Blacklands by Belinda Bauer in the Bookseller

One advantage of the various local postal strikes in London is that the Bookseller is arriving late, so I am reading it in a less rushed fashion and focusing on bits of it I might usually skim over in my weekday haste. (OK, this is a stretch of a good reason for a postal strike or two, but I am trying to be positive.)

One such article in last week's (9 October, p. 23) issue is a profile of an author of a book that looks intriguing. Belinda Bauer, author of Blacklands (hmm, lots of Bs there – why didn't I think of that for my last crime-fiction alphabet post?), was highly commended by the CWA in the debut dagger category this year. Ms Bauer says that she did not set out to write a crime novel: "to me a crime novel is Val McDermid or Sue Grafton or Michael Connelly, where there is a crime. And in my book the crime had taken place many years before, and it was the aftermath of the crime that I was dealing with….."

The book, published in the UK by Transworld (Bantam Press) in January of this year according to the Bookseller, 2010 according to everyone else, is the story of a 12-year-old boy who lives with his mother and nan. His uncle had disappeared when aged 11 – believed to have been murdered and buried on Exmoor. The boy is searching for his uncle's body to "heal his fractured family"……It's the first of a trilogy, apparently.

Ms Bauer trained as a journalist and worked as a reporter for a news agency – good training for novel writing. She wrote a screenplay in the evenings, and fortuitously entered, and won, the Carl Foreman Award. The prize was to study screenwriting at California State University, where she found it empowering to be "in a town where when you said you wanted to be a screenwriter nobody laughed in your face". (What a sad comment on English life.) Returning to Cardiff having written a screenplay "Happy Now", made into a film starring Ioan Gruffudd but never released, she eventually wrote Blacklands in just 4 months.