Q&A with Decima Blake

Since investigating the disappearance of fifteen-year-old twin boys, Hingston - a young, talented Detective Sergeant, has been tormented by night terrors. On waking, he remembers a vast, golden meadow that glows with warmth and carries the sound of rapid footfalls and trouser legs pushing through grasses. A curly haired boy runs tirelessly through the meadow. The promise of adventure is lost when the sickening ache of death seeps into Hingston's bones. Feeling suffocated and tortured, melodic chimes calm him and his panic subsides.

Signed off and leaving the office, a key inexplicably falls from Hingston's investigation file. Intrigued, he takes it with him, escaping London for Dartmouth where his investigative race begins. Stalked by a challenging elderly woman and hindered by his boss, his determination to solve the case draws him into the supernatural world that connects a murderous past to the present.

1. Tell us about your main character, Detective Hingston.

Jason Hingston is a young, talented Detective Sergeant serving with the Metropolitan Police in Chiswick, West London. Now leading missing persons investigations, Hingston's dedication and tenacity has secured convictions of many of London's most undesirable offenders. His "Best Detective" mug and commendations boast of his success and he's a good looking officer, but Hingston remains unpretentious, team spirited and is well liked by most.

Hingston dislikes officers who bulldoze their way up the ranks, sarcasm and uncooperative people, particularly if they are sat on the other side of an interview table. Still hung up on his ex-girlfriend, Detective Constable Remi Armitage, Hingston has been single for over two years. He lives in a 1930s semi-detached house in Hatch End, West London, which used to belong to his grandparents. Hingston's uncle, Zack, who lives in Dartmouth, Devon, is like a best mate. They share interests in history, golf and good food - especially curries. However, policing takes up most of Hingston's time, limiting opportunities to visit Uncle Zack, that is until the Clarke twins go missing, his night terrors begin and in a matter of weeks he finds himself signed off work

2. Hingston is tormented by night terrors. What is the worst dream you've experienced.

In my early twenties I dreamt I was being strangled and woke to find the bed covers were tight up under my neck. What a relief when I woke up!

3. Who are some of your writing influences?

Agatha Christie, Henry James, Ian McEwan and Joseph Heller amongst others. Like many aspiring authors, I read On Writing by Stephen King and his advice did influence my second draft of Hingston's Box.

4. What challenges do you face when writing a murder mystery.

Hingston's Box and the second Hingston novel I am currently writing have both involved challenges in locating the relevant research material, particularly where this involved historical research. I have spent many hours at the UK National Archives, the British Library, the British Museum and the British Library's Newspaper Archive as a result. It took some effort to find all the information I needed - the most challenging was researching the Victorian circus, for which the most helpful material I obtained was a copy of a Victorian publication recorded on a microfilm held in a library in the north of England.

Following the research, the next challenges are to identify the "clues" to weave into the plot and to construct a running order of events that will make the plot and subplot interesting and keep the reader guessing.

5. What do you do when you're not writing?

I regularly bake cakes and biscuits, go walking, play the piano, read and I watch crime, thriller and drama series. Since Hingston's Box was published I've started to deliver creative writing workshops for young adults at branches of Waterstones bookstore and in secondary schools.

Excerpt 1 

Hingston began to experience a series of night terrors or Pavor Nocturnus as Occupational Health advised. In under an hour from falling asleep the innocent opening scenes would play out. Every night it was the same:
Muted rays of light illuminated a vast, summer meadow. The meadow glowed with warmth. It was saturated with life. There was no place for imagination.
Tall grasses and fluffy seed heads nodded. A distant songbird beautified the scene with its music, amplified from oak trees that towered over fields that rolled into the golden horizon.
The air was silky and perfumed by heady honeysuckle that hypnotised. It carried the sound of rapid footfalls and trouser legs pushing through grasses. A curly haired boy ran tirelessly into the meadow. His white shirt billowed between his braces, his slender body was silhouetted beneath its drapes and his blond hair bounced with each stride.
The pace was set; the energy infectious; the freedom inspiring. The promise of adventure increased with every breath. Thus the dream grasped Hingston so tightly that it was impossible for the boy to continue to run alone.
Only when the boy splashed through the clear, shimmering brook, did the sickening ache of death seep into Hingston’s bones.
The boy ran on, cloaked by a December night and his laboured breath condensed, emitting swathes of tiny silver stars that mirrored those above. The damp grasses chilled and his knees ached, yet he refused to falter. Claret blood oozed and dripped. It clung like a suffocating mask and choked and stifled and tortured.
It mattered not how many times they began at the meadow. Hingston always ran with the boy. The agonising fear clung long after he awoke. But the memory of the brook and everything thereafter was always lost.

Excerpt 2

A pungent, musky aftershave permeated the corridor, its origin the bald, muscular Senior Investigating Officer named Detective Chief Inspector Smythe. His office was pokey and lit dimly, worsened by a sizeable wardrobe which contained his many uniforms and displayed a horde of football trophies on the top of it. The cupboard was open and DCI Smythe was inspecting himself in the mirror on the inside of the door.
Hingston smiled to himself as he observed Smythe straighten his suit jacket before inflating his chest, placing his hands in his trouser pockets, re-straightening his jacket and performing an Elvis lip sideways on in the mirror.
Hingston paused before knocking on the office door.
‘DS Jason Hing—ston! Good morning to you,’ Smythe boomed in his husky voice and gave an intense stare with his dark eyes.
‘Morning, sir,’ Hingston replied with a mild smile and noticed the DCI's once bushy eyebrows had been clipped into shape and his clean shaven face glowed with an unnatural tan.

Author Bio

Decima Blake has a long-standing interest in child protection. Having worked with teenagers, she is deeply passionate about child victims of crime. In writing Hingston's Box, Decima drew on her love of classic English murder mysteries and ghost stories. Her interest in English Literature was ignited by two highly motivational teachers who made her A Level studies enjoyable, character forming and invaluable to her future endeavours.
Hingston's Box raises awareness of the vulnerability of all children to exploitation. A percentage of royalties will be donated to the charity Embrace Child Victims of Crime: https://embracecvoc.org.uk/


Hingston's Box was published on 29 September 2016 by Pegasus Publishers. It is available to buy online from the following bookstores: