A Notable Omission is the seventh novel from Isabella Muir – all of them set during the 1960s and 1970s. Here Isabella Muir provides some insight into one particular resource that helped her set the story in this particular historical period…
Having fun with historical research
Online research is fun, of course, but right now I’m saying thank goodness for libraries! With all my novels being set during those iconic decades of the 1960s and 1970s I’ve built up a broad range of resources to support my research into all things ‘sixties’. And along the way, in my local library, I tracked down a fascinating book. The Neophiliacs was written by Christopher Booker and published in 1969. It turns out that it is now out of print and Amazon are asking over £100 for a copy! So, you can imagine my delight when my wonderful library managed to retrieve a copy from their ‘rare and out-of-print’ books.
Wanting to find out more about Christopher Booker, I did what many do nowadays in these times of instant ‘information’ – I Googled him. I discovered that back in 1961 he became the founder and one of the early editors of the satirical magazine Private Eye. He was the first jazz critic for the Sunday and Daily Telegraph and continued as a weekly columnist for the Telegraph right up to 2019, when he finally retired at the age of 81. As well as The Neophiliacs Booker has written a number of books studying British society, as well as commenting on wider issues, such as the European Union. Some of his views regarding climate change, health issues, such as the dangers of asbestos and cigarettes, have been controversial; he would appear to be someone who is not afraid to say what he thinks, even if it means going against the grain.
However, as much as Mr Booker and I do not see eye-to-eye over such issues as climate change, his insight into the long-term implications of social change during the 1950s and 1960s have really struck a chord with me.
This paragraph in particular made me sit up and think:
‘…the twentieth century has also provided two other factors to aggravate and to feed the general neurosis; the first being the image-conveying apparatus of films, radio, television, advertising, mass-circulation newspapers and magazines; the second the feverishly increased pace of life, from communications and transport to the bewildering speed of change and innovation, all of which has created a profound subconscious restlessness which neurotically demands to be assuaged by more speed and more change of every kind.’
From: THE NEOPHILIACS: A STUDY OF THE REVOLUTION IN ENGLISH LIFE IN THE FIFTIES AND SIXTIES BY CHRISTOPHER BOOKER
Of course, now in 2023 the desire for speed is all around us – from the need for ever faster broadband, to high-speed rail links and non-stop Transatlantic flights. Some will point out that the changes started when the Industrial Revolution resulted in horse-drawn carriages and ploughs being replaced with the engine and the first railways. Social change is ongoing, but it does appear that some eras are more significant than others.
What is fascinating is to realise that at least sixty or seventy years ago Booker was able to identify ‘restlessness’ as it was happening, knowing that people would need more of the same, on and on until we reach the present day addiction to online and social media, where we constantly flick through images to gratify our seemingly ever reducing attention span.
Sadly, when my loan period expired, I had to return The Neophiliacs to the library, but not before making copious notes. Notes that helped no end as I drafted A Notable Omission, and insights that I hope have helped to set the scene for the novel, transporting readers back to an era when the pace of life was a tad gentler than it is today.
Here’s the blurb
A 1970s debate on equality is overshadowed by a deadly secret…
Spring 1970. Sussex University is hosting a debate about equality for women. But when one of the debating group goes missing, attention turns away from social injustice to something more sinister.
It seems every one of the group has something to hide, and when a second tragedy occurs, two of the delegates – amateur sleuth Janie Juke, and reporter Libby Frobisher – are prepared to make themselves unpopular to flush out the truth. Who is lying and why?
Alongside the police investigation, Janie and Libby are determined to prise answers from the tight-lipped group, as they find themselves in a race against time to stop another victim being targeted.
In A Notable Omission we meet Janie at the start of a new decade. When we left Janie at the end of The Invisible Case she was enjoying her new found skills and success as an amateur sleuth. Here we meet her a few months later, stealing a few days away from being a wife and mother, attending a local conference on women’s liberation to do some soul-searching…
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Notable-Omission-Janie-Juke-mystery-ebook/dp/B0BQCLRYS6
US – https://www.amazon.com/Notable-Omission-Janie-Juke-mystery-ebook/dp/B0BQCLRYS6
Meet the author
Isabella is never happier than when she is immersing herself in the sights, sounds and experiences of family life in southern England in past decades – specifically those years from the Second World War through to the early 1970s. Researching all aspects of life back then has formed the perfect launch pad for her works of fiction. It was during two happy years working on and completing her MA in Professional Writing when Isabella rekindled her love of writing fiction and since then she has gone on to publish seven novels, six novellas and two short story collections.
This latest novel, A Notable Omission, is the fourth book in her successful Sussex Crime Mystery series, featuring young librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke. The early books in the series are set in the late 1960s in the fictional seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, where we meet Janie, who looks after the mobile library. She is an avid lover of Agatha Christie stories – in particular Hercule Poirot. Janie uses all she has learned from the Queen of Crime to help solve crimes and mysteries. This latest novel in the series is set along the south coast in Brighton in early 1970, a time when young people were finding their voice and using it to rail against social injustice.
As well as four novels, there are six novellas in the series, set during the Second World War, exploring some of the back story to the Tamarisk Bay characters.
Isabella’s love of Italy shines through all her work and, as she is half-Italian, she has enjoyed bringing all her crime novels to an Italian audience with Italian translations, which are very well received.
Isabella has also written a second series of Sussex Crimes, set in the sixties, featuring retired Italian detective, Giuseppe Bianchi, who is escaping from tragedy in Rome, only to arrive in the quiet seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, to come face-to-face with it once more.
Isabella’s standalone novel, The Forgotten Children, deals with the emotive subject of the child migrants who were sent to Australia – again focusing on family life in the 1960s, when the child migrant policy was still in force.
Find out more about Isabella and her books by visiting her website at: http://www.isabellamuir.com
Connect with Isabella