I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for The Salt Marsh by Clare Carson. The Salt Marsh was published by Head of Zeus on 16th June 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book, hardback and paperback from Amazon, Waterstones, W H Smith and directly from the publisher as well as to order from all good bookshops.
Today Clare has kindly provided Linda’s Book Bag with a guest post all about the inspiration of birds and her protagonist Sam.
The Salt Marsh
A haunting thriller set in the windswept marshes of Kent and Norfolk, from the author of Orkney Twilight
It is a year since Sam’s father died, but she cannot lay his ghost to rest. Jim was an undercover agent living a double life, and Sam has quit university to find out the truth about his work. Her journey will take her from the nightclubs of 80s Soho to the salt marshes and shingle spits of Norfolk and Kent. Here, in a bleak windswept landscape dotted with smugglers’ huts and
buried bones, Jim’s secret past calls to her like never before. Now Sam must decide. Will she walk away and pick up her own life? Or become an undercover operative herself and continue her father’s work in the shadows…
Sam And Her Barn Owl
A Guest Post by Clare Carson
Birds feature in both the novels I have written – Orkney Twilight and The Salt Marsh. These are stories about Sam, the daughter of a police spy. The links between birdwatching and spying are numerous. Many spies have been keen birdwatchers. The quiet skills of observation and identification are common to both. In spying slang, a birdwatcher is a spy. But the main reason birds appear in my books is because a sense of place is part of all thrillers and, as far as I’m concerned, birds are part of every place.
I love watching birds, but I’m no twitcher – I don’t always have a pair of binoculars to hand and I wouldn’t go out of my way to spot a rare species. I prefer the serendipity of finding birds in unexpected places. I came across an off-course whimbrel in London’s Saint James’ Park when I was taking a breather from the office because I was fed up with my job. I was eyeballed by a kestrel which had landed on the balcony of my south London flat one morning when I was beginning to wonder what on earth I was doing there. A head-banging pileated woodpecker cheered me up when it appeared in the garden of the unfurnished Washington D.C. house I’d just moved to, after travelling across the Atlantic with two toddlers in tow.
In The Salt Marsh, Sam feels a particular kinship with barn owls. I’ve had three close encounters with a barn owl. The first was on holiday in Corsica with my husband, tipsily swaying back late one night from a restaurant along a dark mountain road, we almost tripped over a pair of round eyes staring up from the tarmac. A barn owl chick had fallen from its nest, Disneyesque in its white, fluffy cuteness. We stood guard, flagging down approaching cars and asking them to wait as it took its bearings, hopped away and disappeared in the maquis. The second barn owl was in Norfolk. We had been to visit an old friend who had bought a house in the middle of nowhere. Driving back in the dark we lost our way, pulled over to look at the map and caught the wise bird in the headlights, sitting on a gate post. It couldn’t be bothered to budge and watched with disdain as we argued about which C road we were on.
The third barn owl was in Norfolk again – out on the north coast. The first evening of a summer holiday after a tetchy day stuck in traffic, I dragged my family with me for a walk. As we reached the path across the marsh, the ghostly bird swept by our heads, its blunt face glowing in the dusk. It stopped and hovered a few feet further on, wings flittering like a moth, before it gave up on whatever creature it had been tracking, swooped away and vanished in the dark. When I was searching for a bird which would provide Sam with solace in The Salt Marsh, this was the one that appeared in my mind.
About Clare Carson
Clare Carson is an anthropologist and works in international development, specialising in human rights. Her father was an undercover policeman in the 1970s. She drew on her own experiences to create the character of Sam, a rebellious eighteen year old who is nevertheless determined to make her father proud.
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