Background to Dateline Haifa and the Clements Chronicles by D A Kent
Who is behind D A Kent
D A Kent is the pen name for a writing duo based in Hythe, which is behind a new series called The Clements Chronicles. Dateline Haifa is the first book in the series.
Andrew Paul is a researcher and writer, with a rock album (Scream Arena) and another novel (Rue Bonaparte) already under his belt. I worked for a law firm in the West End in the early eighties and then for many years as an investigator for Lloyd’s of London, before working as a private eye. More recently, my research became historical and I branched out as a genealogist.
Andrew and I have worked together for ten years as heir hunters, tracing beneficiaries for intestate estates (where somebody has died without making a will and in the absence of family the money otherwise goes to the Crown.) We both work from our respective homes. Anybody in this line of work will happily tell you that they have come across enough material over the course of their careers to fill a library. They’ll also readily confirm that there are days when you feel as if you are hitting your head against a brick wall.
How did the idea for the novel and series come about?
One afternoon, after a particularly deadly few hours sifting through records and travelling up a few blind alleys, we decided it was time to write our novel. We took as our inspiration one of the cases we had worked on – an Englishman and a Frenchwoman who lived on a farm in France. She was Jewish and was deported to Auschwitz, where she perished. Her husband died in 1948 and we were, many years on, charged with finding heirs. They were the real life Jonathan and Louise in Dateline Haifa and our inspiration.
Where did Sylvia and Gunn come from?
Mark Gunn and Sylvia Fordred are the main characters in our series, two young private investigators who have survived the war (just about) and, in 1948, have their own firm, Clements Investigations, in a ramshackle office in Clements Inn, just off the Strand in London.
They always say “write what you know.” When I was working for the solicitors in the West End, we sometimes used to instruct a little firm of investigators who worked out of an office above Leicester Square tube station. I sometimes used to visit them on the way to or from the Royal Courts of Justice and was struck by the two hard-bitten veterans and their office, crammed full of files. Their room used to shake when the tube trains went through underneath.
What made us choose 1948?
For us, as historians, it is a fascinating period of history; in some ways so near to us, within living memory…and in other ways very far removed. The world had been picked up, shaken to its core and flung back down again. Again, the untold stories from that era have always intrigued us both.
How do you write together?
Many people comment that they would find writing with somebody else very difficult. We don’t find it so. Working together on our probate cases has certainly helped; we spend many days testing out theories when we are trying to put family trees together.
We tend to have a brief discussion of how a story could develop and then we begin writing – typically a few paragraphs, sometimes more. Andy, with his “rock” background, describes it as being like a guitar riff – playing a few chords, seeing what works and taking it from there. Perhaps because of the work we do – breathing life into what can be a series of dusty old records – we love our characters and very much enjoy developing them.
What’s next for Sylvia and Gunn?
The rest of the series is in production. There is a rocky road (quite literally) ahead for them both, with plenty of adventures on the way. Watch this space.