STIFF COMPETITION - What’s It All About?
Paul Vantage, chief researcher for TV consumer affairs programme Streetwise!, finds a cryptic message on his answering machine from
top comper Harriet Frome, who has some unspecified mystery she wants him to investigate. Alas, before Paul can speak to her she is murdered. The body, impaled on a sword and surrounded by black magic paraphernalia, is found by Paul’s friend Martin, himself a keen comper.
Martin is clearly withholding information about his involvement in the affair, a fact which handicaps Paul’s subsequent investigation. Another handicap is Bernadette, a tyro journalist who works for
a down-at-heel comping magazine. She needs a big story as a ticket to better things, and she is determined to steal this one from Paul.
During his investigation, Paul learns about the offbeat world of consumer competitions - or rather the offbeat people who populate it. He sees first hand the obsession, greed and envy this ‘amusing little hobby’ can inspire. He also meets and falls for Sarah McTay, boss of a promotions agency his investigation is likely to ruin.
To add to his problems, Paul finds himself in conflict with the police. his boss and just about everyone else he meets. Then he stumbles across a coven of comping witches, and things really begin to get awkward.
The story is set in Southampton and the New Forest. The latter has a strong tradition of witchcraft, although that isn’t why people call it magic. It’s an area I’ve known and loved for many years. My treasure hunt novel was set there, and so is the new story
I’m working on now (for which I hope to find a mainstream publisher this time).