Location, Location, Location…

Location, Location, Location…we all know the importance of location when house-hunting or selling. We all have an ideal place we would love to live – the countryside, by the sea, in a ‘cool and trendy,’ city apartment: location matters.

It also matters when choosing where to set our stories. As writers, we paint a scene with our words, and our descriptions, we strive to give our readers enough material for them to use their imagination to fill in the blanks. I believe that we all ‘picture’ characters and locations in different ways and our readers most likely ‘envisage’ our worlds in totally different ways to each other.

I have my own character’s description in my mind’s eye when I read Peter James’ lead character in his Roy Grace books, and when he announced the actor to play him on screen I was flummoxed; he looked nothing like the Roy I had envisioned. I’m anticipating seeing the locations in Brighton where the series is set because, although I am familiar with parts of Brighton, I don’t know it all. So I have had to imagine some of them when reading Peter’s books. I am keen to know if I picture the locations accurately.

When I’ve read Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple I have St. Mary Mead as clear as day inside my head, the way her cottage looks, what the street outside is like, and the style of houses in her village. I imagine the setting for the village to be located in my idea of a rural idyll. I think that one of the reasons I love the Joan Hickson Miss Marple TV series is because the settings are as close to my imagined locations as they can get.

(c) Jane Risdon 2019

As I was writing my short stories for Undercover: Crime Shorts, I thought long and hard about the locations where I wanted them to take place. I thought about towns, villages, and rural locations I’ve visited over many years of national and international travel, and with these locations in mind, I decided where to place my characters according to each story.

(c) Jane Risdon 2018

Sweet Sable: The Red Siren is located mostly in Hollywood in 1939 and I had to research locations and businesses very carefully before deciding upon my settings. I looked into The Sand and Pool Club, a popular Beverly Hills watering hole, for example, frequented by movie and music stars, and movie moguls during the late 1930s. I had a mental image of what it looked like, how the patrons dressed, and what they would have to drink after reading about the venue. It was great fun to play around with what I learned from my research, and I am very pleased with the written outcome. When Sable sets her lover up for blackmail, and possibly murder, during a visit to the Sand and Pool Club I know I am as accurate as I can be.

I’ve spent a great deal of my working life in the Hollywood of the present day and many of the locations in my story are still visible if you know where to look.

Public Domain

Big Bear Mountain and lakes is a fabulous place to visit and only a couple of hours’ drive from the centre of Los Angeles. I decided to place Sable and her hide-away there. I know the area well having stayed there many times, and those of you who are into movies may well have watched one of the many produced and filmed up there, without realising it. It is rural, and there is wilderness, and alongside a thriving population, it is frequented by tourists visiting for summer and winter sports.

Big Bear Lake, Big Bear Mountain (c) Jane Risdon 2002

Sweet Sable arrives back in Big Bear just as filming of the movie, Gone with the Wind, is under production, and she observes Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable as she goes about her shopping chores.

Another story, Apartment 206c, takes place in New York, in a Brownstone apartment block – similar to the one John Lennon lived in with Yoko Ono before he died – complete with a concierge on duty in the lobby. The stairwells and elevators play a huge part in my tale of murder, Russian thugs, and the FBI.

Photo David Mark – Pixabay

My story, Murder by Christmas, is set in a small rural English village community that survived the Beeching cuts of the 1960s and still has its own railway station. It is a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else. A setting just ripe for secrets, blackmail, and murder.

The village postman has a terrible, shameful, secret, if exposed, will ruin his reputation and his life. Can he do what is necessary to benefit from a legacy he has been left, thus enabling him to take his secret to his grave? He stresses over his task, wondering about a new life, an escape from twitching net curtains, a fresh start somewhere he can be himself. Could he bring himself to do it?

A dead millionaire’s secretary thinks she has the dirt on her late employer and will not hesitate to use it to get what she wants. But someone is observing her with her many sugar daddies who cross her palm with silver in return for services rendered – that someone would love to see the secretary’s new home gym. They’ve decided they can and will do whatever it takes to start a new life in another country, leaving the past behind.

The late millionaire’s cleaner is known as a woman of high standing and morals and if her secret gets out she will have to kiss her plans for getting on to the parish council, goodbye. Could she really do it? Could she do what her late employer bids her do to keep her secret safe?

Six people are summoned to a solicitor’s office to hear the reading of a will, each expects to benefit, but only three can – provided they undertake certain tasks on their own doorstep, in their own village where nothing ever happens, apparently.

What would you do in order to collect a legacy? How far would you be prepared to go? As far as murder?

A man travels the world on behalf of the Queen and country. He has diplomatic immunity, and he is the epitome of respectability, but he has a secret that follows him from country to country in my story, The Honey Trap. He loves his secret, it is what makes him tick. He enjoys – even thrives – upon the intrigue, the excitement, and the danger his secret affords him. He is untouchable as he travels the world. He is sent to Eastern Europe where the opportunities are plentiful and he is not disappointed. My setting is a typical hotel room – anonymous and impersonal, yet functional for his purposes.

Monaco. Imagine being able to afford to live in the beautiful Principality. In my story, The Look, my main characters are not what they seem to be. She joins a Facebook group and meets a man online who shares her passion for photography, he is who she is looking for.

To him, she is the perfect subject. They agree to meet in real life to photograph a local mill. The setting is beside the river on a beautiful summer afternoon where an old mill wheel churns the water with its huge paddles, as swans and ducks swim past and the birds sing. Two photographs of the mill, but only one leaves the waterside alive, able to return to the playground of the rich and famous.

These are just a few examples of the settings I use and the locations I have chosen for some of the short stories in Undercover: Crime Shorts.

If you’d like to learn more please tune in to my interview on theauthorsshow.com today on channel 4, or any time – I am in archives too – by going to the link below and clicking on Undercover: Crime Shorts or my name.

I’m chatting to my lovely host, Linda Thompson, about writing, plotting, and my inspiration, and I read from Apartment 206c. It is a fun interview and I loved it. I hope you will too.


19 5* reviews including:
5* C. Plunkett: Fast-paced, page-turner of murder, mystery short stories

Reviewed in the United Kingdom Fast-paced, well-written page-turner that had me so engrossed my train journey flew by. The author clearly has done a lot of research, these short stories all felt very authentic and each had me gripped and on the edge of my seat wondering how they would play out. It’s been a long time since I read anything quite so intriguing and twisty. It certainly got my heart beating faster and I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great murder mystery.

Thanks so, much for dropping in. Great to see you. Any questions? Fire away. I love to natter with you all.

Have a fab week.

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  1. The TV Roy Grace isn’t how I imagined him either and I’m not a fan of police procedurals or Brighton ( we live 12 miles away) but many of us do not describe our characters in detail and are happy to leave that up to the reader. However, if we are lucky enough to get the stories onto Tv we should be grateful. Miss Marple and Poirot have had many incarnations and we all have a favourite.
    As to places, I set my adult books in this locality, with adaptations, as it is easy to imagine the action that way. Besides, Sussex is a great inspiration, beyond Brighton!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. I was never a fan of Morse, though like Lewis. the locations were all mixed up and I found the constant opera music and phony posh voice John Thaw adopted mid-way through the series ridiculous. I lived in Oxfordshire for nearly 40 years and most people had the old Berkshire accent. a lot of Oxforshire was once Berkshire. My series Ms Birdsong is located in the Vale of the White Horse where I used to live but I have created fictional villages as well as using real locations.


      • I must admit I do like Endeavour although we never watched Morse. It’s the police books I don’t enjoy. The kind of crime tales I like are more psychological, mental mysteries rather than detective stories.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I like something different to grab me. Political thrillers, spy stories, complex murder/crime stories etc. I have not enjoyed Endeavour mostly because they get historical facts and culture wrong. A bit PC including things that never would have happened back then. Ruins it for me.


            • I find the language, the hairstyles, and the fact that they give women prominent roles in areas where women were still making tea quite often. There have always been multi-cultural communities in England as I recall. Having lived in many countries throughout my life I find the different cultures fascinating and so interesting.


  2. You are preparing me for writing bestsellers, Jane! Lol This topic about location is very interesting. As a reader i had not had many thoughts about, in the past. It came like it came, within loving the characters. But its true, the location is something like the fundation, not only the icing. Thanks, Jane! Have a nice rest of the week! xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

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