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14 February 2020

A Novel Conversation with Susan Grossey and Martha Plank

Today is Valentine's Day so you would expect a romance right?
Well no romance - today's special guest is the wife of  a police constable involved with solving a murder mystery... But.. this couple has been married for many years, are still very much in love and are - 
very romantic!
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To be a little different from the usual 
'meet the author' 
let's meet 


Q: Hello, I’m Helen, host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Susan Grossey’s novel Heir Apparent. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?  
A: What a generous welcome – thank you so much.  A dish of tea would be wonderful – here, let me pour one for you too.  My name is Martha Plank, and I am married to Samuel Plank, the narrator of Miss Grossey’s series of books.  Sam is a magistrates’ constable – a very responsible job, I can tell you – and he and I have been married for, oh, more than a quarter-century now.  And as for my status in the books, well, it depends on who you ask.  I see myself as a supporting character – both figuratively and literally, as Sam often relies on my advice and comfort – but I am told (and I do not mean to boast when I say this) that many readers consider me their favourite character.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: “Heir Apparent” is the sixth novel in the series.  They are all set in consecutive years in the 1820s and they all reflect Sam’s particular interest in financial crime and the damage it can do.  “Heir Apparent” tells the story of a young man who returns from the Caribbean – heavens, how far away that must be – to be at his father’s deathbed and collect his inheritance.  But Sam is not entirely convinced that the young fellow is who he says he is – and my Sam has very good instincts in these things.  So there is mystery and crime, but also a good dash of love.  And a wedding – how I love a wedding.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both?)
A: What an impertinent question – although how interesting that perhaps you are also spending time in the company of people of low moral character!  I’m not one of those on her knees to God all the time, but I do try to live according to his scriptures.  Mind you, I’ve met some scoundrels in my time – no wife of a constable can be too prudish, I can tell you.

Q Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: You probably expect me to tell you about Sam, but he can sometimes be a little bit vain and so it will do him good to see me talking about someone else for a change.  And I have a soft spot for a young lady called Miss Lily Conant; she is the daughter of Sam’s magistrate and lost her mother many years ago.  She’s grown into a beautiful young woman but has her father’s brains and – like me – knows perhaps more than she should about the darker side of life.  I hope she finds a husband worthy of her, and not one of those ridiculous dandies we see strutting about London nowadays.  I don’t mind telling you that I was flattered when she had a bit of trouble recently, as you can read in “Heir Apparent”, and her first thought was to come to me and Sam.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: As is entirely fitting, whenever you read about Sam, I am there alongside him.  We have told six of our stories so far, with one to go – although Miss Grossey has decided to wait a year or two to tell that one, as she cannot bear to say farewell to us.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: There is one scene in this latest book where Sam is felled by stomach trouble and spends a couple of days between the bucket and the privy.  You can well imagine who has to do the clearing up and the soaking of the linens.  And a man is never an easy patient.

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: Sam knows how I like to accompany him if he goes to interesting places, and in “Heir Apparent” he decides to consult a gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden.  What a marvellous place that is, and how clever the gardener is, knowing all about the properties of the plants and how they can cure (and kill…).  Poor fellow – he’s a widower with daughters, and I shall put my mind to finding him a new wife.  Women can survive alone, but men are hopeless without a wife.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?
A: Miss Grossey is quite busy, yes.  She has a day job – advising businesses about money laundering and how to avoid it – and then she spends her spare time with me and Sam.  She is also planning another series of books, set in the same historical period, but this time in Cambridge, where she lives.  Can you imagine preferring that chilly outpost to the excitement and variety of London?  Sam went to Bury St Edmunds recently, and you should hear what he has to say about life in the provinces.

Q: How do you think authors can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for her personally?
A: I know that Miss Grossey loves talking to other independent authors – well, it’s more of that computer-talking that she does.  She is quite experienced now at publishing her own books, and is happy to share her advice with others who are starting out.  However, there is always something new to learn, and if the writing is going slowly – sometimes Sam can be a bit awkward, as well I know – she likes to computer-talk with other authors to get herself started again.

Q: If your author was to host a dinner party what guests would she invite and why? Maximum nine guests – real, imaginary, alive or dead.
 Sam Plank, of course

 Martha Plank – 
as if I would let Sam go out carousing alone!

No spoilers but
These gloves feature in the novel

one of the early campaigners for prison reform 
and a most compassionate woman

 Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington – 
he looks so sad in the 1814 Goya portrait 
that we would like to know why 
(I believe he had an unhappy marriage,
 which would explain it)

 An actress called Claudie Blakley – 
Miss Grossey says that she would be 
ideal to play me in the theatre

a barrister who was one of the first Commissioners 
of the Metropolitan Police
 (I’d like to have a word with him too,
 about my Sam’s future)

The composer Mr Handel
 he could entertain us with his music

Thank you Martha, it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? meanwhile, chatting is thirsty work, would you like another dish of tea - and I think I will join you... milk? Lemon? Sugar?
Salute! Here’s to writing a best seller!

Twitter: @ConstablePlank

Heir Apparent universal link:


Twenty minutes later the three of us were sitting at a small table in the tiny dining area of the celebrated confectionery shop.  It was true that I had once rashly promised to bring my wife here – Martha had overheard two ladies of consequence in Oxford Street talking of the “incomparable cheesecake” they had sampled and had since longed to know how a cake can be made of cheese – but I had not envisaged putting my hand in my pocket for two dining companions.  But I need not have worried: a combination of grief and unfettered access to her own larder meant that Mrs Godwin’s appetite was small, and she asked only for a pot of tea.  Martha requested the longed-for cheesecake, and for myself I chose a sugared bun.  Our refreshments arrived quickly and Martha made sure that our guest had been furnished with tea before turning to her and again placing a calming hand on her arm.
    “Mrs Godwin,” she said gently.  “I think there is something you would like to tell my husband, and that is why you came across to us at Bunhill Fields.  You will both forgive me, I hope, if I tell you that Sam – Constable Plank – has already told me what the butler said to you about Mr James Foster.” 
    The housekeeper’s eyes widened but she said nothing.
   “Sam is a good man, Mrs Godwin,” continued my wife.  “He has not forgotten what you said and is doing his best to uncover the truth of the matter.  If there is something more troubling you, there is no-one better you could tell.  You must trust me in this.”



  1. Thank you so much for hosting Martha, Helen - she has not stopped talking about her outing. After hearing Sam talk for years about his little drinks with Conant and Wilson, at last she has her own. I had no idea when I started the Sam books that Martha would be so popular, but after every book readers contact me to ask for one thing: more Martha! And here she it. Thank you again. Best wishes from Susan

    1. I thoroughly enjoyed Martha's company - and I think we should have a novella about how Sam and Martha met...

  2. Martha is so calm, supportive and patient. She has more intelligence than she gives herself credit for - in today's world I'm sure she would rise high in the world of policing. A novella about hos they met? What a splendid idea, especially as we are going to have to wait for No 7!

  3. No matter what the times, the old adage rings true: "Behind every great man, there is a great woman." Martha is quite aware, too, how to be politically helpful to her Sam even though she modestly casts her eyes down.

  4. In this world of constant competition, it is difficult to survive as a self-pub author. Every detail matters and getting reviews is a big part of my marketing strategy. I ordered a few reviews from to get more visibility and sales this Christmas season..


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