Joe and the crew at The Lazy Luncheonette come from a world I know well. I spent most of my working life in haulage and distribution and I knew most of the truck stops in Great Britain. I created the fictitious town of Sanford, dropped Joe Murray behind the counter of The Lazy Luncheonette where he could hassle the truckers, and made him an amateur sleuth.
But it wasn’t enough. He needed another angle. One that would bring him face to face with the various mysteries.
I had to retire early through ill health, and it was sitting around the house twiddling my thumbs which made me think of oldies with nowhere to go and nothing to do, so I made Joe, Sheila Riley, and Brenda Jump the management trio of the Sanford 3rd Age Club, a bunch of financially independent crumblies savouring the delights of excursions all over the north of England, the Midlands, and occasional forays into foreign climes.
Joe is an unlikely hero. He’s short, slender to the point of emaciation, irritable and outspoken and when it comes to fighting, if he got into a scrap in a pre-school class, the children would win. But he doesn’t lack courage, and there’s something about him which makes him slightly attractive to women… including his ex-wife Alison, who now live in the Canary Islands. And he secretly hides a heart of gold and an abiding concern for law and order and defence of the innocent.
Sheila and Brenda often save his bacon. Both are widowed, both were career women who changed course when their respective husbands passed away, and they’re now kingpins in The Lazy Luncheonette and the Sanford 3rd Age Club. Both are determined women, the kind who are difficult to fool, and it happens quite often that one or other of them will make a passing remark that allows Joe to tumble the solution to the puzzle nagging at him.
The tales are filled with the kind of quirky characters you meet in everyday life, from the stuffy, military bearing of Les Tanner, to the fun-loving, beer-swilling scrapper that is George Robson. Suspects so full of airs and graces that they pronounce the word ‘pounds’ as ‘pineds’, various police officers, some of who take to Joe and co, others who hate him and his interference, an ageing billionaire captivated by heavy metal rock music, and the gormless Lee, Joe’s amiable, but clumsy nephew who, by the way, was not based on Crusher Milburn from Last of the Summer Wine. Lee fulfils a much more important role in The Lazy Luncheonette than Crusher did in Ivy’s place.
As for locations, I’m familiar with every single setting of the books, right down to the architectural eccentricities of the hotel in Palmanova, Majorca (pictured above). There is one exception, one place I’ve never been to: Sanford. That’s because it doesn’t exist. However, I grew up in an area of South Leeds not far from the boundary with Wakefield, and I know that part of West Yorkshire well. If I had to place Sanford accurately, it’s probably somewhere in the Castleford area.
There’s a strong vein of cynical, northern humour running through all the titles, but at the core of each tale, there is a murder, sometimes more than one, and Joe, as irascible with the police as he is with the truckers, finds it impossible to keep his nose out.
They’re often described as ‘cosy’ mysteries. In common with my good friend Lesley Cookman, creator of the Libby Sarjeant series, I dislike that term. Say what you like, there is nothing cosy about murder. IMHO, it’s one of the two most despicable crimes any person can commit (the other being rape) and I prefer the description ‘traditional mysteries’. No serious violence, no seriously bad language, and when it comes to sex, we stop outside the bedroom door.
And that’s about it for now. If you’re new to the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries (or even if you’re a seasoned reader) there’s a FREE TITLE available, Liquidated in Lockdown. No strings attached. Just go to the page, Free Stuff for more information, and you can find details on the individual titles HERE.