Fiction met fact on Thursday of last week when crime writer Jim Kelly dropped in on the crew of the Old Hunstanton lifeboat.
He was there to meet the men and women whose job it is to keep those who sail in the seas off the North Norfolk coast safe. And, in a trip out into the Wash in the hovercraft, Hunstanton Flyer, discover what it is really like to be a member of a lifeboat crew.
It was a reality check for an author – a former winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger – who has created their fictional counterparts in, to date, seven thrillers, the Shaw and Valentine series, about two policemen fighting crime along the Norfolk coast.
Det Insp Peter Shaw, based in Lynn, is also the pilot of the Hunstanton hovercraft so Jim Kelly met the real hovercraft pilot, Victor Dade, on his trip out to sea.
“It’s nice to know I’m tall and good looking, only 33 years old and drive a Porsche,” said Mr Dade, who has been a member of the Hunstanton RNLI for 38 years and whose real-life work vehicle is a tractor.
But Jim was quick to reassure him: “Of course, the characters in my books are no way like their real counterparts.”
That is particularly true of Peter Shaw’s wife, Lena, who runs a beach cafe somewhere between Old Hunstanton and Holme.
Not only has she no real-life double but no such cafe exists along that part of the coast.
The author lives in Ely and previously spent 15 years of his life working for the Financial times before creating his first series of crime novels about a journalist, Philip Dryden, who is based in the ‘Black Fens’.
In conversation the reason he set his latest series of books on the Norfolk coast soon becomes obvious.
He said: “For many years I have enjoyed visits to the North Norfolk coast.
“ It’s a fantastic piece of landscape and a lovely place to set a crime series.”
His visit to Old Hunstanton last week was to meet the crew members on which the fictional characters in his seventh novel in the Shaw and Valentine series, Death Ship, are based.
He will be back again on Saturday, September 3, for the official launch of the book.
Tickets for the event can be obtained by telephoning 07840 375 984.
Death Ship, price £20.99. is published by Severn House.