Judgement Clay is launched in May 2019 by MX Publishing. After Cat Flap, and the Music of Sound, this is the third in the series of Bernie Quist novels by Yorkshire author Ian Jarvis.
Ian was born in Castleford, famous for rugby league and being the birthplace of sculptor Henry Moore and (Spend, Spend, Spend) Viv Nicholson. In more recent years the town played the part of the fictional Denton in television’s A Touch of Frost. Ian now lives in the village of Fairburn, twenty miles to the south of York, and in 2014 he retired from West Yorkshire Fire Service after three decades as an operational firefighter. He now fills his days with writing, travel, and walking the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. He has a huge love of natural history, so having the Fairburn Ings nature reserve on the doorstep is wonderful.
Judgement Clay - Front Cover
A Q&A with Ian Jarvis....
1. Judgement Clay is an intriguing title for a novel… can you explain?
The story is a humorous mystery set in Whitby and York - quirky and funny without being an all-out comedy. I wanted a title that was equally quirky and surreal, but I’m afraid that any real elaboration on the title would be a bit of a spoiler.
2. Tell us about the story.
This is the third in the series of mysteries featuring Bernie Quist. A modern-day Sherlock Holmes, Quist operates as a consultant detective from Baker Avenue in York. His assistant is Watson, although this Watson is a streetwise youth from the Grimpen housing estate and he's definitely no doctor. The mismatched duo take on bizarre cases which invariably lead into the realms of the supernatural, a shadowy world that, thanks to his dark secret, Quist is all too familiar with.
In Judgement Clay, the north of England has a new political group - the White Rose Party. They campaign for Yorkshire independence, fairer wages, and the adoption of Yorkshire Pudding as Britain’s national dish. Unfortunately, “white” is the appropriate word, for their amiable façade conceals a far right organisation with a sinister racist agenda. Watson’s Jewish girlfriend has been attacked by their thugs and Quist is determined to expose these white supremacists and end their rise to power. The detective soon realises that the party has been targeted by someone else, a highly dangerous individual with a terrifying supernatural weapon. This man also plans to end White Rose, but his idea of ending is a touch more homicidal and gruesome.
A dark and very peculiar game is afoot...
3. You were a firefighter for many years. Does the fire service feature in your books?
Not in the first two novels, Cat Flap and the Music of Sound, but it plays a part in Judgement Clay. One of the main characters is a female firefighter based at the Kent Street station in York and some of the incidents and officers described are based on real life episodes. Names and places have obviously been changed to, er, protect against litigation, but most fire service readers will laugh and nod knowingly.
4. What were your most memorable and toughest assignments as a firefighter?
I spent three decades with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, attending countless blazes and traffic accidents, along with chemical incidents, trapped animals and water rescues. I joined in January 86, too late for the York Minster tragedy, but that was a North Yorkshire fire and my station wouldn’t have been called. I know people who were on duty that night and their stories of molten roof lead gushing down like lethal waterfalls never had me yearning to be there.
No two days were ever the same, but many of the tougher jobs involved fatalities and it would be insensitive to speak of them here. One job that’s difficult to forget involved walking out of a house fire seconds before the whole building exploded. Fire engines are equipped with fixed cameras and you can watch the footage on YouTube if you type in ‘Castleford gas explosion’.
My lasting memories centre more on the camaraderie and the fun, along with the never-ending practical jokes and the incredible black humour. What joy it is to open a tin of soup at a barn fire in the freezing early hours, only to find someone has switched the labels with a tin of dogfood. The fire service humour is relentless, it colours your outlook on life, and much of it has rubbed off in my writing style.
5. When did you start to write?
I’ve been writing stories and articles on and off since 97, although it’s only recently that I’ve become serious about this and swapped the fire hose for a laptop. This was due to my retirement, and the fact that a laptop is useless for extinguishing blazes.
The Bernie Quist mysteries were taken on board by MX Publishing of London, the world’s largest publisher of Sherlock Holmes stories. They’re funny York-based urban fantasies.
6. Why did you choose to set your books in and around Whitby and York?
I’ve travelled extensively, but York remains one of my favourite places by far. York rivals Prague, Vienna and Saltsburg for architectural beauty and medieval splendour. Every stroll through the cobbled streets and snickleways is a stroll through history, with each turn bringing you face-to-face with Elizabethan ramparts, Tudor buildings and ancient taverns. I live close by and it seemed a natural location for these supernatural mysteries. I’ve attempted to use the city as an actual character in the same way that the Morse and Rebus novels breathe life into Oxford and Edinburgh. Scarborough and Whitby also feature quite prominently in Judgement Clay.
7. Which local settings will York readers recognise?
The Shambles, the Minster and the circuit of walls are all visited in Judgement Clay, but there are many other places the readers will know: the King’s Arms by the river, and the York Dungeon for example. Scarborough and its Grand Hotel features too, along with Whitby on Halloween and the famous 199 steps. Beverley is also visited and the mystery surrounding the Barmston Drain werewolf is finally solved, albeit solved with tongue firmly in cheek.
8. What inspired this series of books?
Sherlock Holmes was one of the main inspirations. It’s 130 years since the character first appeared and he still continues to fascinate readers all over the globe. Before I read the Conan Doyle’s books, I grew up with the old movies starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Jeremy Brett was the best and most accurate portrayal of Holmes, but my heart will always belong to this earlier pair, although why the genius detective would have Bruce’s character assisting him is a bigger mystery than any of his cases. Bumbling and dafter than a proverbial brush, Bruce’s Watson would make a wonderful friend, but he wouldn’t be your first choice as an ally when facing Moriarty or Dartmoor hell hounds. I wanted to write a story with vaguely similar characters in a modern setting, but it had to be something a million miles away from the Sherlock television series.
9. Tell me about Bernie and Watson…
Bernie Quist’s eccentric personality and deductive methods are similar to Holmes and his assistant is named Watson, but this Watson is a black teenager from the notorious Grimpen housing estate and he’s definitely no doctor. Grimpen is a nod to the Grimpen Mire, the swamp in the Hound of the Baskervilles, described as one of the most awful places in Britain. Other names from the Conan Doyle stories have been used for relevant places and characters in all three books, and hardcore fans should enjoy spotting these.
The pair are obviously mismatched, but Quist has chosen this streetwise youth as his assistant for a particular reason – to bring him more into the twenty-first century, something which is explained in the stories, but to say too much would be a spoiler. There are actually three central characters in these novels, the third being Rex Grant, a young millionaire playboy who hides stupidity behind striking good looks and chauvinistic arrogance.
10. If you could cast anyone in a TV/film version, who would you choose?
Quist is middle-aged, eloquent and sophisticated. I had Basil Rathbone in mind, but without Doc Brown’s DeLorean, casting him might prove difficult. Perhaps Hugh Grant, or wait six or seven years and Tom Hiddleston would be ideal. Then again, he’d be ideal in any role, apart from maybe a Bond girl. Jacob Anderson from Adulthood and Game of Thrones would have been great for Watson, but he’s growing infuriatingly older and probably couldn’t pass for nineteen anymore. Rex Grant resembles a young Tom Cruise, something which people remark upon throughout the stories. Again, you’d need the DeLorean to cast the right actor here, along with a strong tolerance for Scientology.
11. What sort of reception have you had for your previous books?
Cat Flap and the Music of Sound both sold well and were extremely popular. Quist and Watson have plenty of fans around the world. One girl in Canada wrote to say how much she loves the ‘olde English settings’. Judgement Clay is launched by MX Publishing in May, but they’re currently running a Kickstarter project where you can get the book a month early and at a lower price. They also have several other ‘rewards’ there, such as the first two books at a lower cost, signed copies, and a chance to appear as a character in the fourth story.
You’ll currently find me walking the York walls as I dream up the fourth mystery, involving the Romans in York and ancient Egypt. You can also find a digital me at www.ianjarviswriter.com or lurking on Facebook, where I talk about the books and post comical thoughts and pictures https://www.facebook.com/ian.jarvis.165