INTERVIEW and EXCERPT
The Punch and Judy Man
by T. J. Walter
T. J. Walter, the author of The Punch and Judy Man, stops by for an interview and to share an excerpt from the book. This promotion is brought to you by Electric Reads.
The remains of a young woman is found in a shallow grave in the shadow of an abandoned tin mine, deep in darkest Cornwall. A pathologist finds her death to have been suspicious. The investigation is put in the hands of DCI Matthew Prior. At first the murder seems to be the work of a broken, half-crazed lover. But the finding of another, similar grave reveals a far more sinister truth. A serial killer is on the loose.
A nationwide hunt ensues. But Prior's investigation is hampered by a preening senior officer, a rabid media and suspected sightings all over the South West. As winter looms there are fears that the killer has gone to ground. But giving up is not a word Prior understands. He drives his team on, seeking the break-through that will reveal the killer's identity.
‘Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.’
James Weldon Johnson.
James Weldon Johnson.
The tiny village of St. Erwin was a quiet place; a tiny spot on the map of Cornwall that time seemed to have passed by. Named for an obscure early saint, it had stood almost unnoticed by the rest of the world for hundreds of years. Two dozen or so small cottages clustered around an old church. It had no shop, no pub, not even a public telephone, just a post box. Even the church no longer functioned as such; when the congregation shrunk to less than twelve it was deconsecrated. The post box was emptied daily at four-thirty pm weekdays only.
Located on one of the network of narrow lanes that criss-crossed the Cornish countryside between Truro and St Austell, it was not on the road to anywhere. The population were mainly elderly as there was little employment thereabouts and nothing to keep the young. It was a close-knit community in which everyone knew everyone else’s business.
Despite its idyllic surroundings the reason for the villages existence was sadly less romantic; it had been built over two hundred years ago to provide homes for the families of the men who worked in the tin mine just a quarter of a mile up the lane. For a time it flourished but the mine ceased operations in 1912 when the rich seams of tin ore in the rocks beneath the ground ran out. All that remains today is the conical, granite chimney of the furnace that once fired the old pump engine and the stone winding house at its base. The engine and all the machinery is long gone; sold years ago for scrap together with everything else of value on the site. Even the entrance door of the building is gone; replaced by a barred iron gate secured with a heavy padlock. All that can be seen through the bars is a large hole in the stone-flagged floor and a rusting iron girder spanning the space above.
Local records in the village went back as far as 1654. That year there had been a fire that burned the old wooden church to the ground, taking with it all the parish records. But records of births, deaths and marriages from that date forward were still stored in the stone church built to replace the old one. These told anyone interested that the population was once three times the size of that in the present day. They show that the population peaked around 1850; then went into deep decline after 1912.
Apart from the opening then closing of the mine and the burning of the old church, nothing of note seemed to have happened in St. Erwin in all the years it had been there. It had no famous sons or daughters and was not the site of any ancient settlement or battle.
Today the chimney of the old mine remains as a local landmark, towering above the surrounding fields and hedgerows. It can be seen from the main road that runs between Truro and St. Austell. During the summer months the occasional car load of tourists on their way to the coastal resorts take a detour and pause to spend a few minutes walking around the site of the old mine. Those that take the trouble are left wondering at the hardships endured by their ancestors simply to earn a bare living.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]
Praise for the Book
"Enjoyed the read. Will look for more from the author." ~ NinaS
Interview With the Author
T. J. Walter joins me today to discuss his new book, The Punch and Judy Man.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Over thirties. In fact the older the better.
What sparked the idea for this book?
During my police career I dealt with many missing persons, some of whom were never found. I often wondered what had happened to them.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The idea for the novel came first.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The hardest part was finding the link between the first two sets of remains found.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope it affects them emotionally. I think a book should stir them. In this case fear, sadness, then eventually joy.
How long did it take you to write this book?
It took approximately three months to write.
What is your writing routine?
Long hand first. I write either in silence or to music. "Chariots of Fire" by Vangelis, for example. Then I revise as I type it onto the computer. And I write when the mood takes me, whatever time it is.
How did you get your book published?
I self-published on Kindle Direct Publishing.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
We tend to concentrate naturally on the creative aspect; it would be silly to do otherwise. But then we need to get our book to the marketplace. This needs just as much thought and effort. Things like proof-reading, the cover design, and the title need careful thought. Kindle is a good medium. The old-fashioned way of making submissions to publishing houses rarely gets one in print these days.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love music and fishing, not necessarily at the same time. I am also blessed with two children and the same number of grandchildren. Spending time with them is precious. I also read a great deal of my rivals' works.
What does your family think of your writing?
To begin with, they indulged me. Until one of my books had a moderate success, they didn't take my writing seriously. Now they encourage me.
That's great. Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
Being born a few months before the start of the World War 2 and living in East London close to the docklands was quite interesting. I managed to get to a place at grammar school, but my family had no tradition of higher education, so university was never an option. Sounds corny, but the university of life gave me a wonderful education. I loved sport and read a lot. I never thought of putting pen to paper in those days.
Probably not the happiest of upbringings, as I always felt I was something of a misfit with ideas above my station. The class system in this country held us back in those days. Thank God that's not quite so bad today.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In my early sixties. Only then did I take a pace back from doing and turned to watching. I began to give serious thought to the meaning of life and began to put down my thoughts. I never seemed to have the time before that.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Very much so, being so conscious of the inequalities of life in England at the time I began my search for justice, and I've never stopped looking. Anyone who reads my works will see how my detectives achieve that justice in fiction.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
John Steinbeck, Nelson DeMille, and Michael Connelly among the Americans. Frederick Forsyth and C. S. Forester among the Brits.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
It is literally just seven weeks since one of my books achieved some success, so I haven't yet gained a following. The comments I've read suggest my readers like the fact that credibility is important to me. Logical plots and believable characters. I welcome the possibility of achieving regular contact with them in the future.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I have tried to cover the whole spectrum of major crimes. So far I've managed to write about drug dealing, protection rackets, money laundering, and a serial killer. Terrorism is next, then a paedophile ring, and an old-fashioned who-dun-it.
Sounds good. Anything else you would like to add?
The huge advantage we have over other species is language and all that brings with it. Communicating with my fellow man is a privilege and a pleasure. Especially when they can’t interrupt my flow. I’m only half-joking. I do look forward to some feedback on my work in the future.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, T. J. Best of luck with your future projects.
About the Author
Once upon a time I was a police officer patrolling the streets of London. Now, long retired, I live on the south coast indulging my passions. Not the ones you may think! My passions are the search for justice; and humour. Justice I found to be somewhat elusive when in the force. Our legal system deals adequately with the small-fry but not infrequently comes sadly adrift when money is thrown at it. My books, although fiction, reflect my passions.
I am the proud father of two talented children. My daughter, Natasha, teaches food nutrition and cooking. My son, Stephen, is an accomplished and acknowledged artist. One of my joys is that one of my son's works provides the cover for my second book, The Body in the River.
My police career culminated in my being sent to South Africa after that country's first democratic elections, to advise Nelson Mandela's government on how to police a democracy. Then I took up writing. My first works were poetry and an autobiography. Then I decided to put the world to rights; in fiction if not in fact. I have written a total of seven full-length crime novels. Publishing had never been a serious option until I discovered Kindle. My first publication, The London Drug Wars, was published July 2015; my second, The Body in the River, was published February 2016; and my third, The Punch and Judy Man, was published April 2016.
My other pastimes are music, world history and fishing. I often listen to music as I write and inspiration occasionally comes from history and whilst sitting beside a lake with a fishing rod in my hand.