Monday, June 20, 2011


We’re almost in the final straight now of the grand alphabetically-inspired crime fiction sojourn our intrepid band of book-loving bloggers, hailing from around the globe, have been on for the past few months. This week, for the letter ‘W’, I’ve decided to feature another lesser-known thriller published in the past decade (as will have become apparent via not only the Crime Fiction Alphabet, but Crime Watch in general, there has actually been a lot more Kiwi-written crime and thriller fiction published in recent times than most people realised): THE WINDSOR CONSPIRACY by Mike Ponder (Bantam, 2007).

I understand Ponder now resides in Queensland, Australia, but he was born, raised, and lived most of his life in New Zealand. THE WINDSOR CONSPIRACY is his first novel, but he’d previously produced three books of his art, and a non-fiction book about olive oil (he has been recognised as a pioneer of the New Zealand olive oil industry). According to his bio, Ponder has also “developed an international reputation for his art and his wine” prior to becoming a writer. He owned a vineyard in Marlborough (where he also grew olives) from 1987 to 2002, when he sold Ponder Estates to Fosters for a hefty sum. He was also a part-owner of Australian coat company Driza-Bone, making him quite the successful businessman.

In THE WINDSOR CONSPIRACY, the severed finger of a kidnapped man is mailed to newspaper journalist Joanna Doyle, with a note claiming the victim is none other than His Royal Highness, Prince Charles. As she has just watched an interview with him live on television, Joanna refuses to take the note seriously.

Why then the interest of the Secret Service? Why do they demand she relinquish the finger and note to them? Why, only hours later, is she brutally murdered? And why does the Royal Air Force dispatch a Harrier jet fighter to intercept the trawler in which the kidnap victim is being held captive?

Security expert Simon Dwyer is hired to uncover the truth in this “fast-paced thriller full of intrigue and suspense”. From the vastness and hostility of the Australian outback, to a medieval castle protected by 1000 feet of sheet rock and the crack troops of the 12th Scottish Regiment, “every page brings another twist”.

It certainly sounds intriguing. I’ve bought myself a copy from a second-hand store, and I’ve also seen it elsewhere in second-hand stores, physical and online.

In an interview with David King of The Press in March 2007, Ponder said he centred THE WINDSOR CONSPIRACY on the Royal Family because his aim was to write a novel with international appeal that would not be limited to New Zealand sales. He said he did not see the point in writing something that not many people would read. His 33 years as a full-time artist had taught him that “At the end of the day, if you are going to be successful as an artist, you have to be successful as a businessman.”

Interesting comments there from Ponder.

Do you think crime writers from smaller countries need to write about larger global things (eg the Royal Family) to attract international sales and attention? Or has this pressure eased with the success of Scottish and Scandinavian crime writer who’ve set their books in their own localities, and trusted the readers to adapt to them? Should writers consider what might sell when they determine what to write? How does commerce/business and art/creativity intertwine? Comments welcome.


  1. Craig - Oh, now that's an interesting question! I think the first goal is to write a good story. But the more people who think it's a good story and can identify with it, the better in terms of attracting readers. I'm not sure that requires addressing larger global issues. I think it has to do with discussing universal themes - things we can all identify with.

  2. Craig,

    No, I don't think it's necessary or ever was necessary. I suspect that involving the Windsors might broaden its appeal a bit and therefore could help a weak story commercially, but it certainly doesn't make it a better story.

    I think Margot got it right when she made the distinction between global issues and universal themes.

  3. I agree Margot and Fred. Universal themes, with specific, interesting locations/settings - i thikn that's a key of any type of storytelling, whether it's a sports movie, a stage play, or a crime novel.

  4. I prefer crime novels that are clearly set in a particular locale. I am attracted to books set in places outside the biggest urban settings.

  5. I think that location is important, and I too enjoy non-city locations Bill. Try some of the mysteries of CJ Box, Tony Hillerman, or John Hart, amongst others, for more rural, small town, backcountry and wilderness areas