I was shocked and saddened to learn of the unexpected and sudden death of Lesley on April 17.
She has been a virtual friend since 2011 when I accepted her first novel The Seventh Magpie for Solstice (a US publisher). It was an excellent debut. Later, after I left Solstice, she retrieved the rights and revised and republished the book in 2015. It is still available and is definitely worth reading. This is my review from 2012:
This is an intriguing novel that should appeal to many, especially expats.
The basic question raised is: Can one woman – genetically linked to a time of witch burnings and religious persecution – prevent a devastating global war between conflicting ideologies in the near future?
The answer isn’t simple, however. Three women hold the key.
In the year 1624, in Wales, Mair Griffiths is executed for witchcraft.
While in 2060, Jeena H Roberts commands a top-secret mission using experimental technology. This is an attempt to capture the perpetrators of the outrage that acted as a catalyst for a war that has thrust the world into flames.
And in 1986 the adopted Helen Ross travels to Wales in search of her birth family. But what she discovers in the ancient stones of that land of magic and melancholy is far more ominous than she could have ever imagined… And on her journey, we travel to her family’s past in the post-war years, the 1950s and 1977, poignantly recalled with insight and heart.
The three parallel narratives will interlink in time. And over all seems to hover a pall of inevitable doom – perhaps exemplified by the mysterious magpie…
This is one of those books that will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished it. And I feel that the depth of story and character will also reward you so that, by the time you turn that last page, you will have lived much of the life of Helen Ross.
Spookily, Helen Ross was one of my pen-names for articles and short fiction! There are autobiographical elements in The Seventh Magpie. Lesley was an adopted child and I could empathise with her since my wife and I were also adopted. She says she was inspired to write this novel in response to her own journey of discovery. These parts of the book are particularly poignant. She was born in Strawberry Field children’s home in Liverpool; it no longer exists. She was raised in Kirkby and subsequently lived there for twenty years before moving to London. She studied English and drama and worked as a freelance writer, her articles appearing in Cosmopolitan, Marie Clare, Red, Bite, Forum, and Time Out among others before she established Moondance Media, a magazine publishing company. Her dark and compelling short story Mrs Webster’s Obsession was turned into a film. Eventually, she moved to Jàvea in Spain: all these places figured in her first novel.
Latterly, Lesley was gaining recognition with her crime novels, writing as Lesley Welsh. Her first crime thriller Truth Lies Buried was published in June 2016 by Thomas & Mercer and has been nominated for the CWA Golden Dagger Award as the best crime novel of 2016. My review of this is here
Her second crime novel The Serial Killer’s Daughter will be published in June 2017 by Bookouture. She had completed a third and was doing a final edit.
Recently, she adopted a stray cat that had been trapped down a hole for some time. She named him Ace, after the Kirk Douglas film Ace in the Hole, and kept her FB friends apprised of his health and amused by his antics.
Lesley was a strong character with lashings of humour and her passing has left a hole in many lives.