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Murder On Tour

Ghosted - buy this title from


  buy this title from

One fine day, out on a jog through the woods that surround our house in Wales, I was thinking about funerals, as you do. I have reached an age where I seem to go to more funerals than weddings, and the pattern has become horribly familiar. Not just the beautiful music and the heartfelt readings, but the short addresses and encomiums read by friends and family. Indeed, I had been asked to do my own short encomium at two such recent funerals, one, tragically, of a friend who had committed suicide.

My thoughts drifted on, and I started to muse about my own funeral. Who would come? What would they say about me? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know. Wonderful to know. And how would things go on at the wake, when the drinks went down, and the blanket praise of the service began to degenerate and critical remarks and opinions slowly crept in, as they so often do. ‘I did love him, but …’ ‘I shouldn’t say this now, but he could be awfully...’

Before I knew it, I had the plot I’d been looking for for my next whodunnit, which had, for publishing reasons (see Biography) to be a standalone. What if I began with a funeral, that of my new protagonist, who was observing the proceedings in ghostly form, eavesdropping and commenting on the service, the addresses, and the remarks at the wake. Couldn’t that be a lot of fun?

I ran home and got straight down to it, writing a draft of the opening funeral scene in a couple of mornings. Other plot elements quickly followed. Adam (my ghost hero)’s death was thought by his friends to be a suicide. He knew he wasn’t. Ergo, he must have been murdered. I had a whodunnit structure, only with the victim as the detective.

The rest of the plot came in bits and pieces. My suspects were clearly going to be my hero’s family and close friends. A business partner perhaps. Before I knew it, I had the character of Adam, an architect who had just been pushed out of his own firm by his business partner Jeff. With a first wife, a second wife and a mistress, not to mention a sister and a mother, and some issues over the inheritance, I had my roster of people with motives.

Despite the ease of the conception, getting the draft right took ages. The original version, entitled Survivor Takes All, had Adam making friends with other existing ghosts, who advised him how to negotiate the spectral world. The key one was a twenty-something who had been killed in a car crash and went in for confusing shape-shifting, appearing at times as a black gym instructor and an old Greek lady.  There was even a spooky DCI, who took charge of the murder enquiry in the second half.

My agent put paid to these characters. She loved the book, she said, but there were too many ghosts. Would I consider cutting them, leaving just those who died as the story progressed? This opinion tied in with remarks from another of my trusted beta readers, so I took the plunge and performed major surgery on the (rather overlong) manuscript.

As always with such work, I was nervous when I finished. Had I murdered one too many darlings? But with the agent’s enthusiasm for the new version, I stayed with it. If nothing else, I thought, it had a highly original plot.  Then, just as it was about to be sent out to publishers, this same beta reader friend sent me over a link - about the brand new winner of the Booker Prize, no less.  The Seven Moons of Mali Almeida. Plot: a dead photographer has a week, as a ghost, to solve the mystery of his own death. So much for originality.

Luckily this coincidence didn’t stop us finding a publisher for Ghosted, as it had now become. Even better, one who wanted to republish all the Francis Meadowes stories and then issue the shelved fourth, Murder on Tour. So it was a happy result all round.  And as the nice Amazon reviews started to come in, I was finally content with the removal of the extra ghosts. Yes, that had been the right decision. This was an altogether cleaner, easier, hopefully funnier read.

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