Why here, or there or that other place? Does setting affect readers’ preferences?

London (Photo credit: @Doug88888)


Does the setting for your story affect a book’s sales? Are readers influenced to read a book – or not to read it – by the location in which your crime story is set?

Victoria Square, in central Birmingham
Victoria Square, in central Birmingham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been tussling with the issue of where to set my protagonist’s world after getting feedback from some readers. For example it would be interesting to know from US writers/readers if people are more minded to read a crime novel set in NY or LA than say Chicago or Boston – or is there any city/town that is a turn-off.
UK crime writers often set their stories in London where the cop is from the Met although there are notable exceptions like Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh, Peter James’ Brighton, etc. My first crime novel is set in Birmingham, England – a great city that often gets a ‘bad press’. My next book – a thriller – I set the opening in London but then mainly Kiev. My next crime sequel is also set in ‘Brum’ (Birmingham).
Does this matter? And what about Australia – is Sydney ‘more readable’ than say ‘Melbourne’? And Scandinavia has become popular. Or is the quality of a story and the writing all that really matters? I once heard said that some US readers won’t open a book set outside their own country!
I suppose I could always move my cop to London or even New York – well, create a new cop. After all, a murder in England may be a homicide in the US – but cops, villains and victims are universal – well, aren’t they? Or is ‘place’ a significant ‘character’ in its own right; enough to make a reader ask: ‘Do I want to read a story set in this place?’ What do you think?


Who stole my story!

A football (or soccer ball) icon.

Soccer/Football International
Soccer/Football International (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fact is stranger than fiction – old cliché, but still true.

My latest novel featuring cop Matt Proctor is nearly there! Hope to launch soon. But as I was revising I came across a newspaper article in The Independent (national English daily) and swallowed hard. Someone had nicked (UK English for stolen) my plot! At least that was my first reaction.

The ‘crime(s)’ in my new novel are  murders but the context is the world of sports ‘ match-fixing’ organized by international syndicates who bribe sports persons to throw a game or, in the case of ‘spot-fixing’, to create a specific occurrence that those in the know will  bet on and make huge winnings.

As I read Andrew Buncombe’s article in The Independent, detailing allegations made against an individual based in Singapore who is understood to have headed an organization fixing both national and international football (soccer) matches, I couldn’t believe how this story mirrored my own plot. I relaxed a little as I got into the detail. My story covers both football and cricket and climaxes in Pakistan. His factual report is based in Singapore and relates specifically to football. But the ‘megabucks’ involved, the scale of the gambling and the co-ordination and organization within gambling syndicates are common threads. Along with the risks and dangers to those involved – and what happens to those who, too late, decide they want out. This is not a merciful world.

Have any other writers stumbled upon ‘your story’ manifesting itself, while you are writing it, through a television news piece, a newspaper article, on the internet? I’d like to hear. It’s kind of scary. But then as someone once said, there are only so many stories to be told.