Abruzzo, Italy

After moving to Abruzzo

If the sense of place was important in Shackles of Loyalty, it became even more so in Sweet Song, Bitter Loss.  We had moved from Northumberland to the Italian region of Abruzzo in 2007, but it was 2013 before I started writing again.  The move hadn’t gone entirely to plan.  The lovely, if dilapidated, stone house nestling in three hectares of woodland which we bought had been expertly restored, and we had even managed to have a swimming pool built, but the financial crash of 2008, along with the reality check of an over-optimistic quote for the restoration work, left us in a dire financial situation.  Even if the builder had stuck to his original quote, our calculations for managing an early retirement in Italy were based on an exchange rate of almost 1.50 euros to the pound sterling, which dropped to around 1.10 in 2008.  Sound familiar?  I’m not quite sure how, but we managed to get by, helped in no small part by a sympathetic and kind bank manager.

When we ran out of money, having paid off the builder, there remained quite a lot of work to finish on the house, so I had to learn some new skills, including, crucially, how to lay floor tiles, and how to cover a smoke-damaged ceiling with plaster board.  All in all, there was no time for writing.

Eventually we returned to some semblance of normal existence, and I was keen to record impressions of life in a lesser-known corner of rural Italy.  I considered something along the lines of A Year in Provence, but while walking my dog, Britza, around the woods one day, I had one of my ‘what if’ moments, imagining how a seemingly minor incident in an otherwise tranquil environment could lead to unforeseen consequences.  So began Sweet Song, Bitter Loss, a crime thriller played out in the idyllic setting of the Abruzzo countryside.