Guest Blog. Chris Ewan talks about the importance of location in his novels and his latest book Dark Tides

Today on The Crime Warp I'm welcoming Chris Ewan, whose novel Dark Tides follows on from his previous successes with his thriller Safe House and follow up Dead Line.  Chris is sharing with us how he does his research as well as some great videos of the locations he found during his research for his bestselling thrillers. 
Location has been important in all my books. I started out writing crime novels set in major world cities in my GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO … mystery series, in part because I wanted to try and combine an element of travel writing within my books. The steps I took researching the GOOD THIEF novels quickly became habit forming, but over the years, my habits have developed and adapted to new technology. It used to be that I’d carry a pad and pen pretty much everywhere I went. I’d spend my time on location visits scribbling down every detail I could find, not knowing which information might become relevant when it came time for me to write a particular scene. I also took photographs, collected postcards, bought guidebooks and studied maps. Then, eventually, I ended up with a smartphone and I found that shooting video footage was pretty useful, too.
DARK TIDES, my new thriller, is based around Hop-tu-naa, the Manx Halloween. It’s about a group of teenagers who gather every Hop-tu-naa to perform dares until, one year, a dare goes terribly wrong, changing all their futures and tearing the friends apart. I’d written about the Isle of Man before in SAFE HOUSE, and since I’ve lived on the island for eleven years, I was already familiar with many of the locations where I was planning to set scenes in the book. But for me, at least, being familiar with a place can never match up to visiting a location I want to use and examining it from the perspective of my characters, or the events they’re going to face. So before writing DARK TIDES, I revisited a bunch of locations I wanted to use, and some I’d never had access to before – like, for instance, the Isle of Man Prison – and I took a lot of videos (although sadly not inside the prison itself, since that would have breached a whole heap of regulations…).
Below are some of the results, which I hope you might find interesting, especially if you happen to read the book. First though, a bit of a health warning: these videos were shot for my own research. I talk to myself a LOT during filming and sometimes (possibly more than sometimes) what I say may not make a whole heap of sense to anyone other than me. Some of the time I focus on very minor details that seem crucial in the moment and end up becoming anything but. And finally, since I was filming outdoors on the Isle of Man, apologies in advance for the shaking and wind noise – it’s not often we get a day without a coastal breeze.
First up, a major recurring location in the book is the Ayres Nature Reserve at the Point of Ayre, in the far north of the island. It’s a bleakly beautiful spot, and a place I’ve always found to be quite unsettling and spooky, not least because of one particular isolated stand of pines, set back from the shore, which has long fascinated me. Here I am parking up at the main car park and finding my way to the top of a bird observatory, just as my lead character, Claire Cooper, finds herself doing in the finished novel.
Speaking of that spooky and very lonely stand of pines, here I am (accompanied by my dog, Maisie) walking bravely towards them…
Next up is me discussing the beginning of a scene, quite early on in the novel, where Claire and her friends dare each other to spend some time alone in the woods, at night, on Hop-tu-naa. It all goes a bit Blair Witch at the end of this footage …
Another location I use in the book is Eary Cushlin, originally an isolated farm house on the west of the island, and now an outdoor activity centre. The house is so isolated, in fact, that it was purchased by Colby Cubbin (1902-1951) an eccentric benefactor who moved to the Isle of Man from Merseyside at the outbreak of World War Two to avoid the bombing raids on Liverpool that terrified him. Ironically, despite only a few bombs falling on the Isle of Man during the Second World War, one dropped very near to Eary Cushlin because a German pilot mistook the west coast of the island for Lancashire. Soon after this episode, Colby moved out, leaving behind a remote and very spooky location for my characters to gather.
The keen-eyed among you will have spotted from the jacket image on the front of DARK TIDES that a lighthouse is an important location in the book. The Point of Ayre lighthouse can be found at the most northerly tip of the island, and here I am approaching it.
I was granted permission to take a tour of the lighthouse by the Northern Lighthouse Board, courtesy of the local keeper, Fred Fox. I’m not great with heights (as you’ll see!), but I felt I needed to experience the view, so I asked to head out onto the cat’s cradle at the top of the lantern room. This last video gives you an idea of just how uncomfortable the whole experience made me (hence why the camera points down at the floor so much), though I can’t pretend it didn’t end up being useful in the finished book …
Thanks Chris - great not just to read about how you developed these ideas but to see the actual locations is just fascinating.  In case you've forgotten...

    Dark Tides by Chris Ewan is out now, £14.99 (Faber & Faber) and a free esampler is available on Kindle.
Also, my fellow blogger Liz Mistry will post a review of Dark Tides - available on The Crime Warp from 2 November.