Was Robert Maxwell Poisoned Then
Drowned? UK Crime Writer Investigates
will be released by Severn House on September 27th, 2007, and sees the return of
Tide of Death's fearless hero DI Andy Horton. Author Pauline Rowson
admits that her family of tough South Welsh miners and her fire-fighting husband
and his watch, have been influential in creating brave earthy characters like
Horton. But it's Rowson's love of the sea that's created these unique Marine
Mysteries. And the controversy around the most famous death at sea, the Maxwell
drowning, is a real life example of the difficulties detectives face, when
bodies are swept up in the tide.
Every known murder scene has a detective combing for clues. Every detective has
a prime enemy - and it's not the criminal. For the detective, the first enemy
is often the crime scene itself. It is here that the battle begins to uncover
the grim truth about the murder. And a detective's 'nightmare crime scene' has
got to be a place where all the best clues could be swept away by the tide.
There couldn't be a better place to set a crime story.
Rowson is well aware of the pull of murky watery places for the twisted criminal
mind. She has created a whole new crime genre - the Marine Mystery with both
Tide of Death and In for the Kill, featuring in Waterstone's and
Borders best reads promotions. So what would sailing and Harley Davidson riding
detective, DI Andy Horton have made of Robert Maxwell's death at sea? Rowson
"When the body of a tycoon gets fished out of the sea there are three questions
to be asked, did he slip, was he pushed or did he commit suicide? A strong Type
A personality - dominant, forceful and unafraid – simply doesn't give in and
suicide isn't normally an option. This kind of personality believes he will
find a way out of whatever trouble he is in."
So how did Maxwell die? Rowson moves
into Horton mode and steps up a gear:
"Horton’s first reaction would be that it stinks! He’d be straight on the case
asking questions like: who identified the body? Was it really Maxwell? Why
was it flown to Gran Canaria for identification – was there nowhere else to keep
it when it was fished out of the sea? Who fished it out? What did they do
next? What happened to them? Have any of them died or disappeared in
mysterious circumstances since? What do the government and the Serious
Organised Crime Agency really know about this? And the key question – why was
his cabin hot? Why did he ask for the air conditioning to be turned up? What
was in the air conditioning that made him leave his cabin and go to the rear of
the boat? What made him topple over the low rail? Why did three post mortems
fail to detect the real cause of death? Could it have been poison in the air
DI Horton, an expert on marine
murders, will never get the chance to solve the Maxwell mystery, as he is purely
a fictional character and his patch is firmly rooted in Portsmouth. All of
Rowson's Marine Mysteries, Tide of Death, In Cold Daylight, In for the Kill
and Deadly Waters, are based in and around this area, but her books
have an international readership, spanning as far as Asia, and South Africa with
plans for US releases in January 2008, and interest from as far a field as Japan
and Brazil. Closer to home, In for the Kill, has also been chosen as a
great crime fiction read in Bertram's catalogue, alongside other international
authors. Deadly Waters, Rowson's latest mystery, sees the eagerly
awaited return of Horton. So who is this detective? Well, Horton, like
Rowson's marine mystery genre is a one-off. He's as tough as a container ship,
having dredged through the sludge of life's sewerage, since childhood. He seeks
solace in the fresh sea breeze, which blocks out the stench of his own personal
injustices. Often, as in real life, there's little distinction between this
'hunter' and the hunted'. Rowson says:
"DI Andy Horton turns from battling with crime on the streets of Portsmouth, to
battling with the elements on the ocean, anything to stop him dwelling on his
past, like why did his mother walk out on him one day when he was ten? Where is
she now? Who was his father? Who are his family, his roots? Then just when he
thinks he's found some family with a wife and daughter, his wife, Catherine,
decides to believe the accusation when Horton is accused of raping a girl whilst
undercover. In Tide of Death he not only has a complex crime to solve …a
body washed up on the beach, but he needs to find out why this girl lied and
ruined his relationship. He's back on his own again and fighting for access to
his daughter along with everything else…"
Like Horton, the pace in Rowson's
mysteries is dagger-sharp, with as many unpredictable twists as the sea's
changing currents. Her excellent writing ensures there are no sticky labels
marking out the perpetrators, which leaves us guessing until the very end - 'Who
did it?' And Deadly Waters is no exception. The plot is as appetizing
"When a woman, the head teacher of a struggling local school, is found brutally
murdered in Langstone Harbour DI Andy Horton is appointed to lead the
investigation – but not for long if Superintendent Uckfield has his way. Horton
is given only a week to find the killer, after that he will be shunted off the
case. Horton now has a point to prove as well as a complex murder case to
solve. A note was found on the victim – Have you forgotten ME? – along with
money wrapped up in a five-pound note and smothered with honey. Is there a clue
in 'The Owl and the Pussy-cat' rhyme? Is it simply a senseless murder by an
unhinged killer or does someone close to the head have a motive for murder? As
Horton delves deeper into the investigation, aided by Sergeant Cantelli, the
tension mounts. With the clock ticking Horton is soon forced to take a decision
that will put his life on the line."
Pauline Rowson Profile
So who is the private person behind 'Pauline Rowson-Crime Writer', the creator
of such intriguing mysteries? And what sort of a woman enjoys wading through
the underworld of crime, spending long hours creating this fiction? When most
of us are deciding which shoe shop to pop into, Pauline is stepping into far
more sinister places. What personal experience has she drawn on to create a man
like DI Horton? Some very brave men mark Pauline's marine murder mysteries.
"Horton is a combination of many men. My husband, Bob, is an ex fire fighter,
and some of Horton’s qualities are based on the fire fighters that I know: fit,
cool, resourceful, fearless even if they are afraid inside they don't show it..
Think of fires, 9/11, tube disasters and train crashes. It's the firemen who go
in when everyone else is running away. They don't think twice at risking their
lives. Horton's like this, he goes charging in risking his life, often when he
shouldn't or when procedure tells him differently. I see him as a modern day
cowboy cleaning up society or the mariner/sailor battling against the elements,
and each time he learns a bit more about himself and other people."
The tragedy of her victims too is very lifelike. Have any personal tragedies
influenced these scenes? Pauline says:
"My great, great grandfather was a pioneer in sinking the first pits in Wales,
(very brave and very dangerous) and other family members were miners. I've lost
relatives in pit accidents but the one that stays vividly in my mind was when
there was an explosion which buried some miners and my father told me that when
they dug the bodies out they found this miner sitting up with a sandwich in his
hand about to bite into it. Not a hair on his head had been touched. The gas
had come instantly and killed him. Shiver."
Pauline's description of fear is also very realistic as if she has experienced
it. She says:
"I believe that no experience is ever wasted and that you take something from
it. Some years ago when I was working alone in a public service office, I
looked up to see a very large and very angry man yielding an axe and threatening
to smash the place up (and me). I was completely on my own, no panic button, no
one to call for help, nobody else in the bloody place. I had no option. My
inner voice said, 'Deal with it'. And I did."
You can find out how later. But such an experience has definitely added
authenticity to her crime writing. Does Pauline research murder case histories
for her books? She replies:
"I do keep press cuttings on some murders. I hope the police never raid my
house because they'd see my press cuttings file and think I was a serial
killer! I'm quite fortunate because my husband is an ex fire fighter, so he has
attended hundreds of grisly incidents and been to tons of post mortems and is
good on the gruesome. When I attended an Institute of Forensic Science course,
the other authors felt sickened by the gory details, whilst I was sitting there
thinking this is nothing; it's what I usually get when Bob comes home from work
after a particularly nasty incident like having to scrape a body off the railway
line, or handle a decapitation or a burnt victim. It's the fire fighters that
scoop up the bodies along with the undertakers, not the police!"
So how are Rowson's books different from other crime writers?
"I've been described as creating a new genre – the Marine Mystery, because
they're all set against the backdrop of the sea. The sea has become a character
in my crime and thriller novels. It's alive, it's beautiful, it's calming but
it's also dangerous, misleading and evil."
Why is the sea so important in the books?
"I LOVE the sea and get withdrawal symptoms if I'm away from it for too long.
In London I need to be by the Thames otherwise I go into panic mode! In fact
everywhere I go I have to find some water. But I also fear the sea. It's wild
and uncontrollable and very dangerous, (not like me at all, so maybe this is my
alter ego!). No matter how much you think or wish you can control it, you
can't. Sometimes you need to go with the flow and other times swim against the
tide and the trick is knowing when to do which. Andy Horton hasn't quite got it
sussed, or when he thinks he has something happens to throw him completely off
Does this mean that a good night out for Rowson is sitting in marine pubs
listening to yarns of crimes?
"I'm like a vacuum cleaner hoovering up bits of information and snippets of
conversations from people everywhere and often think, hey, that would make a
good story, or that person would be ideal to drop in as a character. I can't
pass a boatyard or a cove without thinking there must be a dead body or a
skeleton here somewhere."
How does Pauline research her villains?
"There are always shady characters especially if you're a crime writer -
everyone you see can become suspicious. I once sat opposite a man on a train to
London who told me it was the first time he'd been on a train in years. He was
pale, thin and wearing an old, very cheap suit. By the time I got off the train
I had this man down as a complete villain who'd just come out of prison after
killing his wife. The poor man was probably the nicest person you could wish to
meet on earth, but that's what crime writers do - they make up little stories
about people in their heads and then it ends up in a book. "
Pauline is the sort of woman who is attracted to characters that most of us
would walk a mile from. She says:
"I've studied and lectured on personality profiles in the past and I am always
curious about people's behaviour and motivations. I love talking to strangers.
I think I'm the only person in the world who doesn't mind the nutter sitting
next to me on the bus!”
So the next time you get into a conversation with a stranger, make sure she's
not a polite, petite brunette, or you might just recognise yourself as a cold
hearted murderer in Rowson's next bestseller!"
Finally, what would Pauline be doing
if she wasn't writing crime stories?
“Unlike many writers I’m not the shy
retiring type. In fact, quite the opposite. I love being in front of a TV
camera or microphone and giving talks to audiences both large and small. If I
wasn't writing I'd be hosting a crime writers TV slot, or presenting a
documentary on crime. When I appeared on Legal TV’s Crime Writers programme,
twice, I thought - yes I could see myself doing this - and if the opportunity
arose, I'd definitely say yes. I have lots of ideas for great TV on crime
Pauline Rowson is definitely the most original UK crime writer on the scene.
Having already taken Asia by storm, her sails are now hoisted to conquer the
States with her unique Marine Mysteries. And judging by the film clip from
Legal TV below, hopefully we'll be seeing more of her in front of the camera
To see the interview of Pauline Rowson talking about Deadly Waters and
her Marine Mystery crime novels visit:
Waters (Hardcover £18.99)
Severn House Publishers Ltd (Sep 2007)