I had a load of fun writing this one. Aga sagas and chick-lit were the dominant genres at the time, and I came across one too many middle-class rural wives with picture-perfect sophisticated children and designer homes. Well, maybe there was a vicars’ wife somewhere who was openly combative and maybe quite shrill and unpleasant too; and maybe her children are definitely not Oxbridge material. Maybe one of them is a total failure and the other is plain and unpopular. Next, it’s likely that her husband is growing complacent now, after being lucky in his job at first, and good at securing the approval of parish organisers. Throw in a few eccentric locals, add a self-important Artistic Man, stir vigorously with Cathedral schools and a desirable Head of Music… let the resulting mixture ignite when fully baked.
The following extract from the end of Chapter 1 introduces a subsidiary character, PC Karen Ditson. She’s a downbeat local plod who’s just about had enough. But life takes a surprising turn for her later on, when she becomes involved in a trivial local case surrounding the Rev. Derek Devauden and his family.
from: A PERFECT VICARAGE AFFAIR
P.C. Karen Ditson emptied her ashtray into a bucket and slumped in front of the TV. It had been another hard shift at Bransbury station, processing drunks and habitual drug users and shoplifters. Someone’s girlfriend had thrown bricks through someone else’s boyfriend’s car window, and folks were falling senseless out of pubs as though the world would end tomorrow. If she could only get off petty crime, there might be a future in this line of work. The trouble was, Karen Ditson was neither enterprising nor especially popular with the local constabulary. And she was in a rut.
Falling asleep on the sofa, she awoke to the insane noise of morning programmes and the ruins of last night’s supper. Brown sauce lay welded to the polystyrene container, and a can of Special Brew stood flat and tepid beside it. She heaved herself groggy and complaining to the bathroom, and looked at the resulting picture in her cabinet mirror. Forty, and going nowhere.
Outside, the traffic roared ceaselessly along the Chesterham bypass. She’d only been in her new flat for six months, and already it looked as though several three-toed sloths had taken up residence. She didn’t know what it was about herself, but cleanliness and tidy virtues had left her a long way behind in the hygiene race. It hadn’t always been like this. Maybe it was the divorce, the colleagues, the job, the everything. Particularly the everything.
She sorted through a litter of bills and decided to fix some breakfast, except there was nothing in the kitchen cupboard apart from a packet of Ryvita and a small can of beans. That would do. Radio Flash blasted from the small tinny set as she spooned Happy Shopper powdered coffee into a mug and waited for the kettle to boil. ‘Ray-dio Flash!’ screeched the jingle, ‘News!’ Oh bugger, it was nine o’clock already and she’d barely woken up.
Most of the day was free; she was on the twilight shift this week. Nothing impressive was happening. Two drugs-related deaths, one dealer pulled in. Lost cat, returned to owner. And the usual selection of annoying adolescents, packed off home to bewildered parents: ‘’E never done it! ‘E wouldn’t do a thing like that!’ Oh yes ‘e would lady. Look at this list of complaints.
The radio nattered on as Karen Ditson crunched her way through the Ryvita packet. Some new vicar at Harbourne Cross. Derek Devauden’s clear Northern accent rang out, talking about reconciliation and bridging gaps in society, and open door policies. Fat lot of use, she snorted, blowing crumbs across the worktop. Ought to spend a couple of nights down at the station, then he’d think different. Reconciliation? Bridging gaps? He’d want a razor-covered wall between him and the population in no time. He’d be beating them off with sticks. Vicars. She snorted again. Wonder what he was on.
Outside, the traffic dashed through sporadic rain. There was a leaden sky, and it was obvious that a large bird had splattered the roof of her car with excrement. Nature. It was enough to make you love concrete. After breakfast, P.C. Karen Ditson headed down the communal staircase towards the parking bay. Maybe a couple of hours in the Sports centre, followed by a bit of shopping. It would fill up the time nicely until she was back on duty. This place. If only there was something worth chasing. Some serious crime and some real misery.
I’m pleased to say she gets her wish, and by the end of the novella she’s in line for promotion. Not so good for the Rev. Derek though; his son Peter is now an Adept of Lucifer and his daughter is set on a life of crime. As for the fragrant Alice – she won’t undertake a Garden Fete in such a hurry next year. And I doubt whether her friendship with the acerbic Rosemary Downes will survive another bijou design project.
If you’d like the complete text, this one comes in at approx. 190 pages, and it can be downloaded from Amazon Kindle e-books for around £2.30.