Five Questions for Author Maureen Jennings
Maureen Jennings has written seven novels featuring Detective William Murdoch, which became the basis for the hugely successful TV show Murdoch Mysteries. Her recent novel, Beware This Boy, became the story concept for the new TV show Bomb Girls. Zoomer talked to the Toronto-based writer about her latest mystery, Inspiration, and the fleeting nature of history.
Athena McKenzie: In Season of Darkness, you featured the women in the Land Army during the Second World War, while the follow-up, Beware This Boy, deals with the women in the munitions factories. Was there something that drew you to these women and this time?
Maureen Jennings: Very much so. When I was growing up, I didn’t associate the Land Army girls with the war. It was just a job you did. I wanted to be a Land Army girl. It was such hard work. I had no idea what hard work it was, and it was all over by then. I’ve always been very drawn to that which was going on — which was women stepping up to the plate.I was born and brought up in England. One of the things that my mum said later was that she didn’t know how she would have managed to get through the war and the death of my father who was killed in the war, without the women on her street. It was big city, Birmingham, but we didn’t go anywhere so it was almost like a little village within. We knew everybody on the street and all their business, for good or ill. It was a tremendous feeling of women coming together to deal with unbearable difficulties. Maybe they did complain — I’m looking back a little bit with a child’s eyes — but I don’t recall that there was a lot of grousing going on. They just literally got on with it. I admire that.
AM: Beware This Boy references an organization called Mass Observation that collected people’s stories. Did this really exist?
AM: Can you tell me about your choice of title, Beware This Boy.
MJ: I remember as a young kid, reading A Christmas Carol and loving it. That particular passage when the spirit shows the two children to Scrooge and he says, “Beware these children, but especially beware this boy. His name is ignorance,” I remember the shock. I wanted to do a story that in a certain way deals with ignorance.
AM: This is meant to be a trilogy. Can you tell me about the next (and third) book?
MJ: I’m working on it now. I’ve gone to Ludlow, which is Shropshire, which I actually know much better than Wickford [where Season of Darkness is set]. We’ve gone there every year for many years. I decided to move Inspector Tyler around. He goes to Ludlow. It helps me to visualize what I’m writing about, whether it’s Toronto or Birmingham or wherever it is. I just know Ludlow so much better and I could put the story there very plausibly. This book takes place in a convalescent home where a lot of the RAF men who have been severely injured and disfigured are convalescing.