Roderic Jeffries was born in London in 1926 and went to sea in 1943. Six years later he left that trade and became a lawyer. But quickly fiction stole him away from the Bar. Since 1951, he has written over one hundred and sixty novels under his own name and several other pseudonyms. He began his career by writing books featuring his father’s character, Blackshirt, a popular detective whose adventures have appeared in print for many decades. In time Jeffries branched out and began to write a variety of mystery novels under his own name and several pen names, including Peter Alding and Jeffrey Ashford.
However, his most popular character is Inspector Enrique Alvarez of the Spanish island resort of Mallorca, “a middle-aged man with a bit of a middle-aged spread [who] takes a diligent, unhurried approach to solving crime,” according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. That series is thirty-six books strong with its June, 2012 addition, Murdered by Nature. Booklist called the Alvarez books a “delightful and entertaining series that never seems to lose a step.”
My daughter suffered seriously from asthma and was hospitalised more than once. After the last emergency, we came out to Mallorca for a fortnight to gain some sun and warmth. She responded so well, we decided to return and live on the island for a year. That was 1972.
What things about Mallorca make it unique and a good physical setting in your books?
The climate. The beaches, interesting villages and, in great contrast, the mountainous interior.
Did you consciously set out to use Mallorca as a “character” in your books, or did this grow naturally out of the initial story or stories?
It was a ‘natural’ to use the locations as a contrast to England (and the rain).
Because of the nature of the island, the scenery changes rapidly and this offers interest when describing a home or journey. I normally use actual physical details.
How does Alvarez interact with his surroundings?
Inspector Alvarez, a true Mallorquin, believes the island is the perfect and only place in which to live.
Has there been any local reaction to your works?
There is no obvious reaction to my being a writer. Only three books have been published in Spain and my understanding is that they were not a success. A friend who was bilingual was of the opinion that the translations were not too bright because of the difficulty in finding the equivalents of some of the more enigmatic phrases or double entendres.
In one early book, I had oranges ripen in June. It should have been December/January.
Do you have a favorite scene from the Alvarez novels that you can share with us or a favorite Mallorca locale that you use?
My favourite scene is the Bay of Pollenca. Ringed by mountains, sea smooth and poster blue, the low buildings of the Port de Pollenca managing to meld, provides a picture of peace and beauty. I use it in almost all my books.
Who are your favorite writers, and do you feel that other writers influenced you in your use of the spirit of place in your novels?
If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
Here, in Pollenca. Why not?
What’s next for Alvarez?
I haven’t got that far yet.
Roderic, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with Scene of the Crime