Barley crime novelist Ruth needs your vote to be People’s Book Prize winner

Ruth Wade with her book

Ruth Wade with her book - Credit: Archant

An author from Barley is hoping she’ll get support from people living in Royston and the surrounding villages after being nominated for a prestigious award.

Ruth Wade has been put forward for the fiction category of The People’s Book Prize for her novel Foul Trade, under her pen name BK Duncan.

The novel tells the story of 1920s female coroners’ officer Mary Keaps, who is on a mission to prove the truth in a murky world of poverty, drug trafficking and gangs.

The novel is set in the Poplar and Limehouse districts of the East End of London in the shadow of the busiest docks in the world. It is the only novel in the crime genre to star a female coroner as its protagonist.

Ruth said: “One of the things we have been left with is the idea that the 1920s was about flappers and glamour like you see in Downton Abbey, but it was very difficult for poor people.”

Ruth based her research on oral history and contemporary accounts.

She said: “The book really came alive for me when I discovered the 1919 diary of a 15-year-old West India Dock messenger boy in the London Museum Docklands’ collections.

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“Authenticity is so important to me that I designed the book cover using a map of the very time and location I was writing about – Poplar in 1920.

“If you look very carefully you can pinpoint the coroner’s court on the corner of Cottage Street.”

The 57-year-old moved to Barley 23 years ago and started writing three years later, when she took redundancy from her job as an organisational development consultant, and began specialising in historical crime fiction.

As well as penning fiction novels, Ruth also teaches creative writing at North Herts College, as well as colleges in Oxford and Cambridge.

She said: “Writing is my calling. I feel it’s what I was put on this earth to do.”

People have until the end of August to vote for the novel.

To vote, search for The People’s Book Prize and Foul Trade on Google, then choose the book from the list of options.

BK Duncan will be appearing in Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge next Thursday – July 16 – for crime fiction summer party What’s Your Poison?