To kick off my blog for the new year, I’m delighted to welcome crime thriller author, Anne Coates, to discuss the themes of her Hannah Weybridge series, and particularly the latest book, Stage Call.
Over to you, Anne…
At the heart of my Hannah Weybridge crime thriller series is the fact that my protagonist is a lone parent at a time when single mothers were blamed for virtually all the ills in society. She works as a freelance journalist and her early motivation as the series opens with Dancers in the Wind is to earn money to provide for her daughter but as this becomes less of an issue when she gains a contract on a national newspaper, she is able to take up the cudgels for those who have no voice or standing in a community.
At the core of her investigations is corruption on various levels and the fact that many victims do not have the wherewithal to fight it. From homeless people sleeping rough and trafficking young girls, Death’s Silent Judgement, to communities whose culture makes them vulnerable, Songs of Innocents, to Australian men who were part of the Child Migration Scheme being murdered on their return to trace their families in Perdition’s Child, invariably Hannah finds herself – and therefore her child – at risk and this is a tension within the narrative.
Stage Call, the fifth in the series, begins with the death of a “national treasure”, Joan Ballantyne, a stage and film actress whose career had a boost when she played a major role in a popular TV soap, which introduced her to a whole new audience. Suicide is suspected. But why would a woman who is flying high in her career end it all? Hannah is equally confounded, as she had been working with the actress on her memoir. There had been no indication of depression or unhappiness; the opposite was true. So when her son, the TV actor Leo Hawkins, begs for Hannah’s help she is persuaded to seek answers to uncomfortable questions.
Hannah steps into an unfamiliar world where no one is who he or she appears to be and everyone seems suspicious. Relationships going back years are seen in a new light and Hannah is aware of a nameless threat stalking her. Is someone just trying to intimidate her or is it more serious? Friends and sparring partners from previous books provide a support network and Edith, a photographer she has become friendly with, takes a more prominent role.
Friendship and relationships are central themes. As a single parent, Hannah often feels alone and has moments of envy when confronted with more conventional family set-ups. In Stage Call, life has moved on and her daughter now attends a local nursery as Hannah’s previous nanny, Janet, has returned to her career as a police officer.
Hannah has always been a good listener, it’s what makes her a good journalist but she also observes. Being a little on the outside (single parent) gives her an edge. She tries not to judge or make unnecessary comparisons but she is still fallible and vulnerable. Her previous investigations have made her enemies in high places. However she does have the protection of media mogul Lord Gyles as well as police officers Claudia Turner and Mike Benton.
While Hannah is seeking justice, others are out for revenge and there is a delicately balanced interplay between the two. Sometimes the two meet with explosive consequences.
About the Book:
At the Old Vic, one of London’s most iconic theatres, the stage is set for one of our national treasures to tread the boards in a new, sell-out play. Joan Ballantyne, now in her sixties, has attracted a new fan base with her role in an award-winning soap, Chicory Road, and they’ve turned out in force. As the curtain rises, it reveals the strangely still body of the leading lady, slumped in an armchair. The show will not go on…
Still recovering from the attempt on her life, Hannah Weybridge is stunned. She had been collaborating with the actress on her memoir. Now she has to contribute to her obituary. Suicide is suspected, but Hannah, from the little she knows of the woman, is sceptical. As is Joan’s son, the famous TV actor, Leo Hawkins, who implores Hannah to investigate the circumstances of his mother’s mysterious death.
Hannah is drawn into the lives of those who knew Joan. But who can she trust in a world where everyone seems to be playing a part?
About the Author:
Reading and writing has been Anne Coates’ passion for as long as she can remember. Inspired by her mother who taught her to read before she went to school and by the Deputy Head at her secondary school in Harlow, Essex who encouraged her hunger for reading by granting her free access to the books not yet in the school library – she feels still grateful for this, in her eyes, amazing privilege.
After her degree in English and French, Anne moved to London where she has lived ever since. During her career, she has worked for publishers, as a journalist, writer, editor, and translator. The birth of her daughter, Olivia, inspired her to write non-fiction books, such as ‘Your Only Child’ (Bloomsbury, 1996), books about applying to and surviving university (NeedtoKnow, 2013), but also short stories, tales with a twist, and stories exploring relationships, published in in various women’s magazines including Bella and Candis.
As well as editing and abridging fiction and narrative non-fiction, Anne has contributed to national magazines and newspapers and found herself interviewing all types of people from those working on gas rigs to prostitutes; some of their situations made her think “What if…” And so, investigative journalist Hannah Weybridge was born…
The Hannah Weybridge series is published by Red Dog Press and available from all the usual outlets.
Stage Call is available as an ebook from18 January, and the hardback and paperback a month later on 15 February. Pre-order from Red Dog Press https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/stage-call