How an author managed to capture the essence of 1980s East Anglia for his crime novel series

Author James Henry PICTURE: Ant Jones

Author James Henry PICTURE: Ant Jones - Credit: Archant

James Henry on how the days of yesteryear inspired his latest release - and why he’s looking to incorporate more Suffolk settings into his next book

With Coronavirus lockdown allowing us all to find more time to pick up a book, we’ve found the next gripping crime thriller series that has to be in your ‘to read’ pile – with the next instalment coming out this summer.

Yellowhammer by James Henry is the second in his DI Lowry series, and the Essex native tells us what it is about the 80s that inspired him to set his novels in that era, how he took a trip down memory lane – and why he’s looking to venture further into Suffolk for his next read.

“The 80s felt comfortable to me, as that’s when I was growing up,” explained James. “I knew the social and cultural references really well. Also, you don’t have to know about practices and technology such as elaborate DNA testing to solve crimes. I lived the 80s, as did most of my readers of that generation and older, so it’s very nostalgic and in a way, sentimental.”

James’ DI Lowry series is comprised of Blackwater, Yellowhammer and Whitethroat, the latter due to be released this July. The trilogy follows the eponymous detective inspector as he uncovers crimes, solving them and interrogating a cast of characters along the way throughout the North Essex area. Known for their accuracy in paying homage to both the era and the geographical settings at the time, how did James manage to piece together and capture that time period so effortlessly?

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“I spoke to an ex-policeman from the 80s, as well as people who worked in CID and the Army at the time, and a lot of people older than myself who remembered how things were back then”, James said. “This is because of course a lot isn’t available, pre-internet age.”

With James looking to delve back into Suffolk settings for future books, what is it about the county that he holds so dearly?

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“In the books, DI Lowry is a birdwatcher and is drawn to go up there. I’m also a bird watcher and used to go birdwatching in places like Ramsholt, Blaxhall and Hollesley Bay,” explained James.

“I also used to go to Woodbridge and do events – I did loads there for my first book, and got on the library circuit up there.”

And of course, the natural beauty and quaint charm that Suffolk has to offer is simply a no-brainer.

“The Suffolk coastline is the most amazing,” James added. “In a future book, I’d want to use Dunwich Heath as a setting – it’s one of the most dramatic places in the country. Suffolk is quite timeless in a way, with those little towns and villages such as Leiston.

“It’s a definite pull to go into Suffolk again – the scenarios you can get in the towns and the countryside are so different,” said James.

We look forward to seeing where James takes his protagonist to next. But in the meantime, why not pick up a DI Lowry book, take it to your back garden, and lose yourself in the 80s?

Whitethroat by James Henry is published by Quercus Books/Riverrun and is out Thursday 9 July. Available in hardbook and e-book for £16.99. Also available on audio.

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