Q&A with Decima Blake, author of Hingston: Smoke and Mispers

Contributed by Decima Blake


Fri 21 Jan 2022

This week we are delighted to talk again to crime writer, Decima Blake

Q: Hi Decima Blake, lovely to talk to you again. What have you been up to since we last spoke?

Thank you, and likewise. I’ve been working with my publisher on producing Hingston: Smoke and Mispers and the publicity associated with its release. I also spent several months compiling the illustrations for my first children’s book.

Q: Hingston Smoke and Mispers will be published on 27 January – what was it like catching up with the Detective Sergeant for a second instalment?

It was brilliant fun. Hingston is a young, talented Metropolitan Police detective sergeant based in the Missing Persons team at Chiswick Police Station. He is introduced to readers at an unexpectedly challenging period in his career. We see him learn and change and, by the end of the first book, he considers himself a ‘better detective’ as a result.

As the DS who drinks his coffee from a ‘Best Detective’ mug (received as a Secret Santa gift), Hingston was back on form in Hingston: Smoke and Mispers, plus some! That’s how the second book continues, and it was time to put his skills to the test with a complex investigation that sees him working with returning characters DCI Smythe and DC Remi Armitage.

Hingston’s uncle, Zack, is another familiar ‘face’. Having personally ‘known’ them all for so many years, I do see them as real people! It was exciting to reconnect with them, and I was eager to embark upon Hingston’s next investigation.

Books2All blog: Q&A with Decima Blake, author of Hingston: Smoke and Mispers
Hingston: Smoke and Mispers published by Pegasus (2022)

Q: Not much time has passed in the chronology of the Hingston stories, which are set about ten years ago. How do you get yourself to travel back to then mentally? Do you have to watch out for anachronisms as technology moves at such a pace now?

I started writing Hingston’s Box in 2011. At that time, I was an investigator, and I moved into safeguarding in 2012. Several events in my professional and personal life around those years still enable me to picture what I was doing and a lot of what was going on around me. After completing the first draft of Hingston’s Box, I started to think about the second in the series and pay attention to the era in which it would be set.

The internet is an important tool for checking accuracy and referring to old photographs of locations and contemporary news items, which usually answer my queries. Even articles on clothing fashions in 2012 have come in useful!

Books2All blog: Q&A with Decima Blake, author of Hingston: Smoke and Mispers
Hingston’s Box published by Pegasus (2016)

Q: Your use of historical reference is once again striking, with many mentions of Egyptian religious practice as well as scenes in museums and referrals to artefacts. You must spend a lot of time researching, which considerably lengthens the overall writing time. It is obviously worth it?

I strive for realism in the Hingston series, and accurate historical references are as important to me as the police procedure. I choose topics that already interest me, such as Egyptology, think about how they could feature in a believable police investigation and then commence my research to check if my ideas are workable. It’s a great opportunity to learn, and whilst doing so, new avenues open up, and I invariably come across nuggets of information that can be woven into the plot.

In researching Hingston: Smoke and Mispers, an Egyptologist in New Zealand kindly shared his honours dissertation with me. I read several publications and visited all the museums Hingston visits in the book, including the back offices of the British Museum. It amounted to months of research, and the story simply could not have been written without it.

Q: Rumour has it that DS Hingston will make another appearance. What can you tell us about that?

That rumour is correct! I’m currently in my research phase, starting with City of London Police history dating back to the nineteenth century. The investigation will be new and the subplot will, of course, continue and evolve. The main characters will return, Hingston will spend some time in Dartmouth with Uncle Zack, and I’ll be sticking to the same genre-bending formula.

Q: We are very excited to hear all about how your children’s book is going. When will it be available?

Thank you! Detective Dachshund and the Fluffy Thief will be published later this year. The cover design is with the graphics team, the internal content has been signed off, and my publisher is currently animating some of my illustrations for use on social media. I’m looking forward to telling you more in the coming months.

Q: You continue to support the charity Embrace Child Victims of Crime, and we know that child safety and wellbeing are close to your heart. What concerns you most about the impact of the ongoing pandemic on our young people?

Online safety is my main concern, particularly the risks of grooming. The pandemic has increased the need for online communication, possibly making it feel increasingly safe. Children and young people may be more inclined to engage with people they don’t know when there is less opportunity to meet friends in person. It’s vital that youngsters and those who care for them keep alert and aware of online safety. An excellent resource is the Think U Know website created by the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection command.

Books2All blog: Q&A with Decima Blake, author of Hingston: Smoke and Mispers
A percentage of royalties from Hingston: Smoke and Mispers and Hingston’s Box goes towards embracecvoc.org.uk

Q: We asked you our standard final three questions last time, so now we will ask you: which three books would you take to read on holiday and, if you had a child with you, which three would you take for them?

The Shop Window Murders by Vernon Loder is a Golden Age novel inspired by Selfridges in Oxford Street. I’ve been waiting to read this book for a while. Joining it would be The Ghost Stories of M. R. James as I enjoy the suspense and The Short Stories of Edith Nesbit (of the Five Children and It fame), whose adult fiction falls into the horror and ghost story genres. For a holiday, I find short stories are perfect.

If I had a child with me, my favourite, Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson, would be the first in my suitcase! Giggly Rhymes by Julie Park is great fun – the re-readable rhymes are beautifully illustrated and range in style from The Owl and the Pussy Cat by Edward Lear to the Silly Old Baboon by Spike Milligan. Especially suited for a holiday is Puzzle Island by Paul Adshead. It’s a fantastically illustrated adventure book that challenges young readers (and helpful adults) to solve a puzzle using over one hundred clues to save a creature from extinction.

Thank you for visiting our blog. Our vision here at Books2All is a world where every child finds the books that help them reach their true potential. If you have spare books in good condition at home that you think might be appropriate for school children or represent a school and would like to register to receive donated books, please download the Books2All app from the App Store or Google Play

View all our stories, news and ideas here!