The good, the bad and the ugly
Today it is a pleasure to invite author, Isabella Muir as a guest writer on my blog. Like me, Isabella writes crime fiction and we are both members of the authors networking group, CHINDI. Isabella is the author of the Janie Juke series of Sussex crime mysteries, featuring a young librarian with a passion for Agatha Christie. Celebrating the lead up to Agatha’s birthday, she is joining me today to talk about her research.
So over to you, Isabella.
When I chose to set my Sussex Crime series in the 1960s I knew I would need to do plenty of research to get a sense for what life was like back then.
Life in the 1960s was great, wasn’t it? It was easy and happy and full of brilliant music, fashion and possibilities. Sure enough, that might be our first thought, but then when we look at the decade in more detail it doesn’t take long to uncover some aspects that weren’t all ‘good’. Let’s take a glance at the ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and the downright ugly of that iconic decade.
Every week, almost every day, new pop stars emerged with music that would transform listening for decades to come. In January 1964 BBC TV launched a brand new music show, called Top of the Pops, which remained in its weekly slot for 42 years. Every musical taste was catered for – pop and rock from the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to blues and folk from talent such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and Janis Joplin.
Teenagers were desperate to hear it all and many went to sleep with their transistor radio under their pillow as they listened to the pirate stations – Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg, among others. By the middle of the decade between 10 and 15 million people were tuning in.
It was a time for young people to enjoy – fashion was transformed by designers such as Mary Quant who popularised the mini skirt, and at the age of just sixteen, Twiggy became a fashion icon, with her cropped hairstyle and streamlined figure.
Plenty to celebrate, but some of those celebrations created their own problems…
Casting off conservative values was all well and good. The ‘flower-power’ hippies embraced the ‘summer of love’ with 100,000 young people arriving in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco to experiment with drugs and sex. Unfortunately the realities of ‘dropping out’ meant that ‘free love’ was used to excuse something else entirely. Many thousands suffered from serious drug addiction and mental problems, or became homeless. San Francisco was overrun with drug dealers and teenage runaways, and the Haight-Ashbury scene deteriorated through overcrowding, homelessness and crime.
Back in the UK it was politics that hit the headlines as a result of the ‘Profumo affair’. After a brief sexual relationship in 1961 between John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government, and Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old would-be model, Profumo resigned from the government and from Parliament. The repercussions of the affair severely damaged Macmillan’s self-confidence, and he resigned as Prime Minister on health grounds in October 1963, possibly contributing to the defeat of the Conservatives by the Labour Party in the 1964 general election.
Public interest in the affair was heightened by reports that Keeler may have been simultaneously involved with Captain Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché, thereby creating a possible security risk – just at the time when the Cold War was gathering momentum.
Politics continued with its negative impact throughout the sixties, energising people to protest. The decade started with thousands joining the ‘Ban the Bomb’ march, with similar marches taking place over the next ten years. The Vietnam war, which lasted from 1955 for twenty years, was the focus of many protests as people learned about the dreadful death toll – more than a million deaths of civilians and military personnel. Lennon sang out ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and many followed him, chanting the same message.
Then, as people looked forward to a bright future, the world came close to disaster as President Kennedy and Kruschev decided if they were going to obliterate the entire population in a nuclear war. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 filled people with fear and must have darkened the otherwise bright memories of the sixties for many.
A brighter note
It is that fascinating mix of the good, bad and the downright ugly of that decade that has always held an attraction for me. It is the reason I chose to set my Sussex Crime series in the sixties and why the period features in several chapters of my newest novel, The Forgotten Children.
Alongside my love of the sixties, I am a passionate fan of Agatha Christie. Sussex Crime’s amateur sleuth, Janie Juke, follows in the footsteps of Agatha’s wonderful detective, Hercule Poirot, as she solves the crimes and mysteries that besiege the sleepy seaside town of Tamarisk Bay.
This blog post is one of a series, which leads up to Agatha Christie’s birthday and national #cozymysteryday on 15th September, as I enjoy the opportunity to be Chindi’s ‘Author of the week’. Chindi is a network of authors, both traditionally and independently published, based largely in West Sussex. Between us we publish a wide range of books, from historical and crime fiction to romance and children’s books, from humour to self-help.
To find out more about the great Queen of Crime and to help celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday, then look out for the other blog posts in the series:
Agatha Christie and Isabella Muir https://isabellamuir.com/blog/
Agatha Christie – a child of her time https://lexirees.co.uk/mums-book-blast/
Agatha Christie and the sixties https://patriciamosbornewriter.wordpress.com/daily-blog/
What is a cosy mystery? https://www.carol-thomas.co.uk/blog/
Investigating the past https://rosemarynoble.wordpress.com/
Agatha Christie and Janie Juke https://isabellamuir.com/blog/
And as a present to you, on Agatha’s behalf, I am pleased to announce that the first book in my Sussex Crime series – The Tapestry Bag – will be available on Kindle for just £0.99p for one week only – grab it while you can!
Isabella Muir is the author of the Sussex Crime Mystery series:
She can be contacted via:
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Thanks, Isabella, for a most interesting article. Isabella’s books are a great choice for those who enjoy an Agatha Christie style mystery, entertaining and light, perfect for a holiday read or curling up on a chilly autumn night; we wish you the best of luck with your books!