New novel taps into Brighton’s vibrant artistic community

Shoreham author Judy Upton sets her new book Out Of The Frying Pan (Hobart Books, £8.99) in Brighton’s vibrant artistic community.

The book is available from all bookshops or online from Amazon and the Book Depository and also available as an e-book on Kindle.

“I’ve sought to recreate that world of artists, musicians and actors etc, all at the beginnings of their careers, doing what they can to get by, as the background for a light-hearted but suspenseful crime novel.

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“In Out Of The Frying Pan the book’s heroine Vonnie and her friends try to piece together the clues surrounding her flatmate’s disappearance.

Judy Upton

“As I started writing, I started thinking about parties, gallery openings, theatre events etc I’ve attended over the years, especially the more unusual ones and the people I met at them.

“I also thought back to how my friends and I used to get by as struggling creatives – by knowing where to go for a cheap coffee or bag of chips and how to get invited to all kinds of events.

“I wanted to write a crime novel that didn’t rely on grisly murders and violence, but celebrated some of the things we’ve all been missing of late, like meeting up with friends, hanging out in bookshops and cafes and having adventures.

“I normally work as a playwright but from the theatres closing for the first lockdown I realised I’d have time on my hands to finally write my novel.

“As a writer I’d originally intended trying to write books, but then my first stage play won the George Devine Award and was produced by the Royal Court Theatre in London and that set me on a different path.

“My starting point was the silence of galleries, venues, cafes and libraries being closed. If I couldn’t for the moment visit those places in real life, I could do so in my head.

“I’ve always been interested in missing persons stories, and so I started the book with a character being carjacked and made to drive away after a botched bank heist.

“This propels my lead character from her normal life as a sculptor and part-time cleaner into the role of amateur sleuth.

“I hope the book will appeal to anyone who likes a fast-paced mystery and cosy crime novels, especially those that feature places we all know in Brighton and Sussex.

“The novel begins with sculptor Vonnie Sharpe in the queue at her local building society, while her flatmate Gina waits in the car outside. A raider bursts in and robs the place, but when his get-away motorbike won’t start, he makes Gina drive him away at gunpoint. The police soon find the car abandoned on the South Downs but there’s no sign of Gina.

“I really enjoyed writing about these characters so a sequel is always a possibility. I also have another novel about a different character in the pipeline.

“It’s my first full-length novel, but I’ve had a short novella Maisie And Mrs Webster published in the book Hometown Tales, South Coast and short stories in magazines including Amsterdam Quarterly, Stonecrop Review and Suspense Magazine.

“My stage plays have been produced by the Royal Court, National Theatre and Birmingham Rep among others, and a second volume of them entitled Judy Upton: Plays Two was published by Methuen in September 2021. It also contains some of the short plays I had produced on YouTube during the lockdowns. I’ve also had a number of Afternoon Dramas on Radio 4.

“I’ve written since I was a kid, growing up in Shoreham and attending the local comprehensive.

“Being a writer is what I’ve always wanted to do.

“It’s how I make sense of life, I suppose.

“Even a couple of days without writing and I’m keen to get back to it.”