Although I prefer to call my mysteries “traditional,” my publisher, my reviewers, and my readers mostly describe them as “cozy.”  I don’t go in for much graphic violence nor even a lot of angst, no horror, no terror, no serial killers. The emphasis is on character and motive, not blood spatters and  bullet calibres. They’re nice, cheerful, friendly little murders that you can read in bed without having nightmares. They end on an up-beat.

All right, call them cosies. So what is a cosy-writer to do when a serious, even shocking subject grabs her by the wrist and says, “Write about me”?

Answer: panic. Will my editor reject the idea? Will my readers complain that this isn’t what they expect of my books? Should I try to ignore the story that’s shouting in my ear?

The first time this happened to me was when it seemed every time I read the news there was an item about veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with horrendous invisible wounds: PTSD. My Daisy Dalrymple mysteries are set in the 1920s and frequently deal with the aftermath of the First World War, including what was then known as shell-shock. Daisy herself lost her brother and her fiance in Flanders. As well as bereavement, various of my characters suffer from wounds both physical and mental, but none of the books focussed on the subject. Suddenly I needed to write about the aftermath of war in a more serious way.

I’ve always loved the poetry of Wilfred Owen, a young Englishman who was killed in France just a week before the Armistice. He volunteered, and he fought bravely, but what he wrote about was the horror, not the glory of war. In particular, his poem Anthem for Doomed Youth still has the power to bring tears to my eyes. I borrowed his title for my book.

Anthem of a Doomed Youth

Anthem of a Doomed Youth

Anthem of a Doomed Youth by Carola Dunn US