Gwen Moffat’s novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. After six years’ service in the Land Army and the ATS during World War Two and a brief spell as property mistress in a Brighton theatre, she became a mountain guide (the first qualified woman). She climbed professionally for twenty years, at the same time learning to write. Her best-selling autobiography: “Space Below my Feet” was followed by more non-fiction books including one on Mountain Rescue, another on conservation, and then her publisher, Livia Gollancz, persuaded her to turn to crime. She has used her own experiences in her books. Meeting poachers and self-confessed killers while working as a ranch hand in the Montana Rockies provided the material for “Grizzly Trail” which featured the illegal killing of bears. But where Moffat is strong on abuse she balances evil with retribution; in her books paedophiles and wife batterers suffer equally and more than they would have done in the days of capital punishment. As the Sunday Times said of “Snare”: “A tall tale, expertly told, rising to chill heights of wanton evil and quietly disquieting private justice….” She is an author of place - Death Valley, the Oregon coast, the Scottish Highlands – and a canny opportunist, allowing the environment itself to produce surprises as when, in “Cue the Battered Wife”, the bird watcher is showing his holiday slides to his family: small sons bored stiff until the moment a human hand appears in the eagles’s nest…. Twenty years ago Moffat discovered the Northern Pennines: a country most conducive to murder with its abandoned mines ( their shafts not always plugged), the little black tarns in wastes of heather, the secret villages clustered below a looming escarpment. Wildness above, apparent tranquillity below, but soft summer evenings and village greens puts Moffat in mind of Sherlock Holmes’ dictum that “the vile alleys of London take second place to the dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside.” In “Dying for Love” the beautiful old lime kilns serve a more sinister purpose than was dreamed of when they were designated Protected Buildings. As one character put it: “Small children were sent out to play unsupervised in the long light evenings. Their big sisters walked home in the owl light, and occasionally throughout the border country one or two of them never made it home. People went missing in winter too but everything was so much easier in summer, warmth indulging fantasy and inducing lust….” Moffat lives in Cumbria with a very supportive cat. She indulges in fell walking, listening to music while cooking, and reviewing crime novels for the e-magazine SHOTS.Read more Read less
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