Described as 'one of Somerset's greatest swimmers', Beth French of Milverton inspired a new thriller penned by a Westcountry journalist.

In 2014, Ms French became the first person to swim the length between the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall. The seventeen hour feat helped cement her reputation as a top marathon swimmer.

Recalling the swim, Beth told of how she battled Atlantic tides and dozens of jellyfish stings. She said: "I remember the swim very clearly. The expeditionary nature of the challenge appealed to me. I like testing myself to the limit on something new, seeing what’s possible, being the best that I can be.

"It was a real adventure. With the strength of the tides and the wind, I didn’t know whether swimming from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly was even possible.  There had been a number of unsuccessful attempts by excellent swimmers.

“We calculated the swim could take 24 hours and so left Land’s End at midday thinking we would probably arrive in daylight the following day. I was confident I could swim for 24 hours because two years earlier I had taken that long to complete the 28-mile Molokai Swim in Hawaii after suffering with an injured left shoulder.”

Just before midnight, Ms French was attacked by a smack of jellyfish, who proceeded to sting her over 40 times. She said: "I'd sweep my hand through the water in a stroke and come up with one in my hand, and then as my other hand went in, one would wrap round my wrist.”

"It was a painful experience but, after a dose of antihistamine, she carried on. Apart from the jellyfish, we were lucky with the conditions. Instead of the prevailing South Westerly wind in our faces, we had a four-knot North Easterly following breeze.”

Now, the trials and tribulations of the historic swim have helped inspire a new book by Taunton-born journalist, Jason Mann. The thriller novel, Hidden Depths, sees a Cornish housewife take to the seas to abscond from a looming prison sentence.

Jason Mann's new thriller is inspired by real marathon swimmers
Jason Mann's new thriller is inspired by real marathon swimmers (Dark Spider Books )

Speaking about his new book, Jason said: "Hidden Depths was inspired by a number of famous real-life disappearance cases, such as the Canoe Man John Darwin and Australian businesswoman Melissa Caddick.

The story examines the desperation and determination of mother and wife Catherine Carlyon who secretly decides the only way out is to leave her family and everything she holds dear.”

Jason consulted a number of swimmers when carrying out research for his book. He said: "I am hugely grateful to the amazing swimmers who were able to help me with this novel. They brought an authenticity to a key part of my story. Hidden Depths is, of course, fictional but many of their experiences are included.

“My father was one of Cornwall’s early lifeguards at Bude and, in fact, my parents’ stories of the Cornish coast are often the inspiration for my novels.”