The Slow Death of Maxwell Carrick

maxwellcarrickLocal author, Jan Harvey, has used Shipton under Wychwood as the backdrop for her new novel, The Slow Death of Maxwell Carrick. Borrowing heavily from the topography of the Wychwoods and drawing on the myths and legends of the village, Jan has invented a time-split story that, just like her first book, The Seven Letters, links the Cotswolds to Paris across a span of seventy years.

“Life has been far easier researching this book,” says Jan. “If I needed any details I could simply step outside my front door and make notes. It was lovely to be able to include some of the colourful village characters of the past too. So many of them have faded away, but I’ve tried to include aspects of them, even if it is just a name or perhaps a mannerism.”

Jan based the book in a stately home that she conjured in her mind as she was out walking her dog, Byron. “I was walking up Meadow Lane and went to look at the fields on the other side of Red Bridge. I could picture a large house surrounded by green lawns. I imagined a family living there and after that, I was off. The story started to form in my mind and for good measure, having watched Byron swim in the river nearby, I included a flat-coated retriever too.”

So who is Maxwell Carrick? Anyone we know?

Jan says no, though in her mind he does bear more than a passing resemblance to a certain Captain Poldark! “The funny thing is, those people who read my novel for me ahead of publication all came back to me with vastly different images of my lead character. That’s the wonderful thing about books – they are a unique adventure for each reader,” she says.

Many readers wanted to know if Jan’s second book was in any way a sequel to The Seven Letters but she tells us they will be disappointed. “The uniting theme of my novels is strong women and how they survive when the odds are stacked against them. That theme runs through The Slow Death,” adds Jan, “but the characters in The Seven Letters have all met their fate and do not appear in this story.”

Why Shipton? Jan loves the social history of the village and has often poured over the History Society’s books as well as many back copies of The Wychwood. “The publications produced in this village are a mine of information and they paint a rich picture of our history. We are very lucky to have so many people who, over the years, have dedicated themselves to keeping records. For example, I used to talk with Dr. Margaret Ware, of Monk’s Gate, who was heavily involved in the History Society. What she didn’t know about times past wasn’t worth knowing. She was a great inspiration.”

Of course, an author of fiction does not have to relate the actual facts and Jan has taken license as all writers do. There is a little bending of the truth here and there in the book.

“The most important thing in historical fiction is to adhere to the important dates, they are immoveable, but as Hilary Mantel says; “The author begins at the point where the facts run out, the record fades and a story is missing.” I like to think I filled a few gaps, whether they be true or not!”

The Slow Death of Maxwell Carrick was published on 29 October 2018 and is available on all platforms. However, Jan has copies to sell; these can be bought through her website, by email or, alternatively, if you see her out in the village walking Byron, stop her and buy one!

December 2018 – January 2019