A J MacKenzie's Blog


Man of ambition

By A J Mackenzie
April 16, 2017
Category: Latest news

One of the staples of the detective story is the boss, the superior who looks over the detective’s shoulder and gives orders. Sometimes bosses are helpful and supportive; much more often, they are interfering, annoying and incompetent.

In The Body in the Ice, Hardcastle’s boss is Lord Clavertye, the deputy lord lieutenant of Kent. The real lord lieutenant, John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset, would not have taken interest in anything so mundane as a matter of murder. The duke’s only know... Continue reading

Defence of the realm

By A J Mackenzie
April 15, 2017
Category: Latest news

One of the things that surprised us most when researching the Hardcastle and Chaytor mysteries is how unprepared Britain was for a potential French invasion. By early 1797, Britain and revolutionary France had been at war for four years, and yet the coastal defences of the country were virtually non-existent.


From Romney Marsh, you can see the cliffs of the French coast on a clear day. And yet, the long open beaches of the Marsh – perfect for landing an invading army – were undefen... Continue reading

A Midwinter’s Tale

By A J Mackenzie
April 14, 2017
Category: Latest news

The Body in the Ice opens on Christmas Day, 1796, one of the coldest days of the year. We know this thanks in part to the Royal Society who kept meticulous records of temperature, precipitation and wind direction twice a day in London and published them in their annual publication. There were also amateur weather-watchers, who took their own readings of. These people sent their readings to popular magazines like Blackwood’s or Gentleman’s Magazine, where they were published. So, we know that the temperature in London on Christmas Eve was -21... Continue reading

The rector and Mrs Chaytor have returned

By A J Mackenzie
April 13, 2017
Category: Latest news

At the end of The Body on the Doorstep, we promised they would be back. Now, they are.


It is Christmas Day, 1796, in the middle of the coldest winter for years. Romney Marsh is bleak and frozen. Two strangers have come to New Hall, the deserted house that stands on the outskirts of St Mary in the Marsh, but they do not venture into the village itself. No one knows who they are.

Mrs Chaytor is enjoying – perhaps enduring would... Continue reading

A super review of The Body In the Ice by Annie Gray

By A J Mackenzie
April 12, 2017
Category: Latest news

Review of The Body in the Ice, Annie Gray, author of The Greedy Queen (published May 2017), regular panellist on Radio 4's The Kitchen Cabinet and presenter of BBC's Victorian Bakers

I loved it! It's quite clear that the authors have properly found their feet after setting up the characters and landscape in the first book, and are now really having fun. The historical detail is very deftly woven in, never getting in the way, but providing a constant source of delight if you know the period (but not getting in the way if y... Continue reading

Body in the Ice publication date is nearly here

By A J Mackenzie
April 10, 2017
Category: Latest news
20th April is the date.  The cover is a beauty!
Continue reading

History with dirty boots

By A J Mackenzie
September 23, 2016
Category: Latest news

The next time you are driving and walking in the countryside and spot someone staring fixedly at a piece of broken stone, or taking endless photographs of a hedgerow, or crouched down at the water’s edge making a video of waves washing up on a shingle beach, don’t worry. It’s just a historical novelist, doing research. In fact, it may well be us.

There is method in our m... Continue reading

Tags: Romney Marsh writerslife writing research history New Romney BonnierZaffre Books crime fiction fiction historical fiction churches Kent East Sussex Dungeness

A J Mackenzie Ask Some Questions of A J MacKenzie

By A J Mackenzie
August 08, 2016
Category: Latest news

A.J. MacKenzie is two people, Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel. Marilyn has a PhD in economic history and has studied and written about medieval agriculture and warfare, while Morgen teaches at a business school and has written a number of books about management and leadership. Originally from Canada, they have lived in England for nearly thirty years. 

Morgen: You start. 

Marilyn: All right. What do you like best about writing? 

Morgen: I like pretty much everything about writing.... Continue reading

Tags: writing fiction historical fiction crime fiction history Poldark L M Montgomery Dorothy Dunnett Mozart Beethoven slavery fashion food Lawrence Block

Smuggling in the 1790s

By A J Mackenzie
May 04, 2016
Category: Latest news

Smuggling in 18th-century Britain was a vast industry. Communities in some parts of the kingdom – Kent and Sussex, Norfolk, Northumberland, Devon and Cornwall, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands – relied on smuggling for a large portion of their income. When the Isle of Man was shut down as a base for smuggling in the nineteenth century, the island’s economy went into a decline from which it took decades to recover.

Kent and Sussex... Continue reading

Tags: smuggling historical fiction crime Kent 18th century Romney Marsh BonnierZaffre spies history

One week to Publication, but 35 years in the making

By A J Mackenzie
April 14, 2016
Category: Latest news

So The Body on the Doorstep will be out on 21st April, seven short days from today. We have described the process of publication as a bit like being pregnant, though without the food cravings.  In the case of The Body on the Doorstep, we have been pregnant for over a year, since the book was finished in late 2014 (apart from edits done last summer) and the contract for publication signed in February 2015.

But the extended ‘pregnancy’ does not make the arrival any less exciting. The past year or so has been punctuated by a series... Continue reading

Tags: writing historical fiction BonnierZaffre writerslife novels fiction crime fiction

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