The Sweetest English Story

Alan Bradley, the mind behind The Buckshaw Chronicles series, talks about his life as a child and his bond with England

By Enid Parker

Published: Fri 24 Apr 2009, 10:33 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:17 AM

NOT every 11-year-old gets to play detective in an abandoned Victorian chemistry laboratory in an ancient English country house; it’s the stuff childhood dreams are made of. The year is 1950, and amateur sleuth Flavia de Luce is in hot pursuit... of a murderer. Flavia is the plucky heroine of The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie, which won the 2007 CWA Debut Dagger Award (British Crime Writers’ Association). It is the first installment of a three-part detective fiction series, The Buckshaw Chronicles, by Alan Bradley.

Alan BradleyBradley, who was born in Toronto and grew up in Coburg, Ontario, is clearly smitten with

England, the backdrop for The Buckshaw Chronicles. He says, “Even as a child I had begun developing an intense longing, a nostalgia, for England. I think it was the English landscape that first captured my attention... I’ve always had the feeling I’d been there before... I still feel that way: there is part of me that is always in England. Writing the Flavia books is like being allowed to commute every day to a workplace that’s 60 years removed in time from the present — a journey of which I never tire.”

He describes his protagonist Flavia de Luce as “unexpected”. “She’s a constant surprise. I have to scramble to keep up with her. At the same time, she’s delightful company, and I feel privileged to be part of her life. I admire her youthful enthusiasm, her resourcefulness, and her idealism, and I am in absolute awe of her energy.”

After years in television broadcasting, Bradley decided to take up full time writing in 1994. “I knew that the time had come to begin working on my own ideas. Television is rewarding, but collegial at the best of times. When I had the opportunity to take early retirement, I leapt at it.”

“Someone once told me that it would take 10 years to succeed with a major writing project. They were wrong: it took 15.” Bradley also courted media spotlight when he co-wrote Ms Holmes of Baker Street, which theorised that Sherlock Holmes was a woman. “Holmes’ extraordinary sense of touch, of smell; his refusal to allow Watson into his bedroom; his insistence on heavy, formless clothing; his periodic indispositions; his intuition; his fierce jealousy of Watson’s attentions, to cite just a few: once the reader knows what to look for, the instances fairly leap out from every page.”

“It’s difficult to state our thesis in a nutshell. My co-author, the late scientist Dr William A S Sarjeant, insisted that our proof be not only rigorously feasible — but interesting,” he concludes.

Photo credit: Jeff Bassett

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