Today I’m pleased to welcome Caroline Wallace to the blog. Caroline is the author of In Search of Adam, Black Boxes, Like Bees to Honey, 99 Reasons Why and The Drowning of Arthur Braxton which were all published under the name of Caroline Smailes. The Finding of Martha Lost, written under the name Caroline Wallace is published in paperback on 18 May 2017.
I was lucky enough to read The Finding of Martha Lost before it came out in hardback and it was one of my favourite novels of last year. If you haven’t already read it I highly recommend that you do. Click here to read my review of this fantastic novel.
To celebrate the publication of the paperback edition Caroline has written a piece about why she chose to set her novel during the infamous heatwave of 1976.
I’m sure that some will believe I was attempting to jump on a trend of (amazing) novels set in the heatwave of 1976 when I wrote The Finding of Martha Lost, but I wasn’t. I never really had a choice about the year in which my novel was set; 1976 picked me. The moment I decided that I wanted to tell Mal Evans’ story, everything else just fell into place.
Mal Evans started working for The Beatles in 1963, after meeting them whilst working at the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool. He was a gentle giant and became invaluable to the Fab Four. He started off as a driver and roadie, but became so much more. He ended up as a fixer and friend rolled into one amazing man.
For me, one story more than any other sums up his role. Whilst The Beatles were gigging in Amsterdam, they decided to take a boat tour of the canals. Being at the height of their fame, a crowd quickly gathered on the banks. John Lennon spotted a fan wearing an outrageous coat and commented on how much he’d like one the same. Mal Evans decided to go one step further, diving into the canal and swimming up to the bank. He found the fan and proceeded to buy his coat. Mal turned up later at the hotel holding the coat; a present for John.
In The Finding of Martha Lost, I try to explore what it means to belong. In fact, all of the major characters are lost in some way, each are trying to discover their place in the world. This was very much the case for Mal Evans too. He found himself in an alien world of mega-celebrity. He spent his life trying to discover just how he fitted into that world; he was desperate for a role. I think he found it with The Beatles, but when the band split Mal was left to pick up the pieces of his life; the one thing that had given him meaning had gone forever.
But why 1976?
Because on 5 January 1976, the police were called to Mal Evans’ apartment in America. They arrived to find a desperate Mal armed with a rifle. Mal had spiralled out of control in the years after The Beatles had split, lost in a world without significance. In the confrontation that followed Mal was shot and killed. A suitcase was taken by police from Mal’s apartment. It was never clear what was in the suitcase but persistent rumours suggested that it contained material important to The Beatles, including a diary of Mal’s time with the band, photographs and even
missing recordings. Two days later Mal was cremated. None of The Beatles attended the funeral, though singer and friend Harry Nilsson was there. In fact, Nilsson took charge of Mal’s ashes and sent them back to Liverpool, but due to a mix up with the post office, those ashes were lost temporarily. In the weeks following, the police also lost the suitcase and it has never been found.
This is where Mal Evans (or rather his ashes and his suitcase) enters The Finding of Martha Lost. My narrative revolves around Mal Evans’ missing suitcase ending up in a lost property office in Liverpool’s Lime Street Station, and with Martha volunteering to help find Mal’s missing ashes; he’s a local celebrity and she wants him to be back with his grieving family. All of this has to occur in the months after Mal Evans’ death, and that’s why I never really had a choice about the year in which my novel was set; 1976 picked me.
About the book:
“Liverpool, 1976: Martha is lost.
She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful.
Meanwhile, there are lost property mysteries to solve: a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, a stuffed monkey that keeps appearing. But there is one mystery Martha has never been able to solve – and now time is running out. If Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything…”
Read more on the Penguin website.
About the author:
Caroline Wallace worked as a lecturer for several years before turning her hand to fiction. She lives in Liverpool with her husband and their many children.