The Quad tales don’t form a serial. Each of the seven books stands alone in the sense that there is a new mystery in every one. I can understand that the set-up might puzzle new readers though. For a start, there are a lot of protagonists to get one’s head around. Not only are they all male, their ages are similar! To offer a reference point, I try to identify who’s who quite early on. Then I cross my fingers and hope that people will keep on reading. All will become clear. (More hope!) But that sort of confusion could occur in a single, one-off book. The difference with writing a series is that time moves on. There is bound to be change.
Life has changed in Tunhead, the Quad’s little hamlet in the Durham hills of northeast England. Phil lives there now. He didn’t in Book 1. He and Raith are married now. They weren’t at first. Mike is no longer a cop. Nick wasn’t on the scene…Readers who arrive in Tunhead late aren’t familiar with the background. To help, I always include some ‘facts’. I know that doing so might irritate returning readers, but I try not to be too repetitious and I try to work the information in as naturally as possible. So, in A Right To Know, I had Mike provide some history during a lengthy chat with Lewis, Phil’s teenage son. They’re walking to a seat near Tunhead Quarry… (BOTWAC. The Beck on the Wear Arts Centre. The Wear is a river, ‘beck’ a local word for ‘stream’.)
“I bought Number One, not Ross,” he said, when they had sat down. “Did it up. I’d been here about six months when I met Ross on a case. Some work had been stolen from a gallery he worked at in Durham. We got together and, not long after, he moved in. That’s when we started callin’ the house ‘Cromarty’. Ross and Cromarty—they’re counties in Scotland. Next to each other. The names go together, a bit like fish and chips. Ross came into some money—an inheritance—and that’s how BOTWAC started. Bought his own gallery in Gateshead. Between us we bought the other buildin’s—I mean, you’d have to be daft to want a holiday home in a damp old place like this; we got them for next to nuthin’. We refurbished them and rented them out to artists, sorry, artisans, Ross knew. As you said, Raith was one. He wasn’t with Phil at the time, but I knew Phil. I met Phil a long time ago and, then, I met him again. Cuttin’ the story short, we all ended up together, but Cromarty was far too small to house four men and when the next-door tenant left, instead of re-lettin’, we or rather I knocked it through.”
The only part of this that really registered was “I knew Phil.”
“How did you know Phil?”
“I met him originally in a hospital.” Mike skipped the details—they were painful, still, after all the years between—and went quickly on to the next time they’d met. “Second time, in a hospital again. Warbridge. I was there in an official capacity, as they say. We recognised each other and got talkin’. It was winter. Winter lanes up here are treacherous especially at night. I started stayin’ at his place in Warbridge. For safety. Things went from there.”
Lewis said nothing for a minute. He wasn’t wholly comfortable with the turn the conversation had taken, but he was curious and in no way phobic.
“So Phil came to Tunhead because of you, not because of Raith?” he asked diffidently.
“Initially, yes. He’ll tell you if you ask him, you know.” ©Jude Tresswell
Having Mike provide some details was my means of furnishing some background in as natural a way as possible. If you are kind enough to buy A Right To Know, I hope you find that the strategy works for you. Of course, you could start at Book 1…!
Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts