MURDER BY THE BARREL
Series: Libby Sarjeant series number 18 (can be read as a standalone)
Genre: Cosy crime
Release Date: 5th October
Publisher: Accent Press
When the village of Steeple Martin announces its first beer festival, the locals are excited. Beer, sun and music, what could possibly go wrong?
But when an unexpected death shakes the village, it’s up to Libby Sarjeant and friends to solve the puzzle.
Was it just another rock star death or is there something more sinister afoot?
The importance of a Good Title
Titles. Yes. Well, I don’t exactly pick mine. When I started the first Libby Sarjeant book – not that I knew it was the first – I called it Past Imperfect. My publisher said would anybody Get It. Eh? Do people actually know about Tenses these days? Of course, I said. I mean, you get taught them in Latin and French, as well as English Grammar. She looked at me pityingly. So I went home and asked my adult children, one of who I had just seen graduating from Uni, what they thought. They didn’t look pitying, they looked scornful.
So, my publisher said, how about Murder In Steeple Martin? The story does what it says on the tin. Oh – and please could it be a series? And so there we were. Murder has been the non-negotiable part of the title ever since. The next was easy – Murder at The Laurels, about an old lady being disposed of in a retirement home. The third, well, that was fairly easy, too, as it was set in panto season – so Murder In Midwinter it became. After that it got more difficult. Sometimes I, my editor or one of my children would come up with a blinding title which would then require me to fit a story around it. Other times an idea would be suggested – usually by my elder son – which would mean searching around for a title to fit. The one concerning a ukulele group, for instance, I wanted a quote I could misappropriate, and eventually settled on Murder Out Of Tune, a misquote from Othello. I finally managed to shoehorn “Imperfect” in as Murder Imperfect, the seventh in the series. One which I’ve always loved was when my elder daughter said, while we were watching the May Day parade here in our home town, “That would be great for a murder, Mum.” Our parade, like many others all over the country, is led by a Jack In The Green, a huge wire cage smothered in greenery with a hapless man inside, who is frequently fed beer to keep him going. I saw the possibilities in this immediately and the title was obvious: Murder In The Green.
A couple of years ago, we decided to start another series set in an Edwardian seaside concert party, an idea borne out of an original musical libretto I wrote for the British Music Hall Society, and further used as a back story in Murder In Midwinter. I had no idea where to start with this, so I asked the four children. (I say children – they are all adults. I think.) We had a hilarious Messenger conversation and ended up with Death Plays A Part. Should have realised. Now we’re stuck with Death. So the follow up, after another conversation with the kids, was Entertaining Death and very soon I shall have to think up another one.
Meanwhile, following elder son’s suggestion of a village beer festival setting, Murder By The Barrel is the latest title, out now. And the next one I only have myself to blame. Fired up by all the Shakespearean celebrations last year, a title burst into my head like a rocket: Murder And The Glovemaker’s Son. I emailed it to my publisher and editor, they both loved it and lo! It will be Libby 19. But I had to think of a plot to fit. It has taken me MONTHS! Thought it up – couldn’t make it work. Thought some more. Wrote another outline. And so it went on. I think I’ve got it now, so watch this space.
And, of course, we have to have another conversation about the third Edwardian book. It’s a time consuming business, you know.
ABOUT LESLEY COOKMAN
Lesley Cookman writes the Libby Sarjeant Mysteries and the Edwardian mystery series, The Alexandrians. She has a varied background as a model, an air stewardess (when it was posh), a nightclub DJ (in a silver sparkly catsuit), editor of a Music Hall magazine, The Call Boy, a magazine called The Poulty Farmer, and pantomime writer and director. She lives on the Kent coast and has four grown up children who are variously musicians and writers, two grandchildren and two cats, not necessarily in that order.
An ecopy of Murder by The Barrel