WHAT do the towns of Anderbury, Starbridge, Melchester, Kingsbridge and Barchester have in common?

The answer is that they are all fictional places that draw on Salisbury for their literary inspiration. Starbridge is the home of the series of six novels written by Susan Howatch. These tell the story of a fictional Anglican diocese and cathedral, all based on Salisbury. The centrepiece of Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge, as featured in his novels The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End is also based on Salisbury Cathedral.

Melchester is the fictionalised Salisbury of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, as described in his novels Jude the Obscure, The Hand of Ethelberta and Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Barchester, meanwhile, is the capital of Anthony Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire, whose location weaves together a mixture of Salisbury, Winchester, and Exeter.

Anderbury is the setting for CJ Tudor’s hotly-anticipated first novel, The Chalk Man, which is published next week. The Chalk Man tells the story of a series of tragic events that happen to a group of teenage friends one summer in the mid 1980s. Thirty years later, one of the friends, who is now a teacher in the town, receives a letter containing a piece of chalk and a drawing of a stick figure: presaging the events of the past coming back with a deadly vengeance.

The Chalk Man is a great read: a chilling edge of your seat thriller which is a little bit Stephen King, a little bit Stranger Things. Its author, CJ Tudor, was born in Salisbury, and its setting of Anderbury, although fictional, has echoes of familiarity: ‘Anderbury looks, to the casual eye, like a picturesque place to live. Quaint cobbled streets, tea shops and semi-famous cathedral...as well as the cathedral there was a market square with a big Debenhams.’ All novelists face the challenge of whether to invent a setting for their book or to capture a place as it really is and save the fictionalising for the story itself. Barney Norris, whose second novel Turning For Home is also out next week, is very much in the latter camp: his debut Five Rivers met on a Wooded Plain was all about Salisbury; his new novel moves the action further north, to a village on the Wiltshire/Hampshire border.

They’re different writers in different genres, but both Tudor and Norris understand the importance of place. The fact that their settings have a local flavour make them all that bit more fascinating to read.

* The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor and Turning for Home by Barney Norris are both published on January 11. Barney Norris is appearing at Salisbury Writing Circle on Wednesday, January 10; CJ Tudor on February 7.