Author Julia Chapman talks about the inspiration behind her Dales detectives series

It’s more than mere happenstance that Julia Chapman has lived in the Yorkshire Dales longer than she has anywhere else.

She and her husband moved there eight years ago after upping sticks from southern France, where they had been running a small auberge. Up until then they had lived a peripatetic lifestyle. “I’d never lived anywhere longer than six years because I tend to get itchy feet, but this is such a beautiful place,” she says.

The landscape has proven to be an inspiration, providing the backdrop to her popular Dales detective novels. Date with Poison, which has just been published, is the fourth in the series and sees Samson O’Brien, dismissed from the Metropolitan Police force and the black sheep of fictional Bruncliffe, back on the case with his Dales Detective Agency investigating a string of suspected poisonings.

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The Dales provide the backdrop to Julia's novels. (James Hardisty).

Julia is certainly prolific – the first of the detective novels, Date with Death, came out in 2017 – and follows on from a successful series of books, The Fogas Chronicles, written under her real name Julia Stagg.

As well as having lived all over the world, including in Japan, Australia and the United States, she’s also worked in a variety of jobs, including as a waitress, pawn broker and a teacher of English as a Foreign Language.

It’s here in Yorkshire, though, where her literary career has taken off, and she wanted to write a series of crime novels set in God’s Own County.

“I had wanted to do something much darker, but the Dales lends itself more to softer crime… crime without the grime,” she says, with a chuckle.

“I wanted the dry Yorkshire wit coming through but I didn’t want the people and stories to be trivial or frivolous, crime isn’t just about urban crime. Livestock theft and having quad bikes stolen have a real impact.”

She describes her protagonist, Samson O’Brien, as something of an outsider. “I’m an outsider myself or an ‘offcumder’ as they say round here and I like the idea of a character coming into a community that’s well established.”

As well as creating a cast of colourful characters, she’s also tapped into recent history. “Foot and Mouth disease casts a long shadow in the book as it still does here in this part of Yorkshire,” she says.

When literary success came her way it did so quickly. Her first book was turned down but the publisher said if she rewrote it, which she did, swapping Japan for France they would publish. “Once it happened, it happened very quickly. It’s just about having that confidence to start with,” she says.

And the Yorkshire landscape continues to be a source of inspiration for her. “I’m just trying to capture in words the world that I see when I’m out walking or running... as a writer you can create real menace with a snow scene,” she says.

“The Dales, for me, are a double bonus. There’s the absolute joy of living here and also having a series of books set here that are doing really well.”

Date with Poison, published by Pan Macmillan, is out now priced £7.99.