Born into a military family, R.M. Cartmel was educated at Sherborne School in the South West of England and at Oxford. Cartmel served as a practicing doctor for over three and a half decades. As a novelist Cartmel combines two of his lifelong loves—writing and traveling throughout France’s exquisite Burgundy region.
Tell us about your new release and why you chose this genre. The Charlemagne Connection is the second in a series of mystery crime fiction books, featuring a rumpled, quietly spoken French detective called Truchaud. The first three books of the series take place over one wine-making year, and are all set in the vineyards of Burgundy.
What led you to write this book? Quite simply I was looking for a crime fiction book set in the vineyards of Burgundy, and I couldn’t find one, either in English or in French – so I set about writing it, and one book led to another…
Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book? Any number of interesting experiences, but I guess if I had to single one out it would be becoming part of the wine-making community in this tiny but fabulously special corner of France. Everyone I spoke to in the course of researching the book has been amazingly helpful and welcoming, to the extent that last October found me working at the Domaine de la Vougeraie, being generously inducted into the secrets of making really top-quality wine. A real privilege.
Do you have a favorite writing place? Sitting under a sunshade outside the Café du Centre in Nuits Saint Georges, ideally with a glass of xxxxx within easy reach.
Is it a series? Yes – after the three set in France, I am taking my detective overseas. Undoubtedly to Oregon. Probably to Australia. Where else? We’ll see.
Tell us about your characters. Commander Truchaud is the central character, and is a figure who arrived fully formed in my mind one day, creased crumpled raincoat included. He is the younger son of a wine-making dynasty, and, as with many younger sons the world around, found that the family business couldn’t quite support him as well as his older brother, so went off to Paris to join the police. He has had a profoundly affecting love affair with a woman whom he failed to marry, and a marriage with a woman with whom he failed to make things work. He is an extremely good policeman, an honourable man, and not entirely happy.
Why is the setting important? All this series of books are wine & crime mysteries, linking the pleasures and processes of wine-making with the puzzles and plots of crime fiction – without the vineyards in which the books are set, the crimes would not have happened, and their stories could not have been told.
What makes the book uniquely yours? They combine three things which I am deeply passionate about – the subtleties of wine-making, the subterfuges of a good mystery novel, and writing. As well as being a doctor for all of my adult life, I have also been a writer whenever I had the chance. Now I have tucked my stethoscope away, and let my writer’s imagination have full rein.
This interview also appeared in the June 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.