Oxford: Murder Capital of the World?

Avert Your Eyes….


At the Oxford Indie Book Fair on November 26, I have the delightful opportunity to discuss Oxford-murder capital of the world? 

Odd to link ‘delight’ to ‘murder’? Crime fiction is the most popular genre so,unless the reading public is masochistic, we must get pleasure out of reading it. One of the appeals is that it enables readers to confront their fears knowing that justice will be done. In real life that rarely happens. Chris Andrews Publications has produced Oxford guidebooks, postcards and gargoyle photography for forty years. He knows this city inside out and from above and below. Chris will chair the discussion between me and prolific Oxford crime writer, Peter Tickler. I feel like an interloper because Current of Death is my first whodunit but other life experiences mean I can bring something unique to the table.  In Oxford, I’m best known for the ten years I sent inspirational people from Town, Gown and County to my mythical island of Oxtopia.  The Oxford Castaway life stories were first published in The Oxford Times before being turned onto three books. One of those castaways was the crime writer Colin Dexter, who invented Inspector Morse.  Colin holds most responsibility for public awareness of carnage in our city. His Morse books were turned into an internationally successful TV series followed by Lewis and Endeavour. I hope to tell the audience how he managed to write most of the Morse books while working fulltime at the Oxford Delegacy-at least what he told me.

There’d often be four bodies per episode in Morse books . In Current of Death, I fail miserably because there are only two bodies.  The number of recorded murders in Oxford, in 2022 ,was TWO – hardly the murder capital of the world!  We are not talking FACT but FICTION.  Conan Doyle set the ball rolling with Sherlock Holmes based in Baker Street in London .  Dorothy Sayers was born in 1893.  Her father was headmaster of Christchurch School (Oxford).  Her mystery novel Gaudy Nights locations include Christ Church and St Cross Church and Balliol was her sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey’s alma mater. That mystery crime book didn’t, however, include a murder, so Dorothy is not responsible for the death count but, before long, the list of deadly crime mysteries set in Oxford grew and grew.

The outstanding crime writer , PD James, was born in Oxford and although she didn’t set her books in the city, she transplanted some buildings such as St Barnabas Church into her novels.  In a different life, she was my customer at the Jam Factory. When her success grew, she bought a house in St John Street and furnished much of it at the Jam Factory ( 1987-1998). One of the things she bought from me was this watercolour set in Teignmouth with Edwardian ladies in bustles and bathing machines.

The Jam Factory was a place people came to browse and chat at leisure so Phyllis and I enjoyed many interesting conversations – one in particular was not about her murder mysteries but about her dystopian novel  Children of Men – but that’s for another  day

Colin Dexter was a patron of the Oxford Writers Group. He generously read our short stories including mine.

I hope you can make it to the Oxford  Indie Book Fair: and our discussion, The Midnight Press and other Oxford stories







The Fourth Oxford Indie Book Fair: Exciting event in a great venue – November 26

Andy Severn of Oxford eBooks organised a book fair in the village where I live. I encouraged author, architect and founder of the Isle of Wight festival, Ray Foulk and publisher James Harrison to have stands. We felt the idea was fantastic but that it needed to be located in the Hollywood of Stories – Oxford!

The first OXIB fair was all set to go in April 2020 and, like everything else it was cancelled due to Covid. Eventually it took place in Nov 2021.  It was a success (see pics on the oxib website). People were still nervous of being in a crowd so we concentrated on raising awareness among writers and soon had a long waiting list for exhibitors. We had tapped into a need. When the big literary festivals began they catered for international, national and local authors but gradually the local has diminished. Small traditional publishers like my publisher, Claret Press, don’t get a look in no matter how interesting their books.

It’s tough finding an agent to get to access to the  big publishers  so more and more people are self -publishing using companies like Oxford eBooks and Oxfordfolio. I have just used Oxford eBooks to self -publish my first Whodunit. Claret Press doesn’t publish the genre and I didn’t want to wait to find another publisher. Current of Death is set where I live and, even if it doesn’t get read internationally, it will be popular locally. The first launch will be at the Fourth Oxford Indie Book Fair on Sunday Nov 26 at the Oxford University Examination Schools. With prolific  publisher ,Chris Andrews, and prolific local crime writer, Peter Tickler, I’ll discuss Oxford Murder Capital of the World?

DO come… it’ll be fun. The fair is double the size  of last year. See the exhibitor directory.  https://www.oxfordindiebookfair.co.uk/exhibitor-directory/

There is something for everyone of all ages. It’s free and the talks are free.The Examination Schools are not open to the public and it’s an impressive building.

Here is where I’ll speak in front of a small screen!!

Programme here. https://www.oxfordindiebookfair.co.uk/whats-on/  

If you like the idea of our free welcoming and inclusive event do please share my post.

Ray Foulk

We met at a screen writing course  at Oxford University Continuing Education and I was privileged to compere two of his book launches  . I love the sketch my friend Weimin He made of the launch of Stealing Dylan from Woodstock.

Picasso’s Revenge was in the Museum of Modern Art.


My  first connection with James Harrison (Oxfordfolio) was at a similar time.  I wrote for the Oxford Times for 20 years. My ten year popular Oxtopian castaway series was turned into three books. Oxfordfolio published Oxford Castaways 2 and 3.  Dwina Gibb paid the printing costs of OC3 so the proceeds went to Sobell House . We raised over £3,600 for the hospice)

Felicity Dick has become generous patron of the Oxford Indie Book Fair and also paid for OC2 in support of the world’s first hospice for people with terminal mental illness –Vale House. As E.M Forster said

Only Connect .

Oxford Castaways 2 book coverOxford Castaways 3




Current of Death out as an Ebook!

My first novel Brushstrokes in Time is set in China and the USA, Not so Black and White (with Nancy Mudenyo Hunt) is located in London and west Kenya and Sculpting the Elephant in Oxford and India. My fourth novel, launched this week as an eBook, couldn’t be closer to home.  It’s set in the village where I live one and a half miles from Carfax at the heart of Oxford.  Flowing through the city to Iffley, Kennington, Sandford , Radley and Abingdon is the River Thames. Its beauty and force of nature flows through the narrative.

 A few reviews of CURRENT of DEATH

Peter Tickler: Author of The Oxford Murders

Dodgy goings-on, slippery developers, slavery, and Extinction Rebellion all feature in this crime novel in which Sylvia’s passion for her home village shines through.

John Argyle: Chairman of the Friends of Kennington Library and volunteer lock keeper.

A gripping murder mystery set on the River Thames, Current of Death might be a first venture into the crime genre from a very talented writer, but I hope that it isn’t the last.

AndyFFrench of the Oxford Mail   

‘Sylvia Vetta has been exploring Oxford’s waterways for many years so she is perfectly placed to imagine dark deeds in a village she knows well.’

Andy knows that because I have written up  family river walks for his paper.  This one passes key places in Current of Death. It has pictures!


My main characters are more diverse that is usual in the genre. I do hope you like them. If you do, I have a sequel in mind! Please let me know.The print preview has arrived.

The first launch  will be at the Oxford Indie Book Fair which I help organize. It is proving popular so we have moved to bigger premises the Oxford University Examination Schools. That means we have doubled in size. (See Exhibitor Directory on the website.)#oxfordindiebookfair  https://www.oxfordindiebookfair.co.uk

The fair will be opened by the inspirational new Vice Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey CBE FRS BMedSci, who  grew up  and was educated in the large village of Kidlington to the north of Oxford. With the exception of a few years at Harvard Medical School, she has spent her career in Oxford. She was Warden of Merton College from 2019-22 and is also Professor of Anaesthetic Neuroscience in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

Here is a pic of where I will launch the paperback. DO COME –Its free and fun and in a fascinating building. Something for all ages including lots for families, fiction, non- fiction ,poetry, illustration, comics , free talks and more.


The Friends of Kennington Library  have an entertaining Murder Mystery Event  to launch it in the village

See poster.Murder Mystery






Oxib@The Oxford Festival of the Arts: See you on July 16?

The way to the festival Marquee

Oxib@The Oxford Festival of the Arts: See you there?


https://www.oxfordindiebookfair.co.uk/oxford-festival-of-the-arts-2023/   Full list of oxib exhibitors on this link


The Oxford Festival of the Arts is underway. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/

The murals were magnificent stupendous  unforgettable!


If you have the opportunity to experience it elsewhere, it’s worth it.

The final day Sunday July 16:  11-4pm is a free community family  event


oxib has 25 stands in the grand marquee. See this link for a list of our exhibitors and what they do. https://artsfestivaloxford.org/events/stories-festival-family-and-community-day/

We will also host two poetry slams

The Poetry Table will showcase work by local poets including David Burridge, John Daniels, Lucy Ingrams, Jennifer McGowan, Kathleen McPhilemy, Merryn Williams and Dorothy Yamamoto.

11.30- 11.50. am. Poetry Slam compered by Kathleen Mc Philemy of Poetry Worth Hearing

https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/kathleen-mcphilemy features poets from Oxfordshire and further afield.

1 Lucy Ingrams

2 John Daniels

3 Jennifer McGowan

4 Kathleen McPhilemy

Open Mike


Our annual Book Fair will be bigger and better

Sunday November 26 11am -4pm

 2pm- 2.30pm:  Poetry Slam compered by Sylvia Vetta of Poems in an Exhibition

1 Merryn Williams

2 David Burridge

3 Dorothy Yamamoto

4 Oxford Poetry Library

Where is the Marquee?

Its in Magdalen College School   grounds  beside the bridge . Here is my artist friend Weimin He’s impression of the view.



Our annual Book Fair will be bigger and better

Sunday November 26 11am -4pm




 The Oxford Festival of the Arts final event. I’ll be there. A date for your diary July 16 11am -4pm?  


A date for your diary?  July 16 11am -4pm.  

OXIB is in its third year so we are considering expanding and adapting. We’ll have 25 tables in the marquee at the last event of the Oxford Festival of the Arts in the grounds of Magdalen College School. Oxford OX4 1DZ. The entrance to the grounds will be from the  Plain end of Magdalen Bridge.

The artist Weimin He has spoken and exhibited at the Indie Book Fair.  This is his impression of the view of Magdalen College from the school .

https://artsfestivaloxford.org/ The full programme for the community event  on Sunday July 16 has not yet be finalised. When it has,  full details will be on their website and on  our  website .https://www.oxfordindiebookfair.co.uk

Entry is free & it’s a beautiful site to picnic near the Thames, has a tea tent and children’s activities including  interaction with Waterperry Opera and the Story Museum. Oxib will have a children’s storytelling corner and will organise a poetry slam.

You will meet a wonderful variety of authors, illustrators and publishers .

Sylvia Vetta: Oxib organiser, author, freelance writer and speaker.

2 Ray Foulk: Oxib organiser, green architect and author.

3 Claret Press:  Publisher

4 Oxfordfolio/ Anglepoise Books  : Publisher

5 Oxford ebooks: Publisher.  They will be giving away books if you click on their website on the day.

6 Oxford Children’s Book Group with Bella Pearson

7 Oxford Poetry Library

8 Environmental Oxford: Stanislav Shmelev

9 Elisabeth Hallett: author of Mouse-wolf, a story set in Beijing.

10 Liz Woolley: Local historian

11 Clive Goddard: Humorous award winning children’s  writer

12 Peter Tickler: Crime fiction writer. Peter’s books are set in East Oxford

13 Mario Cuello: OUP book illustrator

14 Dice Comics

15 Emily Gale: Children’s author

16 Fil Reid: Historical fiction

17 Mirjam Vanderven

18 Janet Hancock: Historical fiction

19 Dylan Brenan: fantasy fiction

20 Diana Bell: public artist, poet, author & illustrator of  Nature Unlocked

21The Nasio Trust: Not so Black and White, Green Power the Spirulina Cookbook and library appeal .

22 John Mair: Bitesize books including books set in Jericho & about Morse etc.

23 Stanza Poetry Group

On July 16 we’ll have news of our annual November Fair. We hope  this popular event will be larger in 2023, so we can open it to new exhibitors.

There are lovely walks to  enjoy in the  area. Here is another Oxford painting by Weimin He. It hangs in the Vice Chancellor’s office.

The way to the Marquee



Food for Thought and Crossing Cultures@ the Nehru Centre

On Wednesday, the London Launch of Food of Love, cooking up a life across gender, class and race was in the Nehru Centre (The Indian High Commission) in Mayfair .

I was assisted by the delightful actor/singer Kamal Khan.  His family saga crosses 4 continents.  Kamal is adept at connecting cultures. He played Tony in West Story for the National Youth Theatre and has played Romeo too.  His performance of this song by Elvis was enthusiastically received by the audience on Wednesday. He is accompanied by tabla and other non-western instruments. https://youtu.be/jnQj_DumSDA

Kamal has the biggest ‘South Asian’ inspired radio station in LA. In Hollywood, he has, unsurprisingly, played lots of medics but he recently had a non-stereotyped lead role in a No 1 Netflix hit. His English accent helped.


Kamal has recorded the audiobook of Sculpting the Elephant and we want to have an international zoom launch at the end of June. He’s brilliant at all the voices, Indian, British and American. Who better to read Gangabharti – the intriguing Bollywood backing singer in the novel!

Retired CEO Karin Stoeker was in the audience & not in the least bit biased! She emailed,

“I wanted you to know I thought you were fabulous!!  Great presentation, and lots of food for thought!’

Attending the launch was the talented Indian artist Bharti Jain. She has an exhibition currently at the High Commission. I love her sensual and elegant paintings and took a pic in front of one of them.

The pic behind Katie Isbester, the Canadian CEO of Claret Press is of the Headington Shark (Oxford). To me it means ‘expect the unexpected’.  Katie also has a transplant story to tell.







To buy copies of Oxford Castaways 2
Go to
and click on the cover image.