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Friday, 22 May 2020

A Novel Conversation with Lucienne Boyce's character

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To be a little different from the usual 
'meet the author' 
let's meet 
Paul Mattox


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 Lucienne Boyce’s novel Death Makes No Distinction. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?

A: Well, a drop of summat wouldn’t go amiss…gin and hot water with maybe a bit of lemon and sugar?

I’m Paul Mattox and I suppose you’d say I’m a support. I’ve been working for Noah Foster, Dan’s dad, for nigh on twenty five year now. He has the gymnasium in Cecil Street – you know it? Off the Strand. I do a bit of training, a bit of sweeping, a bit of mending, a bit of everything. And before you start getting any idea that we’re long in the tooth for this game, let me tell you that John Broughton was still training the young ’uns in his eighties. Aye, he was a game fighter right to the end of the bout, was John.

Of course, it’ll all be Dan’s one day. That boy means as much to Noah as if he was his own son born. You’d have wondered why if you’d seen him the day we first set eyes on him at the Johnson v Oliver fight at Blackheath. As rough and foul-mouthed a canter [rogue] as you’d ever meet, but he had courage, no mistake. Why, that older lad beat him senseless, claimed the crowd was all his own to rob and Dan should go and pick pockets somewhere else. But Dan, he wouldn’t give ground, and he wouldn’t throw in the towel, neither. Noah said there’s something about him, Paul, something almost grand. It’s as if he might have been born to summat better and somehow got lost. As to that, ’tain’t very likely, but we’ll never know, seeing as no one knows who his parents were.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: It’s historical fiction, and who else would it be about but Dan Foster, Principal Officer of Bow Street?

There’s this here handbill will tell you all about it [hands over sheet of paper, creased and grubby from being carried about in his pocket for a long time].

Death Makes No Distinction: A Dan Foster Mystery
Two women at opposite ends of the social scale, both brutally murdered.

Principal Officer Dan Foster of the Bow Street Runners is surprised when his old rival John Townsend requests his help to investigate the murder of Louise Parmeter, a beautiful writer who once shared the bed of the Prince of Wales. Her jewellery is missing, savagely torn from her body. Her memoirs, which threaten to expose the indiscretions of the great and the good, are also missing.

Frustrated by the chief magistrate’s demand that he drop the investigation into the death of the unknown beggar woman, found savagely raped and beaten and left to die in the outhouse of a Holborn tavern, Dan is determined to get to the bottom of both murders. But as his enquiries take him into both the richest and the foulest places in London, and Townsend’s real reason for requesting his help gradually becomes clear, Dan is forced to face a shocking new reality when the people he loves are targeted by a shadowy and merciless adversary.

The investigation has suddenly got personal.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both?)
A: Do I have a goodwife? [a goody is a married woman] Not I!
Ah, you mean something else altogether. Am I a good man or a bad man? Well, I’ve always tried to fight fair and honest as a true Briton. That’s how I got these scars on my mouth – fighting for King George, that’s the present King’s grandfather, and then our own King George himself. Got them with Wolfe at the taking of Quebec.

It happened like this. This lump of sugar, which I’ll place on the table here, that’s the Abraham Plains, and the lemon peel, I’ll twist it round, that’s the St Lawrence – oh, you’d like to hear about the battle later?

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!

A: I don’t know I’d call Dan Foster any of those things. Something like a nephew perhaps. He’s turned into a fine young man, and he’s making his way in the world. Works hard to put money by for his family, but there’s nothing underhand in his dealings. What he’s got, he’s earned by honest detecting work – aye and risking his life too – for rewards and payments from the court and suchlike. But I think he’d do it for nothing sometimes, for if there’s one thing he can’t abide, it’s an injustice. Try and take him off a case if he thinks someone’s going to lose because of it and he’ll just go on and solve it anyway. Just you watch him!

And bullies. He can’t stand bullies, of any ilk. That’s what makes him such a good boxer. He could be champion of England if he put his mind to it, but he’s made up his mind that’s not what he wants and nothing will sway him. Not even his wife’s sulks – ahem. She’s a fine girl in her own way, is Caroline Foster, but she doesn’t understand him. Mind you, it’s not as if he hasn’t made mistakes, and maybe that marriage – ahem.

But give her her due. His son, Alex, he’s a fine boy right enough! One look from his big round eyes and you’ll give him anything he wants. But he’s not Caroline’s child. Dan had him with a woman he met while he was working on a case in Somerset. He had no idea she was carrying his child until the day the babe was put into his arms and he was told the mother had died. As if that wasn’t surprise enough, Caroline upped and said she’d bring the child up as if he was their own. Things haven’t been easy for either of them.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: It’s a series. The first is Bloodie Bones, then there’s The Butcher’s Block, and there’s also The Fatal Coin, a prequel novella.  I’m in them all, and I’ll be in all the rest too, unless I’m counted out before they’re done.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: I’d say the worst time was when Dan was being targetted by a villain whose name we didn’t know, whose face we never saw. He even came after him at the gymnasium, and that time he gave me a nasty knock-down blow in the dark. To think I’d come through battles, skirmishes and mills only to be taken so easily on my own doorstep!

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: Ah, that would be watching Dan win the purse at his last fight against as ugly a shifter as you’d ever wish to meet. You got the measure of our boy that day, right enough. He came up to scratch as jolly as a fifer when your shuffling fellow was hanging from the ropes! But as to that, I’ll say no more so as not to spoil the treat for you.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?
A: Yes, she must be one of those what d’ye call ’em, bluestockings, I reckon. Her first novel is To The Fair Land, an eighteenth-century thriller. She’s also written non-fiction, including The Bristol Suffragettes.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: Her most important project is, of course, the next Dan Foster Mystery. But she’s also working on a biography of a women’s suffrage campaigner, Millicent Price née Browne.

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 think that to know someone has read and enjoyed their books is very helpful for authors – and if you have, to tell others about it. For my author personally, it’s knowing that there are people out there who share her interests, people who will enjoy her work as much as she does. 

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.

Mary Wollstonecraft, an inspiring woman who wasn’t afraid to live and write on her own terms.
Left-looking half-length portrait of a woman in a white dress

Frances Burney, another eighteenth-century writer who has inspired Lucienne – and who had a very different outlook from Mary Wollstonecraft.
Portrait by her relative Edward Francis Burney

Charles Dickens because – blowed if I know. She says it’s because he’s Charles Dickens!
Charles Dickens

Dorothy L Sayers, so they can talk about someone called Harriet Vane.

Dorothy L Sayers 1928.jpg

Chris Packham, so she can raise a glass to his work to protect wildlife and the planet we share (or should) with it - and because he makes her laugh. Never met the lad, meself.

Chris Packham, People's Walk for Wildlife 2018 (44125363624) (cropped).jpg

William Morris, one of her heroes because he was a socialist, artist, poet, and author of wonderful fantasy novels. Bit of a radical by the sounds of it.

William Morris age 53.jpg

Rebecca West, 
(no Wikipedia link available)

Photo of Winifred Holtby.jpg
– because she’d like to write a book about them one day. Not until she’s written the next Dan Foster Mystery, mind. 

Helen: Thank you, Mr Mattox, 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 drink…?

A: I’ll have another hot toddy to set me on my way…

Salute! Here’s to writing a best seller!


Twitter: @LucienneWrite


Death Makes No Distinction: Chapter One

If Dan Foster, Principal Officer of Bow Street, had not gone into the office early to escape the chaos of the wedding preparations at home, he would not have taken the case. As it was, he had been the only officer present when the message came. A beggar woman had been found dead in the outhouse of a public house at Holborn. Such deaths were not uncommon on a cold, damp night, especially if the deceased was very young or very old.
“If it’s just a matter of disposing of the body,” said the night gaoler, peering down at the snot-nosed boy who stood breathless and dripping rain on to the floor of the deserted police office, “you can fetch the parish overseer.”
“’T’ain’t though,” the boy answered. “Missus says she must have a Runner. ’Tis murder.”
The gaoler rubbed his stubbled chin with thick, warty fingers. “And who says so?”
“Anyone can see ’tis. Her head’s stove in.”
“It’s all right,” Dan said, abandoning his paperwork without a pang of regret. “I’ll go with him.”
Which was how he came to be standing in a shed at the rear of the Feathers at the top of Hand Court on the north side of Holborn…


Reviewed by Discovering Diamonds



  1. First met Dan Foster way back in Bloodie Bones - and he's great! Nice to see Paul Mattox featured her - thank you Lucienne and Helen

  2. Thank you, Richard, that's so kind of you!

  3. Thank you Helen for inviting Paul onto Novel Conversations! He says he's ready to finish telling you about the battle for Quebec any time you like...


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