Did you know that Super Ink Arts is headquartered in Hampstead, London? When our editor Amy McLean stumbled upon the Hampstead Murders novel series by Guy Fraser-Sampson, she knew she needed to find out more.
Speaking with the author, she digs a little deeper into what readers can expect from the series, and why Hampstead was chosen as the prime location for crime stories.
There are now five books in your Hampstead Murders series, with the most recent, The House on Downshire Hill, published by Urbane Publications this week. When you sat down to write Death in Profile, the first in the series, did you know you would continue to use Hampstead as a key player in your works?
Yes, very much so. I’ve always envisaged this series as ‘the next Morse’, with Hampstead taking the part of Oxford.
What is it about Hampstead that lends itself to your stories?
I discovered Hampstead while I was a student at King’s College London and realised straight away that I had found my spiritual home. It’s a unique blend of elegance, culture, and eccentricity.
Back then it was populated by teachers, writers, artists, and actors, but these days it's mostly hedge fund managers and investment bankers, a social transition to which various characters in the books refer.
When we consider true crime in Hampstead over the years - not least of all the role it played as the setting for the separate murders executed by the final two women to be hanged in the United Kingdom - would you say it has quite a notorious history?
Yes, that’s interesting, isn’t it? You can still see the bullet holes around the front door of the ‘Magdala’ by the way, marking Ruth Ellis’s various failed attempts to shoot her lover before she got it right. These days it’s a pretty safe place, I think, though my new book was inspired by a real life murder from a fewer years ago.
You've described your style as being somewhere betwixt "gory noir and cosy crime"; could you tell me a little more about the type of journey readers can expect to find in the Hampstead Murders novels?
The Hampstead Murders are contemporary stories but written in the spirit of the Golden Age. If you like Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh or any of their contemporaries then these books are for you. That means that there is no swearing or explicit sex, for example, though there is plenty of off-stage hanky-panky!
Are the novels closely connected, or can they be read by new readers as standalone works?
They are much more of a serial than a series, particularly as regards the characters’ private lives, so they are best read in order.
How dark is the bloodstain left upon Hampstead in your novels?
I remember Colin Dexter once saying that by his reckoning he had killed off a significant portion of the population of Oxford. If you include only those fatalities that occur within Hampstead itself then I think my body count is still just 6, so the good people of Hampstead have little to fear – so far, anyway.
Do you think you'll continue to utilise all Hampstead has to offer? Can we expect further stories in the Hampstead Murders series?
Oh, yes. I always said that I would write at least six, so that means one more next year sometime. Beyond that it’s probably a question of sales and (who knows?) TV rights.
Amy McLean was talking to Guy Fraser-Sampson about The House on Downshire Hill, the latest novel in his Hampstead Murders series. You can find out more about the author's work on Twitter, and through Urbane Publications.