“Southampton is a city of striking contrasts” – Jaime Raven, author of The Madam

May 20, 2016

Author Jaime Raven talks to Indie Thinking about the city of Southampton, and how it inspired the characters and story of The Madam – published May 19th.

Southampton is a city of striking contrasts. It has a rich cultural heritage and is full of medieval remains that attract thousands of tourists every year. But at the same time it’s a busy, modern port with a diverse population and a dark and somewhat sinister underbelly.

southampton-850884_640That’s why I’ve enjoyed living there for the past twenty odd years. And it’s why I decided it was the perfect setting for my book, The Madam. The book’s central character is Lizzie Wells, a young prostitute who is wrongly convicted of killing one of her male clients. She spends almost four years behind bars for manslaughter, during which time her only son dies from a sudden illness. When she’s finally released she sets out to seek revenge against those who framed her – the people she holds responsible for her son’s death. The story unfolds against the backdrop of the city, and I make a point of mentioning some of its most obvious claims to fame, including the fact that it was from Southampton that the Titanic set sail on its ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912.

Researching the book was a fascinating experience. It took many weeks and proved to be a real eye-opener for me. But I’m really glad that I took the time and trouble.

Prostitution, you see, has thrived in Southampton for many years and the city even has its own red-light district which has always attracted kerb crawlers. It’s less conspicuous now than it used to be. There was a time not so many years ago when prostitutes displayed their wares in windows along Derby Road. Or hustled for business in the Bevois Valley area of the city where some scenes in The Madam are set. Most of the current crop of women are local, but increasing numbers are coming from Eastern Europe. They either work alone or for pimps and escort agencies. In order to provide an authentic background to my story I took the time to speak to a number of ‘escorts’ – the working girls who operate from local brothels and hotels. They were surprisingly approachable, and they gave me an invaluable insight into how they make a living – and just how vulnerable they are.

Prostitution might be one of the oldest professions, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. The women I spoke to told me about encounters with men who were violent towards them. And several revealed that their families had no idea that they were ‘on the game.’ Indeed, one is a student in her early twenties who is selling herself in order to pay for her education! Another is a married woman whose husband believes she spends her evenings working behind the bar in a pub. Some of the women work in brothels but I discovered that most ply their trade in hotels or visit their clients’ homes.

Most of what I was told went into The Madam and helped to shape the character of Lizzie Wells.

It also influenced the plot. For instance the crime for which Lizzie is wrongly convicted takes place in a local hotel room where she goes to entertain her client. I suppose the biggest surprise for me was just how big the business of prostitution is in a city the size of Southampton. All you have to do is scratch the surface to reveal the darkness that lies beneath. But I suppose the same can be said for any city or town in the UK.

Jaime Raven
Author, The Madam

153985-FC50The Madam

Jaime Raven

19th May 2016




RRP £7.99

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