Yorkshire coast and its hinterland of hills, moors, market towns and villages, all with a
fascinating history, has always been of interest to me. It was, therefore, natural for me
to use it as the basic background for my Jessica Blair novels.
One of my initial interests was the whaling
industry out of Whitby in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when it was a leading
port in this industry. Out of that arose not only my non-fiction book, Harpooned: The
Story of Whaling but also my first and second Jessica Blair books, The Red Shawl and a
Although whaling does make an appearance in a lesser role in some of
the other Jessica Blair books they use other industries and aspects of life along the
Yorkshire coast what we might call Jessica Blair country, the towering cliffs,
sandy beaches, bays and coves of this fascinating coast make perfect backdrops for novels.
Couple those with the coastal villages, the towns of Whitby and Scarborough, the
industrial complexes of Teesside and Humberside with their adjacent resorts and you have a
wealth of material on which to draw. Unite all those with believable characters who react
to each other and to the incidents in which they find themselves involved or which they
have created and you are on the way to writing an interesting story.
While Jessica Blair country is basic to all these books,
the stories do stray beyond the confines of this coast. So within the close vicinity I
visit the heather clad moors, the deep cut valleys, the fertile farmland, and the market
towns of Pickering and Helmsley of North Yorkshire.
It was natural with whaling as the background that the Arctic and the
Pacific should figure in the narrative as well as Shetland and the American whaling port
of New Bedford. The terrible Highland Clearances and the ordeal of the emigrant ships to
Nova Scotia, scenes from Revolutionary France, the Art world of London, the Battle of
Britain and the Lincolnshire bomber stations all help to form a variety of backgrounds
beyond the basic Yorkshire coast. Smuggling at Robin Hoods Bay, the jet industry in
Whitby, the alum works at Ravenscar, the Teesside iron industry and the port of Hull bring
variation to the framework of the stories.