Japanese planes swoop down and attack Pearl Harbour.
America enters the war and Britain no longer stands alone against Hitler.
But conditions on the home front remain bleak, and for Scotland Yard detective Frank Merlin, life is as arduous as ever.
He is diverted from his tenacious campaign against London’s organised criminal gangs by the violent deaths of two young women in the centre of the city.
Merlin investigates and encounters fraudulent film moguls, dissipated movie stars, mad Satanists, and brutal gangsters amongst others as he and his team battle to uncover the connections and search out the truth.
MY INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR!
- When did you know that you wanted to be an author?
I wanted to be an author from a very young age. I was a very keen reader from the outset and soon decided that writing a book was the greatest thing a person could do. I wrote many stories in school and remember winning a class prize for a tale of pirates on the Spanish Main when I was 8 or 9. I had an English teacher at secondary school who encouraged me in my writing and I kept it up at university. When I started working life and became a barrister, however, I just couldn’t find the time. I subsequently changed careers from the law to business but didn’t take up writing again until many years later when the computer business I’d started was sold. I was in my fifties when my first book was published.
- What inspired you to write your latest book, A Death In Mayfair?
A Death In Mayfair is the fourth in my series about World War Two Scotland Yard detective Frank Merlin. I have always been fascinated by the war and particularly what happened on the Home Front. While the nation at large was involved in a heroic battle for survival, normal life carried on in many ways. People worked and played, fell in love, got married, got divorced, had fights, went to the pub, went to the cinema, brought up families, and committed crimes. Crime in fact boomed during the war years, with reported crime growing by nearly sixty per cent. It seemed to me that this would be a good period in which to set a detective series.
Specific inspiration for A Death In Mayfair came from reading about the British film industry during the war. I learned that in 1939 there were as many as fifteen film studios in and around London. The cinema was massively important to wartime Britain both in terms of providing escapism and keeping up morale. The film industry suggested itself to me as an interesting background for my new Merlin story. I invented Silver Screen Studios, a state of the art production complex by the River Thames, populated it with some larger than life fictional film producers and stars and got going. In the story Merlin has to investigate two deaths, one that of a glamorous movie actress who falls from her penthouse flat in Mayfair.
- If you could sell A Death In Mayfair in one sentence what would it be?
Merlin encounters fraudulent film moguls, philandering movie stars, and brutal gangsters as he investigates the violent deaths of a famous actress and a teenage girl in wartime London.
- What are you up to next?
I am writing the as yet untitled fifth Merlin book which is set in August 1942. The series follows Frank Merlin’s adventures sequentially through the war. The first in the series, Princes Gate, is set in January 1940, the second, Stalin’s Gold, in September 1940, the third, Merlin At War, in June 1941 and A Death In Mayfair takes place in December 1941. The new book is set in August 1942 and the plot revolves around art theft, racism in the US forces, and espionage.
- Who is your biggest inspiration?
I am inspired and influenced by several crime writers who’s books I enjoy and admire. In no particular order of preference these include Georges Simenon, Patricia Highsmith, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, PD James, Michael Connelly and William Boyd.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Ellis is a thriller writer from Swansea and a former barrister. He is the creator of DCI Frank Merlin, an Anglo-Spanish police detective operating in World War 2 London. His books treat the reader to a vivid portrait of London during the war.
Mark grew up under the shadow of his parents’ experience of the Second World War. He has always been fascinated by the fact that while the nation was engaged in a heroic endeavour, crime flourished. His father served in the wartime navy and died a young man. His mother told him stories of watching the heavy bombardment of Swansea from the safe vantage point of a hill in Llanelli, and of attending tea dances in wartime London under the bombs and doodlebugs.
In consequence Mark has always been fascinated by WW2 and in particular the Home Front and the fact that while the nation was engaged in a heroic endeavour, crime flourished. Murder, robbery, theft and rape were rife and the Blitz provided scope for widespread looting.This was an intriguing, harsh and cruel world. This is the world of DCI Frank Merlin.
Mark Ellis’ books regularly appear in the Kindle bestseller charts. He is a member of the Crime Writers Association (CWA). His most recent book, Merlin at War, was on the CWA Historical Dagger Longlist in 2018. A Death in Mayfair will be published in November 2019.