A BORN and bred Romsey woman has released her first novel.

Claire Gradidge, who lived in Romsey until she was 15-years-old, has published her book called The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox, which hit stores yesterday.

The crime novel is set in 1941 and tells the story of a woman who has not set foot in Romsey in over twenty years.

She returns to her former home to look for her father and arrives the day after the Luftwaffe have bombed the town.

Jo Fox soon becomes involved in an investigation after discovering a teenager who was found murdered in a bombed pub.

Claire said: "I wrote this novel as part of my PhD in creative writing at the University of Winchester. I was inspired by my childhood, my memories and I wanted to write about Romsey, which seemed to be a good place.

"The book is 82,000 words long and we had a launch in P&G Wells in Winchester last week and that went very well. They also sold all of the 70 books they brought in which was great."

The 66-year-old also won the Richard & Judy prize which meant she received a £30,000 publishing deal with Bonnier Zaffre, who are based in London.

The award is designed for debut novel's and is supported by WHSmith who stock the winner's book.

Claire added: "I was flabbergasted when I found out I won. I didn't believe it and it is beginning to sink in now. I was very pleased and astounded.

"The book will be the first of probably four in the series, as it will run throughout all four years of the war."

Claire, who now lives in Chandler's Ford, is now working on the second book in her series, but "does not know when it will be finished".

She added: "My children are really pleased and proud of me. All of their lives their mum has been a writer and now I have been published."