Hello, everyone. I’ve written a novel. It’s called The Red Death Murders (2022), and should appear on your local Amazon franchise at any minute if it hasn’t already.
Yes, after two-and-a-bit decades of reading classic detective fiction, and six years of reading and reviewing self-published impossible crime fiction, I have combined the two/painted a target on my back and written one of my own. I don’t know quite how to talk about it, because I’m so excited to finally be able to share it with you, but here’s what the back cover synopsis says:
The Red Death Murders transforms Edgar Allan Poe’s classic story ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ into a fast-paced novel of detection with clues provided openly in the tradition of Agatha Christie, ingenious explanations worthy of John Dickson Carr, and a complex plot to delight fans of Seishi Yokomizo.
A deadly plague
The pestilence known as the Red Death had devastated Prince Prospero’s lands, and so he retired to his isolated castle with several hundred friends to outwait the blight in safety. Here, they distracted themselves from the horror outside the walls with decadent revelry and voluptuous self-indulgence.
A new threat
Now, the handful of loyal men who remain realise that they have merely exchanged one danger for another: a masked figure robed in scarlet stalks the shadowy halls, launching a violent attack on the prince before apparently evaporating in front of witnesses.
An impossible murder
When one of their number is found slain in a room sealed on the inside, Sir William Collingwood vows to unmask the murderer in their midst. But what sense can be made of the apparently unexplainable deaths that follow? Why commit murder in the middle of a plague? And how do you catch a killer who can seemingly walk through walls and vanish into thin air?
As the synopsis suggests, the idea of the book took root when I first read ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ (1842) by Edgar Allan Poe about a decade ago and was struck by how a group of people hiding from a deadly plague in a sealed off castle was a perfect setup for a closed-circle mystery. Over the last ten or so years, I’ve added various ideas to this speculative setting and, when circumstances conspired to find me unemployed in the latter half of 2020, I thought I’d finally try to circle the wagons, as it were, and see how far I could get with writing it.
As it turns out, the writing went rather well — I’ll talk about the process more in next month’s In GAD We Trust podcast episode, but the first two drafts were done on a typewriter — and I honestly couldn’t be more proud of what has resulted. Not only did I manage to write the exact sort of book I had in mind when I first read ‘The Masque of the Red Death’, I’ve also been able to work in 4½ impossible situations with rational solutions — two of which I have never seen before, including the locked room murder that opens the book which has a setup and solution that I believe is unique in the annals of impossible crime fiction.
I also wanted it to be a novel of detection, with clues presented openly so that the attentive reader would be able to solve the mystery ahead of time if they’re able to outwit me, and so — alongside creating a fictional, mock-historical setting and working in those various impossibilities — I have been at pains to be as open with the clues as I can. I’m hopeful that you’ll reach the end having been thoroughly entertained and completely bamboozled, but also agreeing that more than sufficient information was provided to qualify as what some of us call “fair play”. For added fun, there’s even a Challenge to the Reader at the point where the detective works it out, with six questions you should take some time to think about before embarking on the solution.
The book is just over 91,000 words and will be published in both physical and electronic form, available only through Amazon since their ubiquity makes them the ideal way to get the book into readers’ hands. I’ve gone for a slightly smaller paperback format — what I call B-format size, between a British Library Crime Classic and an American Mystery Classic — and, as a sort of Bonus Material, have included the full text of ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ with approximately 20 annotations wherein I discuss how elements of that story influenced this novel. Plus, it comes with the amazing cover you see above, made for me by the very talented (and very understanding!) Felix Tindall, who could not come more highly recommended for your graphic design needs.
I am beyond excited to finally share this with you, and I really hope you enjoy it — I have plans for at least three more at present, though I’m unlikely to have quite the same freedom to write any more unless this does incredibly well…so spread the word if you like it! The ebook should be available to download now, whatever domain your local Amazon resides in, and the paperback is showing up in most places and so is now terrifyingly available for other people to read without me being able to make any of the amendments I’m terrified I forgot to finalise before hitting “Sure, let people read this”.
I’ve tried to be sensible about the pricing — I want this to be appealing, but I’d also like to eventually make back the money I’ve spent on it…and, hey, maybe turn a profit at some point — so I’ve put a fair amount of research into local prices and tried to be sensible in what I’m asking. I’m also acutely aware that this is the first time I’ve put a monetary value on anything I’ve promoted through this blog, however, and so am inevitably worried I’ve got it horribly wrong. The prices currently give me the approximate same return in all territories, but if there’s an argument for them being lowered — or, hey, highered! — I’m open to hearing it. Thanks for bearing with me while I stumble around trying to figure out what I’m doing.
Okay, I think that’s it. Hopefully some of you are excited to read this, and thanks in advance to anyone who buys it now or in the future — you probably won’t regret it. Here’s the Amazon UK link — it is on sale in other countries, too, you can buy it in Australia, Canada, Germany, France, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Japan, the US…enough people can now access it to make me something of a nervous wreck at the prospect, so I’m off for a lie down. Have a lovely weekend!