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The Sirens of Suspense




Edward Marston was born and brought up in Wales. He read Modern History at Oxford then lectured in the subject for three years before becoming a full-time freelance writer.

His first historical mystery, The Queen's Head, was published in 1988, launching the Nicholas Bracewell series.

Marston has worked as an actor and director, and once ran his own professional fringe theatre company. He has also taught drama in a prison and worked as a story editor for a film company at Pinewood.

He has written over forty original plays for radio, television and the theatre, and hundreds of episodes of drama series. But he now concentrates on developing the various series of crime novels that have come from his pen. He also writes under the pseudonyms of Conrad Allen, and Keith Miles

Edward is the International Guest of Honor at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach (sign up today!).

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As a freelance writer, you’re both office boy and boss. Having a strong work ethic, I’m an ideal employee, ready to burn the midnight oil without complaint. As an employer, however, I’m a black-hearted tyrant, always demanding more. The office boy writes the books, the boss maintains standards and delivers the goods on time. The partnership works somehow.

I grew up in a rough neighbourhood in the capital city of Wales. Going to Oxford from such a background was a huge culture shock. Having done everything for myself in the past, I now had a scout (manservant) to look after me. My ruling passions were sport and theater. If I wasn’t out on the playing field, I’d be onstage somewhere. My first outing was in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, directed by a brilliant young student, Ken Loach, who went on to win major awards for his films. When I directed a play at the Oxford Playhouse, the cast included Michael Johnson, later to achieve acclaim in Hollywood as Michael York.

Even when they were undergraduates, you could pick out the future stars. Another one I knew was the genius, Stephen Hawking, clearly destined for an extraordinary career. But the heady intellectual life of Oxford was only temporary. During the three-months of every summer vacation, I worked in the local steel works, enjoying the delights of being a crane fitter’s mate or a pattern maker or helping to unload steel billets from a railway wagon. I learned different things there.

After three years as a lecturer, I became a full-time dramatist, writing plays for radio, TV and the stage. I also worked as a story editor for a film company. It was all good experience but it was only when I turned to mysteries that I felt completely at home. Having grown up in a high-crime environment, I knew a lot of villains. One of them lived next door. When I left Oxford, I taught drama at a prison and had the misfortune to be there the night before an execution. The atmosphere was electric. With the aid of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I was able to take my students’ minds off the situation for a couple of hours. Drama was a blessed escape.

My first mysteries featured golf, a game I played for years with devastating lack of success. On the printed page, however, I was a champion. And by setting the six books in different countries, I had an excuse to take my golf clubs to Scotland, the San Fernando Valley, Australia, Japan, Bermuda and Hawaii, combining research with pleasure. It’s a great game for building character and teaching you humility.

As a Welshman, of course, I lived and breathed rugby, a game that is all about good decision-making. Make the wrong one and you get hurt – badly, sometimes. You learn to react instinctively. My claim to fame was that I possessed more teeth than the rest of the team combined. Before every game, watches, billfolds and dentures were handed over to the coach for safekeeping. Nowadays I keep fit by playing tennis and by dancing (ballroom and Latin).

Loving theater and having majored in History, I started writing the Nicholas Bracewell series about an Elizabethan troupe in the 1590’s. Research took me all over Europe and included a visit to the castle of Elsinore. Hamlet is one of the world’s greatest plays but it was obvious that Shakespeare never went to Denmark. Had he done so, there were features of Elsinore castle that he couldn’t have resisted using. Shakespeare was my first love. At a theater in Phoenix, Arizona, I once watched the scene in which Polonius is killed then had to deliver a critique on the performance and decide if Hamlet should be prosecuted for murder. Polonius was played by Billy Connolly – a daunting man to follow onstage.

Once I have a series up and running, I always try to work on a new one. While the Bracewell mysteries continued, I wrote about the crimes surrounding the compilation of the Domesday Book by William the Conqueror. Next came six architectural mysteries about the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666. Under the name of Conrad Allen, I wrote a series about crimes on ocean liners of the Edwardian age. Overlapping with that were the Railway Detective novels, exploring villainy on Victorian railroads. When my hero, Inspector Robert Colbeck, was well established, I began a series set on the Home Front during the First World War, drawing on tales that my grandfathers – who both fought in it – had told me.

There’s a lot of research involved but it always throws up wonderful ideas. Moving from one period of history to another keeps you on your toes. I’ve also delved into adventure, writing five novels about the campaigns of the Duke of Marlborough; and two about the War of American Independence –Saratoga and Valley Forge – under the pseudonym of David Garland. Visiting the site on a freezing cold day, gave me some idea of what the troops endured at Valley Forge.

Writing has always been a compulsion and mysteries are my favorite genre. Many moons ago, I discovered the wonderful world of mystery bookstores in the U.S. It’s always a delight to visit one of them and come away with titles by American authors I admire. Reading good mysteries makes you want to write them. The challenge of the blank page is always there and nothing matches the excitement of starting a new series. In fact, I’m just about to do that. It’s set in…

Sorry, folks, you’ll just have to wait. Thanks for your company.





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