In 2004 I’d been speaking to a colleague, 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 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 eight 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.
The Third Rule saw a new, harsher breed of government come to power advocating a return to the death penalty for those people who could not stop breaking the law. They were given two chances, and the third time they broke the law, they were put to death. ‘Justice’ was dealt out in a production-line fashion, with ill-conceived and flawed convictions.
It’s a radical novel, not least because I invented the Justice Ministry, something which actually later happened. In the original draft, I also predicted the Queen would be dead by 2012… not such a good clairvoyant after all.
On the whole I think the main theme works wonderfully; the premise of such an awful fate appears so real to me, so vivid in this story that it’s wholly plausible.
A year or so after I began this book, I was something over 200 thousand words into it, and was summoned away by a good friend of mine to begin work on some television scripts. We wrote scripts together for six or seven years, but throughout it all I never forgot The Third Rule; and the need to finish it became too strong to ignore. It was already a long story, and I had no intention of making it shorter in the editing process; I’d granted myself the wish of every writer: to write and not fear a re-write. I could write freely about each and every character in that book, and in the end all I did was correct typos, and maybe sharpen some things up, shuffle some scenes, and embellish others. Most of the book between the covers is first draft.
In a hair-pulling flurry that spanned months, I finished all 260,000 words of it. Here’s a link to more of this tale.
So 260k words is what, nearly three standard books? Not quite, but not far off. That thought gave rise to what you see on Amazon right now: Part One – Atrocities; Part Two – Running Scared; and Part Three – Sacrifices. Splitting the book into three manageable parts was greeted with disdain and with joy. Some people do not like an enormous book; they like to read 90k words and, even if the book they’ve read is part of a series, like to break it up with something else before moving onto the next in the series. But I realise that some people do like a huge read, and so a month or so after the release of the three parts, I released The Third Rule – The Complete Story. Now everyone’s happy.
The front cover. It’s a photograph of a boy leaning casually against a wall, head down, face obscured by an NY baseball cap. The boy in the picture is Lewis, my son and now proud owner of a brand new baseball cap. The cap and the boy are focal points in the story. For the paperback, and later for the eBook version, I decided to lose ‘The Complete Story’ tag and go with a sound-bite often spoken by one of the main political characters in the book, Sir George Deacon: “If you want to kill serious crime, you have to kill serious criminals.”
Recently I took delivery of the proof copy, and I feel as though I’ve achieved something quite (for me) incredible. To get the whole book into print was a major task for my friend Steve (not least because of the crossword puzzles that appear in the book – sorry, Steve!). The word count brushed the publishers upper limit, so we had to use their smallest font and their largest page size and their biggest page count. It fitted, but only just.
And here’s the blurb…
“If you want to kill serious crime, you have to kill serious criminals.”
Sir George Deacon, Minster of Justice.
Propelled by a wave of atrocities, a new government surges to power and introduces a severe code of punishment. They designed The Rules to rid England of serious crime, but they failed. They said The Rules were infallible, but they lied. The Rules ensnared innocent people too, slaughtered truth and justice.
One of those innocent people is Christian Ledger, a talented artist charged with a fatal stabbing. Christian is heading for the ‘slaughterhouse’ because no one will listen; certainly not the police who just scored another hit. Is the secret he carries enough to save his life?
CSI Eddie Collins, a reluctant hero with one failed suicide attempt behind him, suddenly wants to live when the police hunt him for shooting a colleague. And now he’s on the government’s list too, and he’s running. But they’re gaining.
Read more about The Third Rule second edition here.