THE launch of a new detective series set in and around Colchester looks set to put the area on the crime writing map once again.

Essex has had a long association with crime writers including such luminaries as Witham's Dorothy L Sayers and Tolleshunt D'Arcy's Margery Allingham but in more recent years it's also provided the inspiration.

Husband and wife crime writing team Tania Carver set their books in Britain's oldest recorded town and now James Henry is doing likewise with his new book, Blackwater.

James Henry is the pen name of writer and publisher James Gurbutt, who is perhaps best known for penning three prequels to RD Wingfield's Frost novels, made famous by the television series staring David Jason.

Orsett-born, James, grew up in Billericay and went to the Mayflower School in the town, moving to the Colchester area in 1990 for his first job.

Now working in London for a leading publishing company, James took three years to write his latest book. It's set in 1983 and is the first in what James hopes will be a series of DI Nick Lowry novels set in and around Colchester and Mersea Island.

He says: "Writing the Frost novels was a lot of fun but I wanted to do something different with my own crime novel. Rather than just one character I wanted to write about a team. I also wanted to write a book where the place is more important and having lived in and around Colchester for a while I've alway been fascinated about its association with the military and so I wanted to get that in there as well."

In Blackwater, DI Nick Lowry is starting to feel his age. He is giving up smoking and the Police Boxing Team for the healthier pursuit of birdwatching. But the force is changing, with the university-educated flashy DC Kenton and the young WPC Gabriel turning heads.

A new year brings a new danger to the Essex shoreline. An illicit shipment, bound for Colchester - 100 kilograms of powder that will frantically accelerate tensions in the historic town, and leave its own murderous trace.

"I'm really pleased with how it's turned out," James adds. "I enjoyed writing about the Eighties and particularly about the police boxing team, which is based on fact.

"An army officer, Hugh Stockwell, became chief constable of the Colchester Police and throughout the thirties, under him, Colchester became well known as one of the best police boxing teams in Europe."

James will be talking about and signing copies of his new book at Waterstones, High Street, Colchester, on Monday, July 18, from 6.30pm. Tickets are £2, which is redeemable against the price of the novel on the night, available by calling the store on 01206 561307.