Today I welcome Juliet B Madison to talk about her anthology Alternate Voices, published to raise awareness of the MacMillan Cancer Support charity.
Well, here I am writing another guest post and facing another challenge to write about a new angle on the Alternate Voices anthology.
The DI Frank Lyle Mysteries deal; not only with crime, but with social issues which may, or may not, have had an impact on the murderer’s motives and decisions on how s/he carried out the crimes. The prevalent social issues in the nineteen nineties, the time of the DI Lyle series, vary from the ones which grace the headlines today. The same prejudices and hardships still exist today but in different forms. For example these days unhealthy obsessions and stalking occur more in cyberspace because it’s easier to be relatively anonymous and track your victim’s social media accounts for ideas of how and where to strike next. But the Internet and social media were not an option for criminals in DI Lyle series time so they had to resort to other less subtle methods. For example Paedophile rings lurk in chat rooms and groom their victims often under the guise of being children themselves. That option was not available to the villainous Bob Kenyon, but he was a prominent Ashbeck City Councillor so was able to infiltrate his way into social settings to which the ordinary man or woman in the streets of Ashbeck would not have access, such as Mayor Driscoll’s New Year’s Eve Party which featured heavily in the denouement of Heir to Misfortune.
All the contributors to Alternate Voices understood the impact of social issues onto characters and DI Lyle’s compassion for victims of crime and those left behind.
Homelessness is an issue which will never leave us. This was characterised in Heir to Misfortune, where the first murder victim, Alex Carnegie, appeared to have been masquerading as a vagrant in the months prior to his brutal murder. Tricia Drammeh used the issue and the resources available in Ashbeck to help the homeless to great effect in her story A Change of Heart. This was enhanced by the fact that she made her central character, DI Lyle’s ex wife, Sarah, someone who ordinarily would not be even remotely affected by the plight of the homeless. Tricia made good use of her word count to highlight social prejudices towards the homeless and the dangers faced by them and presented us with a genuine Christian approach to the problem in the character of Canon Rice.
The issue of sex crimes committed against minors has also cropped up in the series in the aforementioned Heir to Misfortune, as well as Best Served Cold. Katrina Bowlin-Mackenzie used this theme to good effect in her story, Family, where she wrote about a young girl rescued from a sex trafficking ring and how she was helped to cope with her situation. Not everyone trapped in such a situation will be lucky enough to be rescued and the exploitation will continue. Katrina writes eloquently about the destruction of dreams and the theft of innocence. All too often good deeds don’t go unpunished, but sometimes they get rewarded too.
In my own Alternate Voices contribution Sudden Impact I touched on the issue of suicide. This is still a highly emotive issue today and different religions have their own attitude towards it. I believe it can be an act of supreme cowardice because sometimes the issues that bring one to that point where they believe it to be the only option, can be dealt with and sometimes it takes great courage to carry on. In the past attempted suicide was a criminal offence. Even as recently as early last century suicides were denied a Christian burial. Things have changed now.
Assisted Suicide is an even more emotive issue but this does not feature in any of the Alternate Voices stories. Let’s just say that I believe a person has a right to die with dignity and leave it at that.
Sometimes defying familial expectations can lead to problems. DC Fiona Erskine, the young new recruit to Ashbeck CID in Gerry McCullough’s story Simple Twist of Fate, has defied expectation and disappointed her family by against the family grain career choice. Her interest in DI Lyle adds to the intrigue and crushing on your boss is never a good idea. But will Dc Erskine’s issues help or hinder the investigation into a series of warehouse robberies which have culminated in the brutal murder of a security guard.
Issues of religious faith play a large part in Paul Trembling’s story The Cry of the Blood. Readers of a non Christian or other faith entirely perspective should not be put off by the rather Biblical title. It’s also the only story in the anthology to feature DI Andrew Redfern. Redfern encounters hostility to his Christian faith as well as the questioning as to how a copper can believe in God with the terrible things he sees on the job. Whether Redfern’s answers are a typical Christian response or not I’ll leave it to the reader to decide. I’m not a Christian but I tried to make DI Redfern a strong man, bolstered by his faith, not a weak ineffectual being as Christians are often stereotyped, Canon Rice fits this mould too although this is also because he’s an ex copper who had already seen and experienced the worst life can throw at someone before he came to faith following the death of his beloved wife. (You can read more about that in the third DI Lyle mystery Unholy Alliance.) Paul is also a Christian and the way he portrayed Redfern made that show. The problem is that it is often hard to write characters outside the traditional stereotype, especially if they are not your own characters.
Missing Persons cases often haunt the public and the police in equal measure, especially if months go by without any trace of the person alive or dead. Just because the missing person happens to be a prostitute doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Why did the person disappear? Was he or she taken against their will or did they just want to make a fresh start elsewhere and leave the problems of the old life behind? An online search could throw up several cases of people who had vanished without an apparent trace for any of the reasons detailed above. In his story A Scandal Across the Pond” Joel Mark Harris takes DI Lyle, DS Desai and DC Mark Slade into a search for a missing prostitute, a trail they were certain had gone cold. There is new interest in this case owing to transatlantic connections. Joel makes good use of the characters even introducing one of his own, journalist John Webster, but will he help or hinder the case? Joel examines the issue with sensitivity.
It would seem a copper can never totally let his guard down and enjoy himself. It’s said that a copper is never truly off duty as he never knows when his job will intervene and his investigative skills be required. Caroline Lee covers this well in her story Angels & Demons when a social event leads unwittingly into a large scale police investigation. Caroline chose a method of murder I would never have thought of in a million years, which made it all the more intriguing and shocking as well. She did extensive research which gave realism and authenticity to the tale and to pack that all in to the word limit was no mean feat.
Another issue dealt with in Caroline’s story was the public perception of psychics. Owing to the thousands of fakes and charlatans out to make a quick buck people with genuine psychic abilities are dismissed as freaks..It’s up to you whether you believe Caroline’s fairground psychic Madam Ezra is the real deal or not but I believe she is.
Well, given that I have tried to give you a flavour of Alternate Voices without giving too much away I hope that you will give it a try. Prepare to be moved, shocked and entertained and also feel gratified that you are also helping raise money to help people living with cancer in the UK. The links below will help you to find a wealth of information on the anthology and also where you can get your own copy.
Thanks for having me on your blog Catherine and I wish you the best with any current or future writing projects of your own.
You are very welcome! 🙂
AUTHORS TO WATCH CONTRIBUTOR INTERVIEWS
LAUNCH WEEK PROMO REVISITED
WHERE TO GET YOUR COPY
You can also visit Macmillan Cancer Support’s website here
There is also information about the work Macmillan do in the anthology itself.