Eastbourne is scene of crime in new thriller series

Following the success of I Could be You, Eastbourne author Sheila Bugler once again uses her adopted home town as her setting.

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 6:00 am
Sheila Bugler (credit Justin Griffiths-Williams).
Sheila Bugler (credit Justin Griffiths-Williams).

The second novel in her Dee Doran crime series, When The Dead Speak comes out on September 24 as part of the first wave of releases from the new Canelo Crime imprint.

Sheila is the author of the DI Ellen Kelly crime novels set in south-east London; after moving to Eastbourne in 2013, she is now plotting her crimes closer to home, with investigative journalist Dee Doran as her protagonist.

When the murdered body of Lauren Shaw is discovered laid out on the altar of St Mary the Virgin church in Eastbourne, it sends a chill to the core of those who have lived in the area for a long time.

“They remember another woman, also young and pretty, whose slain corpse was placed in the same spot 60 years ago…

“I didn’t set out to write a novel based in Eastbourne. It just happened.

“I knew that I was finished with my series set in London, and I wanted to write about this older woman who was a retired journalist, a single lady, in her late 40s or early 50s.

“She is a little bit on the edge with how she lives her life and where she is in life.

“She has an Irish father but she was born and brought up in Eastbourne, and as soon as she could, she left Eastbourne.

“She went to London and had a very successful career as a journalist and married a fellow journalist, but the marriage broke up. Her husband was a high-functioning alcoholic and it all spiralled into full-blown alcoholism.

“Dee moved back into her family home to look after her mother until her mother died. She is now living alone; her career has gone because she left London under a cloud; and she is lonely…”

Sheila is enjoying exploring Eastbourne’s crime potential: “Eastbourne is big enough to have some crime.

“It is quite a diverse population. You have got the migrant workers and you have got the stereotypical Eastbourne people, the blue-rinse quite wealthy people – and you have also got the young cosmopolitan people who have come from London. There are lots of different aspects to the community here.

“We have been living in Eastbourne since 2013. I grew up in Ireland by the sea, and we were living in south-east London.

“My son was due to start secondary school and I was really desperate to leave London.

“It sounds really silly, but I grew up by the sea in Ireland and I felt I didn’t know how to raise a teenager in London. I just wanted my children to have the same kinds of experiences I had had as a teenager.

“We chose Eastbourne because it is by the sea and because it is just about commutable to London, and it has been wonderful. I love Eastbourne, I love the sea, I love the South Downs. Sussex is so incredibly beautiful.”

And it would have been wrong not to call Eastbourne Eastbourne in the books: “I don’t like fictitious place names. I don’t like it when people make up places names and then base the places on real places.

“But that does mean that you have then got the challenge of getting it right!”

Sheila is happy to admit, though, that she has made the stretch of beach where Dee lives just a little bit more remote than it actually is…

“And I have created my ideal dream house there!”