By Alison Rooney
Iwan Benneyworth, of Wales, has written two mysteries, Dark River and Heads Will Roll, set along the Hudson River between Tarrytown and Beacon. He is planning a research trip to the Highlands for his third novel later this year.
What brought you to this neck of the woods?
When I vacationed in the States in 2012, a friend in New York took me on a road trip. The Hudson Valley captured my imagination, and I thought it would make a great setting for a mystery. I have the next few books already planned out, from a high school kidnapping, a bloody family feud to regain lost status, the hunt for Revolutionary War treasure that leads to murder, and the death of a journalist who found out more than he bargained for.
In what ways does your fictional town of Independence resemble the Highlands?
Independence is a combination of Cold Spring, Beacon and other places such as Tarrytown and the surrounding rural areas. Creating a fictional town allowed me the freedom to play around in a sandbox. It’s quite different from my hometown of Llangefni, which, like a lot of Welsh words, can only be correctly pronounced if you’ve learnt how to adjust your mouth and tongue. The easiest way of saying it phonetically would be Lan-gev-nee.
Which American mystery writers do you read?
Michael Connelly, James Patterson and Jack Kerley are always good. Ultimately I set out to entertain and, like those authors, create something that’s easy reading but still has some depth and character development.
Your sleuth, Amanda Northstar, is the sheriff of Independence and a single mother. Is she based on anyone?
Primarily my mother, and Amanda’s son is largely based on myself. Like Amanda, my mother is an army veteran, although she was military police and Amanda was a medic. Amanda is the protagonist, but her son and her deputies have just as much going on in their personal lives.
Did you meet Cold Spring’s most famous Welsh shopkeeper, Leonora Burton, at The Country Goose?
I did indeed! We chatted about how her hometown had changed since she had left, as I used to live close by. I ended up leaving with a copy of her autobiography and some British chocolate. Hopefully I can update her again on Wales the next time I’m in town.