Notre Dame tragedy. I know people who were on duty and their stories of molten roof lead gushing down like lethal waterfalls never had me yearning to be there with them.
Judgment Clay is available from Amazon, Waterstones and all other book outlets, including the Book Depository (who always offer free delivery).
So why not settle down with a paperback and a cold beer? Could there be a better way to spend a summer evening? Well, yes - playing naked Twister with a slightly drunk and giggly Eva Green, but let's be realistic here.