The crime genre is like no other. I came to this from writing horror, where pretty much anything goes. If you have an awkward story-line when writing horror, you can get around it by inventing some new rule (every ten years the earth goes dark; vampires melt in sunlight…), but when you’re writing crime, the rules you have to follow are solid.
So, when I began writing Dead in ’98, I was faced with two challenges. Keep it real (it’s fiction, I know, and so you have a certain amount of latitude with characters and situations), and abide by the rules of the genre. And I was new to the world of forensic science, having only been in the job a couple of years.
I was learning the ‘craft’ when I wrote the first draft of Dead. I included all manner of things that aren’t there today. For example, I remember receiving a handwritten death threat from a guy locked up in prison. Let me tell you, that is scary – he knows your name and he knows where you work. And he wants to kill you for doing your job. Anyway, I included the death threat as a subplot, something sent from Beaver, who is in jail when we first meet him. But it was one of those ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ moments, and it had to go.
Also, Roger Conniston used to be called Jon Benedict in the original versions. It was only in 2011 that I ditched ‘Jon’ in favour of ‘Roger’. You may find it strange to learn that changing the name to Roger injected a little more dynamism into his character when I began a serious edit. Jon was okay, but he was a little boring, a little wimpish; whereas I’d used the name Roger when writing some scripts with a friend from work, and he was a much wilder creature, much more fun to write.
Incidentally, I took ‘Roger’ from Roger Taylor of Queen (one of my favourite groups), and Conniston from one of the most wonderful lakes in England (yes, I put an extra ‘n’ in there).
I estimate there have been over twenty-five serious revisions made to this book. That is a horrible thing to admit to; it was either utter rubbish when it was first created or it is the best novel ever written right now. Neither statement is true. There are things in it that I don’t like; it reads a little clunky in parts, if I’m honest. But overall, it’s a good read, the characters are strong and the storyline is vibrant with a healthy assortment of subplots all coalescing at the right moment. So it’s good, but it’s not as good as the later books; and that’s how it should be. The longer you do something for, the better you’ll become.
This is where people speak of finding their ‘voice’ or their style. And I always thought that was a load of rubbish until it happened to me.
And here’s the blurb…
“Forensic evidence is an art like black magic; ‘facts’ are determined by interpretation. Or misinterpretation.”
A Long Time Dead asks is forensic evidence incontrovertible? How would you feel if forensic evidence incorrectly incriminated you? And how would you prove it wrong?
In the world of crime scene investigation, Roger Conniston is one of West Yorkshire Police’s finest. Yet even he has secrets. When forensic evidence implicates him in the death of a young woman, the secrets emerge, and Conniston is damned.
Arrested for murder, Conniston must show the evidence was manipulated and planted. But how can he do that from inside a cell, especially when his prime suspect is a high-ranking police officer, and not even his friends believe him?