Angela Marsons can only be described as a phenomenon. Now ten books into the Kim Stone series (with #11 due this summer), it’s hard to believe that the first, Silent Scream, was published only four years ago. To have achieved such overwhelming success with that breakthrough book is far from usual, but to sustain and even build on it over ten books is truly remarkable.
Not that Angela was an overnight sensation, by any means. After twenty-five years of struggle, the Kim Stone character was, perhaps, the last throw of the dice for the author. And this is where perseverance counts, because imagine if Angela had not submitted that manuscript to Bookouture. Not only would her life be very different now, but so would ours. Of course, we would not have known about Kim Stone, but we’d be all the poorer for never having had the chance to meet her.
As the author of a moderately successful crime series myself, featuring the redoubtable DI Jimmy Bliss and his ever-willing sidekick, DS Penny Chandler, and having just started writing my sixth Bliss book, I know it can be a challenge to find fresh ways to attack what is essentially the same thing – a police procedural. But the beauty of this is that, provided you can come up with new slants on storylines, it’s your characters that readers really invest in. They live them, breathe them, fear for them, will them on, and at times weep for them. Yes, the stories have to capture the imagination, they need to contain a certain amount of authenticity, but the foundation you build on is character.
This is what Angela has so successfully achieved in her wonderful series. Superficially, as a person Kim Stone is not that easy to like. Short-tempered, aggressive, headstrong, stubborn, Kim is a clearly troubled person who is very much the sum of her past. Yet there is also her vulnerability to consider, because we see teasing glimpses of it from time to time, especially when the scenes refer back to her awful childhood. It’s these, plus the professional aspect of the character that really have us rooting for her, because we know that above all else Kim is driven to nail the people who make the lives of others intolerable.
More than that, however – and this is one of the lessons I have learned from reading these books – is the importance of the wider team, and how expanding on their personalities and achievements, their backgrounds and current roles, all helps us to become even more involved and committed to what we read on the page. Believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but Angela is extremely deft at it.
I guess we crime writers strive to create a series that sells in its millions, but given that sort of success is relatively uncommon, then what we really aim to achieve is to move forward, to improve, to present to our readers a developing cast of characters in whom they can invest their time and emotions, and most of all to have readers feel they have been entertained when they turn the final page. For me, Angela is one of those authors whose books I now just automatically buy. We know there are six more Kim Stone books – at least – to come, and I am not alone in simply assuming the quality of the work will remain at the same high standard, because Angela Marsons would not settle for any less.
Something else we should all endeavour to provide every time we release a new book.