It's August 1962, and Colin Crampton, the Brighton Evening Chronicle's crime reporter, is desperate for a front-page story. But it's the silly season for news – and the only tip-off Crampton has is about the disappearance of the seafront's crazy-golf proprietor, Arnold Trumper. Crampton thinks the story is about as useful as a set of concrete water-wings. But when he learns that Trumper's vanishing act is linked to an unsolved murder, he scents a front-page scoop. Powerful people are determined Crampton must not discover the truth. But he is quite prepared to use every newspaper scam in the book to land his exclusive. The trouble is it's his girlfriend, feisty Australian Shirley, who too often ends up on the wrong end when a scam goes wrong. Crampton has to overcome dangers they never mentioned at journalism school before he writes his story. Headline Murder will keep you guessing – and smiling – right to the last page.
Headline Murder is a fun read with humour throughout; a literary version of Heartbeat but with a journalist lead, Brighton setting and more laughs.
Colin Crampton is our ‘first person’ narrator, a crime correspondent for the Brighton Evening Chronicle. It’s 1962 - the swinging sixties - and there’s been a dearth of hard crime news lately. So much so, news editor Frank Figgis is letting Crampton know that it’s about time some proper crime story reaches the front page, after all crime sells papers.
Needing a headline Crampton learns of a missing man call Trumper, the proprietor of Krazy Kat, a rundown crazy golf course near the sea front. Trumper’s wife was murdered 22 years previous but that’s not the only interesting nugget. Septimus Drake, the most dangerous man in Brighton, is taking an interest in the Krazy Kat, but why? Drake is a property developer known for his dubious to heinous ways of driving up and down house prices.
It could be called a cozy procedural but this is not a cop doing the investigating. Crampton is a wily journalist with a few tricks up his sleeve. The era makes for a refreshing change from the techno and forensic world of contemporary settings. With no internet we are back to filing systems, women in the basement or ‘morgue’ up to their chins in clippings.
There is an innocence of the period but murder is afoot and there’s never a time when local politics is crime free. The stress exerted on one local ambitious councillor and his marriage proves particularly entertaining – for the reader.
The strong supporting cast of colleagues, locals and a feisty girlfriend help the story drive along nicely. And Crampton’s reliance of phone boxes, newspaper cuttings, and old journalistic skills make this investigation a thrill, and there’s plenty of intrigue too. An engaging and entertaining mystery.
About Peter Bartram:
Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime series - which features crime reporter Colin Crampton in 1960s Brighton. Peter has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He's interviewed cabinet ministers and crooks - at least the crooks usually answer the questions, he says. He's pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700 feet down a coal mine and a courtier's chambers at Buckingham Palace. (The former is easier to get into but at least you don't have to wear a hat with a lamp on it in the latter.) Peter wrote 21 non-fiction books, including five ghost-written, in areas such as biography, current affairs and how-to titles, before turning to crime - and penning Headline Murder, the first novel in the Crampton series. As an appetiser for the main course, there is a selection of Crampton of the Chronicle short stories at www.colincrampton.com. Peter is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers' Association.