I began writing novels around 1985. The first one was called Lord and Master and was utter rubbish. Of course I didn’t know that at the time; if you have an ugly baby, it’s still beautiful to you. And I only know it now simply because I’ve read so much more since then, have written much more too, and have come to appreciate the fine lines of a Stephen King novel orthe coarse chiselling of a Bernard Cornwell story – leaving Lord and Master as a pathetic stick man drawn in wet sand. It’s so bad that I keep it in a dusty box because it’s offensive to the eye – even mine, and I’m its father. I wrote Lord and Master long hand and then stole my sister’s Olivetti to make it look like a real pro job – Fail.
Flushed with the success of actually finishing a novel, I wrote Charlotte’s Lodge, a story about an evil old woman with ferocious powers who takes a distinct dislike to her grandson and his poor mother.
I wrote Charlotte’s Lodge around 1987 on an old Imperial 66 typewriter that my father got for me. I seem to recall it had a missing letter – though if truth be told, that could have been something I made up one day and now believe to be true. This is about the time when I discovered two things: I enjoyed writing stories very much, and I still wasn’t very good at it.
Next, around 1991, I wrote Knavesmire, a story split between medieval and present day England. I wrote this long hand, getting about 700 words on one side of an A4 page (I’m one of those people who hates turning over!). By now I’d saved up and bought a word processor. It was a Brother and had something like a 2kB memory – wow! It had a small LCD screen that could hold one line of text… you had to scroll along to read the damned thing. You could squeeze about three pages of text into the tiny memory. I’d type in the story from the longhand notes, then print the three pages and delete them so I could type in some more. I remember being not at all happy to later find typos on the page.
This was around ’95 or ’96. And then something life-changing happened. I was offered a job by a Yorkshire Police Force working as a Scenes of Crime Officer. And so crime thrillers was the only way to go and naturally I wrote about a SOCO.
His name was Roger Conniston.
A Long Time Dead was the first in a series of three novels featuring the tribulations of our hero. Stealing Elgar swiftly followed and then the final episode, No More Tears (named after an Ozzy song).
I enjoyed writing them, and recall how Tears practically wrote itself. But suddenly I found myself without a story. How dreadful it was not to be writing. I’d been speaking to a colleague in the office, marvelling how a burglar who had hundreds of convictions was still at large. He said that people like that were of no use to society and should be put down, that we could afford to be picky these days since we didn’t suffer from a shortage of people.
This conversation gave birth to The Third Rule. This was my most ambitious project to date, but it needed a new vehicle, a new hero, someone who was more aggressive than Roger Conniston ever was. His name was Eddie Collins. I should explain that for the most part, the characters I write are loosely based on myself, and by now I’d been working for the police about ten years and had developed a rather cutting cynicism which I flavoured with a hearty dose of sarcasm. Eddie Collins was me, except stronger, more a caricature who expressed his cynicism and his anger much more fiercely than I ever dare.
I began writing The Third Rule sometime around 2003. It’s set in 2015, where a newer, harsher breed of government came to power advocating a return to the death penalty for those people who could not stop breaking the law. They were given two chances, the third time they broke the law, they were put to death. ‘Justice’ was dealt out in a production-line fashion, with convictions ill-conceived and flawed. It was a radical novel, not least because I invented the Justice Ministry, something which actually later happened.
A year or so after I began this book, I began to work on some television scripts with a colleague. This went on for six or seven years, before the hankering to finish The Third Rule became too strong to ignore anymore. In a hair-pulling flurry that spanned months, I finished all 260,000 words of it. And it’s had some stunningly wonderful reviews. I’ll have to look back on it though in a few years to make sure it’s not another Lord and Master.
The previous work (published 2013) is a continuation of Eddie Collins’s incredible story. He’s moved from SOCO to the Major Crime Unit where his irascible nature takes him into battle with a notorious Leeds gang and a close call with a gun pointing at his head. This novel is entitled Black by Rose.
The latest Eddie Collins novel, Sword of Damocles, was published August 2015. You’d expect him to be a little volatile, a little acidic… well, you’re right. And this time he’s dealing with a corpse in a burnt-out car. It looks like a suicide, but it doesn’t take Eddie long to realise it’s much more than that. This story is entangled with the main plot; it’s a crime that goes back thirty years and it stretches Eddie in more ways than one. You’d also expect there to be other things happening in Eddie’s life, and you’d be right there too.
Already the reviews are coming in, and it seems as though people love the book, and especially Eddie. One thing that stands out for me more than all the other comments, is how people are really shocked by the ending. I hope you will be too.
And now what? Well, it’s time to crack on with another novel.