‘Cosy crime’ series Crouch End Confidential mark departure for Chicklit writers

Co authors Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell

Co authors Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell - Credit: Archant

Strange things are happening in Crouch End, though nothing beyond the abilities of a north London mum adept at solving the odd murder.

“It’s cosy crime,” says Pam Burks, co-author of To Catch A Creeper, the second in the Crouch End Confidential series. “It’s not too evil, knives in people’s eyes kind of thing. It’s not too graphic, it’s mystery and humour.”

The novel follows Looking For La La, based on Burks’ true experience when she lived in Crouch End. An anonymous postcard fell through her letterbox addressed to her husband, signed ‘Love from La La’. What ensued was a story written with her older sister, Lorraine Campbell, who lives in America.

Publishers didn’t think it was a good idea for the “Chicklit Sisters’, who are currently working on their sixth novel, to put both their names on the book jacket, so came up with pseudonym Ellie Campbell.

“Catch A Creeper is a kind of a sequel, but it also stands alone. We enjoyed writing La La so much, we ending up writing and carrying on with the characters. We’ve turned it into the Crouch End Confidential Mystery series and we’re now working on our third book.”

The youngest of four sisters, they decided to pen a book together when they discovered they wanted to write about the same thing. “We’d both written a number of short stories over the years. We used to look at each other’s work and sometimes give advice and edit, so we decided to try to work together.”

How To Survive Your Sister was the first novel and managed to get them an agent, who secured them a two-book deal – with When Good Friends Go Bad not far behind. Million Dollar Question is with their agent now.

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They communicate via Skype and on the phone and are “constantly emailing each other back and forth”.

“The time difference is to our advantage as there is seven hours’ difference between Colorado and the UK. I tend to start in the morning and work until about 3pm when it’s time for her to wake up and take over.

Wife of fun run founder

Burks lived in Crouch End for 16 years, raising her three children who all attended Rokesly primary school. She tries to return from her Surrey home every year for the Crouch End Fun Run, which her husband Ian started 24 years ago. “He thought it might be a good idea to get the kids out running. He got it organised and devised the route and it has now grown into this huge festival, which is fab.”

Cathy, protagonist of the Confidential series, is loosely based on Burks’ hectic life as a stay-at-home mother, terrified at the prospect of going back to work. “I put a lot of feelings and identity I had with young children, three very close together, thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’, into Cathy’s character.

“In the first book, she struggles with her identity while discovering the identity of La La – she stumbles into this crime. In the second, there’s an expectation she must be able to identify the creeper and, by the third, she’s decided this will be her business.”

The sisters themselves have branched out and have started to self-publish their novels, getting positive reviews from US readers who call it ‘Couch End’.

“We’ve really enjoyed the self-publishing journey – we’ve no pressure to publish a book per year, which we tend to do anyway, It has been really exciting to go down that route as we’ve been able to publish in America so it’s worked out really well for us.”

Will we see the Crouch End Confidential on our TV screens? “I’d love it to,” says Burks. “But you don’t know what will happen, you really don’t know.”