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Bumper benefits of life of crime.

A WHODUNNIT writer has revealed her reaife fascination with crime - just like the heroine of her books.

Betty Rowlands, who is in her 60s, likes nothing better than speeding around the picturesque Gloucestershire countryside in a rapid-response police car.

The writer, who lives in Brimpsfield near Cheltenham, loves getting involved with her local boys in blue. But, unlike her crime-busting heroine, Melissa Craig, she never meddles in their work.

Instead she spends days shadowing scenes of crime officers to research her sleuth stories and she spent a short spell in jail... to promote the job of the special constabulary.

Her local beat bobby, Pc Rod Evans, even came up with the name for her latest novel, The Cherry Pickers.

"The idea for the book came after I spotted some people up to no good eyeing up some kitchen units due to be collected by a charity," she said. "The village bobby told me they call those people 'cherry pickers' and the story came from there."

The book, her eighth in the Melissa Craig series, is about the mystery surrounding a body found in a stolen freezer. Fictional Melissa, also a crime writer in a Gloucestershire village, turns detective to solve the crime.

There are strong similarities between Betty and her heroine. But, unlike Melissa, Betty likes to step aside once the going gets tough - and leaves the detective work to the professionals.

"Melissa does things that I would run away from, but I do enjoy going through the adventures with her. The only thing we really have in common is that she writes crime books as well," explained Betty.

"I do have a very good relationship with the police, but I don't get involved in solving crime.

"They locked me up in jail as part of a promotion for the special constabulary and I also went out in a rapid-response vehicle which was terrific. Just like in The Bill.

"The scenes of crime officers are very helpful and talk me through murders, but I have never seen a dead body, and don't really want to.

"I do enjoy it all. Maybe I do have slightly criminal tendencies."
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 10, 1998
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