Ian Sansom talks about writing book number three (of 43)

January 15, 2016

Welcome to Westmorland. Perhaps the most scenic county in England! Home of the poets! Land of the great artists! District of the Great lakes! And the scene of a mysterious crime…

In Westmorland Alone, Swanton Morley, the People’s Professor, once again sets off in his Lagonda to continue his history of England, The County Guides. Stranded in the market town of Appleby after a tragic rail crash, Morley, his daughter Miriam and his assistant Stephen Sefton find themselves drawn into a world of country fairs, gypsy lore and Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling. When a woman’s body is discovered at an archaeological dig, for Morley there’s only one possible question: could it be murder?
Join Morley, Miriam and Sefton as they journey along the Great North road and the Settle-Carlisle Line into the dark heart of 1930s England.

Ian Sansom introduces Westmorland Alone

Ian Sansom‘You’re doing what?’

‘I’m writing a series of novels set in all of the historic counties of England.’

‘That’s what I thought you said. Just remind me – how many historic counties are there?’

‘Aha, yes, well, good question! Strictly speaking I think there are 39 historic counties, though if you divide Yorkshire into the three Ridings and then add the City of London, and throw in the bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey that makes …’


‘Well, I’ll probably combine Jersey and Guernsey.’

‘So 43?’

‘Uh-huh. 43 or 44.’

‘You are seriously proposing writing a series of 43 [expletive deleted] novels, each one set in a different English county?’

‘That’s right. And then once I’ve done those I can move on to Scotland, Wales and Ireland, which would make – ’

It is surely a testament to the sheer optimism and utter professionalism of my publishers that my editor did not simply slam down the phone at this point in our conversation. Indeed, not only did he not slam down the phone – he has even allowed me to begin. Westmorland Alone is book number three in my new series of 43 – or maybe 44 – projected novels, The County Guides, in which my intrepid heroes, the People’s Professor Swanton Morley, his daughter Miriam and his assistant Stephen Sefton set off in their Lagonda to tour the England of the 1930s and to seek out adventure and mischief wherever they may.

It is, admittedly, a bit of an undertaking. I’m nearly 50 years old. I have a full-time job and I currently average just a book a year. So if I continue in my current habits, writing a book a year, I won’t be be finished until I’m in my 90s. But if I can perhaps do two a year, or three even. If I can just stay up a little later, or get up a littler earlier …

I know, I know it sounds unrealistic. I know it sounds ludicrous. But in the end I suppose I want the books to add up to something – something more than themselves. I want them to stand as a testament to the massive, ungovernable, horrible, messy excess of existence. Isn’t this what all artists want? What all of us want? A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, after all, or what’s a heaven for?

I’d love to say more but you’ll excuse me – I have another 40 books to write.

‘Beautifully crafted by Sansom, Professor Morely promises to become a little gem of English crime writing; sample him now.’ Daily Mail

103106-FC50Westmorland Alone

Ian Sansom

Published 25th February 2016

4th Estate



RRP £12.99

Also available in the County Guides series:


084254-FC50Death in Devon

Ian Sansom

Published 25th February 2016

4th Estate

Paperback | 9780007533169

RRP: £8.99

Cream teas, school dinners and satanic surfers… Join Morley, Sefton and Miram on another adventure into the dark heart of 1930s England! This time they have a bad case of death in Devon.

055046-FC50Norfolk Mystery

Ian Sansom

Out Now

4th Estate

Paperback | 9780007360482

RRP £8.99

The first of The County Guides, The Norfolk Mystery introduced this thrilling new detective series for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie.

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