|Worm's Head on the Gower Peninsula, Wales (photo by John Ewing)|
Author Judy Hogan takes us on a visit to Wales today, setting for her Penny Weaver Mysteries. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website.
The Gower! Gwyr in Welsh. How happy I always was to see the sign in English and Welsh as the bus took the road to the little peninsula near Swansea. My first visit had been in 1981 for one weekend. Then I’d been back for several weeks at a time in 1985, ‘88, ‘90, ‘95 and ‘96.
I loved the diversity of the landscape: chalk cliffs, the sea rolling in to wash against them, with tide pools and, on the cliffs themselves, wild flowers including orchids. I could walk in woods, explore ancient caves back to the Ice Age, see remnants of all the invasions into the land of the Britons, from the Romans, the Vikings, the Norman conquest of the French, and the present day tourists, though most of the “visitors,” as the British call them, came from the UK back in those days.
Today you’d find more Americans as well as more bed and breakfast accommodations, self-catering cottages, and the standby caravan parks and hotels. The landscape remains in some way pristine, and it’s an ideal place to explore if you have no car and like to walk as I did. There are footpaths everywhere and a bus runs along the peninsula.
Mrs. Merrett provided a single room and also gave me an evening meal for a little more per day. She and I became friends, and it was in 1990, when I suffered a minor injury and couldn’t follow my usual pattern of ranging the cliffs and seeking a spot out of the wind to write a poem, that she said, “Judy, you should write a murder.”
Edith Merrett knew I spent my evenings tucked up reading mysteries from the local library. I did begin plotting The Sands of Gower that visit, though I didn’t write it until the following summer. Poetry had been my creative writing focus until then. I tried that mystery for fun, but I enjoyed it for a different reason. Poetry has always helped me express my deep feelings, sometimes ones I scarcely knew I had. Writing fiction made it possible to articulate knowledge I had acquired through relationships, which was only partly conscious, about myself and other people.
I’ve always liked reading about the relationships of the characters, and I enjoy, more than plotting, getting at what people are like when they come into conflict with one another. I’ve had a lot of experience on the black/white line and find few books that explore that. So that became a major theme as my series advanced.
In The Sands of Gower Penny’s black friend Cathy is writing to her. In the second novel we meet Cathy in person, and also the lead detective in the village of Riverdell, Derek Hargrave. By the third book many more black characters appear, and I also began to take up community issues I’d learned about as I worked here in my own village of Moncure for safer nuclear storage, against air pollution, and in local politics. I’ve written sixteen books now and plan to publish them all over the next five years.
Most of the books take place in Riverdell, a central North Carolina village, but two more return to Gower. Penny’s husband is a Welsh detective inspector, whom she meets in The Sands of Gower, and once married, they normally spend part of each year on Gower.
The Sands of Gower
Penny begins a new and lively stage of life, her children raised, with a powerful erotic attraction, and the freedom to cross lines that usually hold people apart. The book is set in a bed & breakfast on the Gower peninsula near Swansea, Wales.
Penny Weaver, luxuriating in her two-month vacation, is disturbed by the murder of a German guest. Penny’s independent, outspoken American lifestyle contrasts with the more conservative ways of the village’s pensioners. In the process of solving the crime, Penny and Detective Inspector Kenneth Morgan are powerfully attracted. This, plus the British post-World War II continuing distrust of the Germans, complicates their investigation.