The Secret Lives of The Doyenne of Didsbrook is my second novel and it is a murder mystery spoof.

The sleepy market town of Didsbrook is thrown into turmoil after the town’s most flamboyant resident, the much-loved actress turned best-selling novelist, Jocelyn Robertshaw, is found dead.

The idea for ‘The Doyenne’ came from a short story called An Honest Review, which made the longlist in the Fiction Factory Short Story competition at the beginning of 2019. The short story revolved around the members of the Didsbrook Authors and Writers Group, better known as DAWG.  I had so much fun writing it, I decided to keep going and turn it into a novel. By the end of 2019, and still called An Honest Review, it made the longlist of the Flash500 Novel competition.  Somewhere around the start of 2020, it morphed into Secret Lives of the Doyenne of Didsbrook. and made the longlist of the Retreat West Best Opening Page of a Novel. 

Didsbrook nestles in the bosom of a conservation area. Accessed either by train or by car, there is only one way in and one way out by either means of transport. It is a pastoral dead end, an idyllic haven, surrounded by rolling hills and lush, green countryside – one of the last remaining bastions of serenity in England’s green and pleasant land.

The tranquillity of our daily lives is rarely disturbed, other than by the shrill songs of the Yellow Hammer and Corn Bunting floating on the breeze. Or the constant, gentle rushing sound of the Didsbrook Rise, a shallow, stony brook, as it wends its way through the heart of town, on its way to feed the trout lake at Didsbrook Manor before joining the River Stoner.

Life has changed little since our medieval forebears first embedded their pitchforks here. Sometimes I walk along Didsbrook’s cobbled streets, and I imagine how life was in those days. Laughing women wearing frilly mop caps, carrying shoulder yokes, on their way to milk cows, or collecting water from the Didsbrook Rise. Men dressed in wool tunics and breeches, smoking clay pipes or chewing on pieces of straw. Some poor sod splattered in rotten tomatoes locked in the pillory in the marketplace, suffering public humiliation for perjury or subordination.

Didsbook is a creative community.  Some of the members of DAWG are also members of the Didsbrook Amateur Dramatics Society, affectionately known as DADS.

The founder of both DADS and DAWG is the town’s best-loved resident, Jocelyn Robertshaw, once the darling of London’s West End and now, a best-selling author. The recently widowed Jocelyn lives in the Tudor pile that stands proud overlooking this quaint, fictitious, market town.

The first chapter made the longlist in the Flash 500 Novel Opening competition at the end of 2019 and in 2020, the Retreat West Best Opening Page of a Novel.

I’d hoped to have finished it by August 2020 but, unfortunately, it didn’t happen, and I can’t blame COVID-19 for that, but I would like to think that I will have by the time we get shot of dismal 2020.


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