A charitable character

Dr Ruth Galloway series image

The Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries

We hear from the real life figure behind Elly Griffiths' fictional character in her latest mystery THE CHALK PIT, and how turning fact into fiction helped raise money for charity in the process.

Posted on February 22, 2017 in Behind the Scenes
Tags: Crime books, Inspiration, mysteries, real life, ruth galloway

Elly Griffiths:

When CLIC Sargent approached me to ask if I’d help the charity by auctioning a character name in my books, I was only too happy to agree. The charity has a special place in my heart because a friend tragically lost her teenage daughter to cancer a few years ago. My only concern was that no-one would bid for a place in my books!

Both times the auction has been won by someone who turned out to have a real-life link to the story. The auction to appear in The Woman in Blue was won by a woman called Jan Adams who used to be a rather famous police dog handler. So, not only did Jan and her dog Barney appear in the book, but I also learnt a lot of useful information about police dogs.

In The Chalk Pit I wanted to look at the problem of homeless people and how someone could disappear from the streets without anyone realizing that a crime had taken place. So I was delighted that the auction was won by a man called Richard Latham, whom I had met on a couple of occasions and liked a great deal. I knew Richard was a fan of crime fiction but what I didn’t realize what that he actually worked with rough sleepers. This seemed an almost magical stroke of serendipity. Well, that’s what Cathbad would say anyway.

It’s daunting putting a real name in your books. Jan appeared almost as herself but my Richard Latham was an entirely fictional character. I was therefore delighted when Richard, after reading an early copy, approved both of the character and of my depiction of homelessness and the issues that surround it.  As Richard says, this is a problem that will not go away and, by including homeless people as main characters in a book – and not just as part of the background – I hope that I am doing my small bit to bring this issue into the foreground.

Series image of Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries


The real Richard Latham:

I have been employed with Leicester City Council for over 16 years working with the homeless in hostels. It is a problem that will not go away.

The needs of the individuals and homeless families seem obvious but often they are compounded by mental health problems; drug and alcohol issues; fleeing persecution; harassment and domestic violence. It is a job I am proud to do and one that gives me a great sense of satisfaction. It is a privilege to be able to support and empower others who are short on confidence, self-esteem and feel an underclass today.

My links with CLIC Sargent go back some three years. Ever since my daughter lost her teenage friend to cancer I have tried to support a variety of cancer care and research charities. CLIC Sargent only came to my attention through my love of books when an author pointed out their auctions a couple of years ago. I was amazed then and since, by the number and quality of novelists that have offered book characters or writing support, that this sort of fund-raising is growing in popularity.

The auctions are intense and more and more money is raised as readers bid for the honour of seeing their name in their favourite author’s next blockbuster. Previously, I was the highest bidder to win two tickets to Crimefest 2015. A tremendous treat for any crime fiction fan. I have been unsuccessful bidding on Elly Griffiths’ auction in the two previous years and therefore I focused all my attention on being the highest bidder this year.

It is one thing to be a character in a fiction novel it is another to be in one of an author you have widely read, thoroughly enjoy and having met on three separate occasions deeply respect. Money well spent and such a great cause. Thanks for this insight into your work as a novelist. Perhaps all I need now is to be the named love interest in a Domenica de Rosa novel.

The Chalk Pit is out now.

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One comment on “A charitable character”

  • Jan Adams says:

    As the named character in “Woman in Blue” I would just like to say how wonderful it was. Having met Elly previously at a literary lunch I became a devout reader of her books. I loved the characters and the brilliant descriptions. I felt I was travelling in the car with Nelson as the descriptions in and around Kings Lynn were so good. The fact she wrote a part for me and my beloved Police dog Barney was so so special. Being able to help raise funds for such a good cause as well was just wonderful. Unfortunately Barney has gone to the big kennel in the sky now, but I feel he is living on in Elly’s books. Thank you so much Elly, my favourite female crime writer. ( And such a lovely person too)

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