The tradition and modernity of Andalucía

Janet Pywell at the launch of her latest book.
Janet Pywell at the launch of her latest book. / SUR
  • The holiday rep turned author has travelled extensively and uses her experience to write

The author of the Culture Crime Series of novels, Janet Pywell, has recently launched her latest offering, Book of Hours, which starts off during a Semana Santa procession in Malaga.

The book describes in detail the “pomp and pageantry” of the religious festival and Janet says of this ambitious start, “I wanted to write about Malaga and I needed a dramatic opening. The pageantry and solemnity of the Easter Procession is ideal... I hope this gives enough frisson and excitement to lead the reader on.”

Recognising that Spain’s Semana Santa traditions may be difficult for readers who are not familiar with the country, Janet says that she talked to friends on the coast about the word ‘tronos’ and says that the alternatives just didn’t translate right. “Thrones for English people would be something the Queen sits on - and floats are used in carnivals,” she explains. “I think, or at least I hope, I described the scene with the right balance of detail so the readers will understand or, if not, they will be curious enough to Google it!”

The third book in the Culture Crime Series, Book of Hours is set in Malaga, Bruges and Canterbury.

Janet says that she had always wanted to incorporate Malaga into a novel, having lived in the province for 20 years.

In 1983, after finishing a Travel and Tourism with Business Studies course in London, she was offered a season with Club 18-30s in the Costa Brava and over time worked for a number of other tour operators on the Costa del Sol, before moving into the timeshare industry and eventually working for Club La Costa in Mijas Costa. During this time Janet lived in Benalmádena and would often visit Malaga city, eating in the chiringuitos of Pedregalego and “going to flamenco bars and clubs tucked away in the back streets with my Spanish friends”, says the author, adding, “I loved immersing myself in Spanish culture and life. I remember a lovely fishing restaurant in Huelin before the promenade was all developed; it was like stepping into a fisherman’s cottage and eating with a large family.”

Janet says that she still returns to Malaga and that she still has many friends here. Speaking of the development that Malaga has witnessed since she first came in the 1980s, Janet says, “I’m delighted to see the amazing changes in Malaga city. When I lived there people came out of the airport and headed to Torremolinos and Marbella or Nerja. Now Malaga is ideal for a holiday or even for a weekend city break.”

Having worked in the industry for 30 years Janet says that she is “confident that my readers will understand the detail and it will not detract from the plot, characters or storyline.”

The author believes that people are very well-travelled now compared to the past, suggesting that ‘no-frills’ airlines have changed how we travel as well as how often.

The book doesn’t just focus on the older traditions of Malaga, as the female protagonist, Mikky dos Santos, is a competent kite surfer and she uses a drone over the city, mixing the old historic and Moorish past with the modern Muelle Uno, which Janet says she “finds very exciting”.

Having spent time in Ireland and continuing to work in the travel industry since leaving the Costa del Sol, Janet now lives in Whitstable in Kent, where she has been for three years and says she loves it. “On a warm day in summer it reminds me of how Spain used to be in the spring,” she says.

Each of Janet’s books is set in different locations, reflecting the experience of this well-travelled former holiday rep. “I hope to set more books in Spain in the future and one of my favourite cities is Cordoba. I used to ski in the Sierra Nevada and I think I might feature this as one of my locations,” she says.

As for the change from the travel industry to becoming a writer, Janet says that as an avid reader she had always wanted to write, so while living in Belfast she did a MA in Creative Writing. From there she has used her vast experience and knowledge to write five books in total tackling themes such as female bullfighters, divorce and of course Spain’s Easter week traditions.