Meet Carola Dunn

 

Author Carola Dunn and Trillian

Carola Dunn’s titles include 18 mysteries in the Daisy Dalrymple series, set in England in the 1920s, and a new series set in Cornwall in the 1960s.  She was born and raised in England, but has lived in the U.S. for many years.  Welcome, Carola!

My latest book, A Colourful Death, is my second Cornish mystery. People often ask me why I chose to write a mystery series set in Cornwall, what my connection is with the county (properly a “duchy”). I wasn’t born there, I never lived there, and my ancestry is not Cornish, but somehow throughout my life it has been a constant refrain.

I first went to Cornwall at about the age of 8, when we spent a holiday at an ancient, whitewashed farmhouse near the village of Poldhu, on the south coast.

Just released!

I still remember the clifftops carpeted with short, wiry, sheep-clipped grass and tufts of pink thrift, sheets of blue squills, wild thyme that scented the air. I remember a boat tour of Falmouth harbour, and even the names of five rusty coastal freighters we saw moored there: British Destiny, British Diligence, British Constitution, Eradona, and Lyria. I remember how we kids turned “Eradona” into an endlessly repeating song with which we drove the grown-ups mad on the drive back to the farm.

Cornwall already made a strong impression on me, and also on my godmother. Hitherto, she had towed her little caravan to different places for holidays. Now she found a farmer’s field she could rent as a permanent site, on the north coast of Cornwall, near Crackington Haven. From it you had a view of the Atlantic between two headlands, Cambeak and Penkenna. There the caravan stayed for several decades, and there we went for all our summer holidays and quite often at Easter, too.

Penkenna Head

Now, my sister lives in Cornwall, in the southeast corner, on the Devon border, right on the bank of the River Tamar, which divides the two counties. She’s just a few miles from Cotehele, a 15th century fortified manor which I used as the setting for two books, a Regency, Smugglers’ Summer, and a Daisy Dalrymple mystery, Mistletoe and Murder (though I renamed it in the latter).

So I have a long history of visiting Cornwall, and a present base for exploring.

Port Isaac Harbour

The protagonist of my Cornish mysteries lives in a small, fictional fishing port on the North Coast. I’ve called it Port Mabyn, based it on Port Isaac and Boscastle, and set it down somewhere between the two. Eleanor Trewynn is a widow who worked all over the world for an international charity. Retiring, she returned home to buy a cottage and turn the ground floor into a charity shop. She lives in a flat above. In MANNA FROM HADES, she found a body in the shop’s store-room. In A COLOURFUL DEATH, her friend and neighbour Nick Gresham is arrested for the murder of a fellow-artist. Eleanor is determined to find out who the real murderer is. Meanwhile, her niece, Megan, a detective with the Cornish police, is assigned to find proof that Nick is guilty.

Town Hall, Launceston

Researching for this book, I went to Launceston, where Megan is stationed, and to Bodmin, where she is assigned for this particular case. Both are ancient towns in beautiful, hilly settings. I love just wandering around old towns, taking notes and pictures, and working out exactly where the events of my story take place. In Launceston, I picked a building on the Town Square (actually a triangle) and decided to place my fictional police HQ there. Unfortunately it’s a bank, and they wouldn’t let me go upstairs to see what was visible from the windows, but the hotel next door kindly did escort me up to one of the front rooms. I found that there was a nice view, over the buildings on the far side of the Square, of the ruined castle and the green hills beyond.

Launceston Castle

I also went to Padstow, a port on the River Camel, where the murder takes place, and strolled through the narrow, crooked streets to find the ideal spot for the murdered artist’s studio. It had to be opposite an old inn, and with the possibility of a north-facing window, as preferred by painters. Looking at maps is no substitute. If I hadn’t walked it, I wouldn’t have known that the police station is up a steep hill from the town center. It’s not an important detail but one that makes the scene more real when Eleanor, after an exhausting day, has to accompany the police to the station.

Carola and Teazle

I also found a patch of grass opposite that Eleanor’s Westie, Teazle (modeled on my mother’s Candy), makes for when let out to do her business—only to find herself surrounded by large policemen who thought Eleanor was the murderer making her escape!

A COLOURFUL DEATH has just been released!  You can visit the Cornish Mysteries page of my website: http://CarolaDunn.weebly.com, and also the Cornish Mysteries page on Facebook.

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