Author Interview: DM Fletcher – Best Eaten Cold, Or Of Coasts And Conflicts

August 5, 2021

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By BRUCE DENNILL

Best Eaten Cold by DM Fletcher is set in World War Two in South Africa. Theresa is tracking German submarines off the southern coast. She becomes involved, through her lover, with a pro-Nazi organisation and her actions have consequences in the present day, when her niece Penny becomes a target.

 

When, and under what circumstances did the idea for your latest book come to you?

I’ve always been fascinated by World War Two, particularly In South Africa, where I grew up. I read about submarines off the coast of the Cape sinking shipping and became more and more interested in what the war must have been like in South Africa. Both my parents lived there then and told me stories about it. I did great deal of research about the various opposing forces, which is reflected in the book. I decided to make my main character a British agent who was keeping an eye on the submarines and the rest of it fell into place. I wanted to use the characters from my previous book, so I put the story into the present day as well to show what the aftermath was like. Once I started writing, everything flowed.

 

Did it initially feel like something to commit to, or was that something that took time to develop?

Once I had hit on the idea, I was committed to it. As I have a full-time job, the story took some years to put down on paper. I developed a habit of writing at weekends. I also developed the characters from my previous book, Holy Disorder, and I enjoyed doing that.

 

How did you conduct your research or preparation before writing – was it more experiential or more academic or desk-based?

As I was born in the Cape, where the historical part of the book is set, many of the grown-ups I knew as a child had fought in the war or at least been around when it was going on. Their phraseology and attitudes were something I was familiar with. Also, the conflict between the pro-Nazi and anti-Nazi forces continued for many years and one could not help but be conscious of it. I did undertake a lot of book research, particularly about the submarines and the organisation known as the Ossewabrandwag. I was at school with the grandsons of the two main protagonists who took South Africa into World War Two and one could not help but be aware of the racial tensions and attitudes.

 

When considering influence, do you find yourself wanting to write like someone (in terms of their style, tone and language) or aiming for a kind of perspective or storytelling approach you admire or enjoy?

I enjoy many different types of books – humour, classic literature, historical works, crime novels and adventure stories. Favourite authors have been Rider Haggard, Conan Doyle, Wilbur Smith, Chekov and Barbara Pym and I have read and re-read many of the classics. It’s hard to say I try to imitate any of them although there must be a subconscious influence. I like the Holmes and Watson approach, so there’s quite a lot of that in my books. My Holmes is a female, however…

 

What’s in your reading pile – and what upcoming book (other than your own) are you looking forward to?

I’ve just read Popes – A History by John Julius Norwich, which was very interesting. They certainly were an amazing bunch in medieval times. They sold indulgences and appointed their nephews to high offices with abandon. I’m about to read James Thurber: Writings and Drawings, and also Travels With 2020 Vision – a travel book about the South African southern coast. I also intend to read Box 88 and hope to discover what makes a best-seller.

 

Do you have a favourite character you have created? Or if you’re writing non-fiction, do you have a specific topic that you find endlessly fascinating?

Definitely. The character’s name is Penny Duchesne. She is a beguiling, enigmatic woman of high intelligence. She achieves most of what she sets out to do, against all odds. Her main flaw is that she is amoral. However, that makes her all the more attractive and interesting.

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