The Story of This Side of Death
- Written between September 2019 and May 2020, released by The Ink Foundry 14th August 2020
- Length: 91600 words
- Highest Amazon release rank: 14 in Pulp Thrillers UK. 88 in Traditional Detective Mysteries US. 15.7.20
- Hot New Releases: 4 US Hard Boiled Mysteries 15.8.20, and 4 in UK Pulp Thrillers
- Music listened to while writing: Mostly Marilyn Manson, especially Heaven Upside Down, and lots and lots of Pink Floyd, mainly The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. Awesome.
Beware: This Book Bites
I began making notes about this story on 27th September 2019, and I finished the sixth and final edit 12.05am Sunday 24th May 2020. It turned out to be 91600 words long.
This Side of Death is the third title of a story that began with the working title of Juniper Hill. Juniper Hill is the name I always give to my fictional version of somewhere like Broadmoor – a high security mental health facility. It turned out that a certain Mr King uses this name for his loony-bin too.
The deeper I got into the story, the more frantic I became to find out what happened and the quicker the pages were turning.
With hand on heart I can honestly say that I did not steal this name from Mr King. The best I can do is say that, since I’ve read most of his books, I’ve picked it up subconsciously and liked it, and used it. I have no intention of changing it in this book because I first mentioned my own Juniper Hill in The Third Rule, some sixteen years ago, and playing about with old manuscripts doesn’t give me the same buzz as creating new ones. I’m happy to let it lie if Stephen King is.
The first scene I wrote in this book featured Eddie sitting in his van, waiting for Benson, outside in the rain, staring up at Juniper Hill. It seemed like a great working title for me, so I kept it. It was only when I was nearing the end of the first draft did I think, though it was a memorable title, it wouldn’t mean anything to potential readers – I learned that lesson from another place name – a real one, in West Yorkshire, that I used as a book title: Ledston Luck.
I needed something that would scream Crime Thriller to those who were browsing in that genre, but I wanted something true to the book, too. You might often see genre titles in the book stores, and it seems that publisher is happy so long the title includes certain buzz words – keywords – that can be picked up in a search. I don’t really work like that. I won’t prostitute myself or my work to fit in with the industry. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t shoot myself in the foot any more either (Ledston Luck?), but I will keep the title relevant to the story.
I loved this book. I love all the series (although you could read as stand alone). A couple of cheeky twists as I have come to expect but bloody hell Andrew Barrett your ears must have been burning at one point. Shocker.
So I looked at lines in the book that I’d written, lines that said Crime Thriller, but lines that were actually in there as part of the story, or were before being edited out. I came up with three:
- The Killer’s Song
- This Side of Death
- Three Minutes to Die
I found that The Killer’s Song – although not strictly lines from the book, but a mention of the song our killer lives by – didn’t really hit the mark, it was abstract. So I was quite glad when it came in third in a poll of my readers. This Side of Death came in first, and I’d have been happy with it or with Three Minutes to Die, and had indeed mocked up covers for them both.
So that’s the title. What about the story?
If you’ve read the preface you’ll have a good idea of the story.
These were alternative covers. And in the polls I took, the scary face went down badly. I thought that was something of a shame; I really thought the model – the screaming/smiling female – was absolutely spot on for the contents of the book, she fitted Alex perfectly. Hey ho.
In a nutshell: I wrote a CSI Eddie Collins novella, The Note, in 2015. I really enjoyed writing it, and a lot of people have really enjoyed reading it too, it seems. In it is a crazy female character, Alex. She’s from Eddie’s distant past, and she’s out to kill him. I won’t say more here because if you’re inclined to read The Note, anything further will spoil it for you. Suffice to say that I loved that character, and I thought her story might be more fully explored in a full-length work.
Eddie agrees, too.
But I should warn you that it is a very dark story where we get to explore under the cover of Eddie’s psychology; take a torch with you and be prepared to find monsters – compassion will work wonders, anger or ridicule will not. Yes, there’s Eddie-humour in it, as you’d expect, but not as much as we’ve seen in previous stories. And the reason behind that is simple: this story is personal to Eddie – there are crimes relating to it, but there are no crimes outside of this little Eddie-bubble that he’s investigating.
It’s all about him and his past, and why it’s coming to get him.
In it we see the office come together, we see the staff settling down after the tumult of recent stories, and similarly, we find that the merry-go-round of bosses coming and going settle too – I hope. If you work in any office, you’ll probably be used to staff changing on a fairly regular basis, and bosses too, for that matter. I tried to incorporate those changes in the Eddie series of books, but I’m aiming for a quieter time with staff from the next book onward. It’ll be good to have some continuity, and it’ll be good to get to know the new team better.
Love the Eddie Collins series. Book was so good I did not want it to end and kept going back and re-reading pages. Although a darker book than the others, some parts were so funny they had me in tears with laughter and other parts scary, gripping and tense. Excellent read Mr Barratt, it was a roller coaster of emotions.
You might know that I tend to write a few scenes that get stuck in my head and then grow the book from there. This book was slightly different in that the story was already there – there aren’t too many ways an extension of The Note could play out, really. But the initial scene, the one outside Juniper Hill, actually became chapters twelve and thirteen.
I had a great deal of fun with some of the characters in this book. I especially enjoyed Penelope from Personnel – I was going to have her being a snooty cow who looked down on Eddie, but she flipped me completely, and she turned out to be a good foil for him; I can see her returning in future books. There are a couple of shrinks in the story who I gave a rough time to – well, Eddie did. I liked them too, but the prize for best character goes to Alex for knowing what she wanted and going for it irrespective of the consequences.
One question I’m asked a lot is will it shock. I hark back to Sword of Damocles – and, funnily enough, Ledston Luck – and the shock-ending both of those books have. I got more reaction from the ending in those two books than just about any other, and I think – I hope – that This Side of Death will surpass them. Of course, I’m not going to tell you anything about it here, but I’d make sure I was sitting down if I were you.
Lastly, a question I’m also asked a lot is this one: “Is Eddie like you?” All I’m prepared to say on that score is that we’re both in a similar boat…
Update – a few weeks after launch. I thought I’d tack these paragraphs on to the main bit up above, and I just wanted to add that most people who initially disliked Eddie as a character have fallen in love with him, or have come to understand why they disliked him. Is this, then, a success? Yes, I think so. I set out writing him not really caring if people liked him or not – the story was the vehicle, and he was the driver, and so long as you reached your destination, who cared if he crunched the gears and swore at other road users?
This book is a real treat for anyone who likes their crime fiction brilliantly written and a little bit different from the mainstream.
Actually, I did back then, and I still do now – character always will be king.
But it’s because of the nature of the stories that we can now appreciate why Eddie is how he is. This is character development, the arc, or whatever you want to call it. The journey has changed him, or rather it has enhanced him; no, it has illuminated him – and now that readers can see him in the full glaring light of day, most of them like him.
There are still some who do not. And that is absolutely fine.
This Side of Death. When the past comes back to hunt you.
Alex Sheridan believes the only way she can be free of her demons is to kill the men in her life. She has a list, and Crime Scene Investigator Eddie Collins is on it.
Death misses Eddie by inches, and Alex is locked away in Juniper Hill high-security hospital.
Everything is fine for Eddie until one day four years later, when Alex escapes. This time she’s better prepared.
The week that follows ruptures Eddie’s life and shatters the belief he had in his own past, leaving him wondering what really happened, and facing one stark choice: who to kill and who to save.
This Side of Death is the most revealing CSI Eddie Collins novel to date. Prepare to see inside his past and understand what makes him the angriest, most feared, and yet most respected CSI in England.
Stop reading now if you don’t want to encounter spoilers!
SPOILER WARNING – STOP NOW OR FOREVER CUSS THINE CURIOSITY!
Okay, so you read This Side of Death, or you just want to grab a handful of spoilers so you don’t have to buy the book – smart cookie, eh? Maybe not – you’ll still have no idea what I’m talking about. Not so smart now are we, eh?
I’m often asked is Maggie (Miss Moneypenny) Alex’s Maggie? In other words, is Moneypenny Alex’s daughter?
The answer is no, she’s not. There are several reasons why not. Eddie was dating her at one point, remember? That would be too ewww (or urgh if you’re a child of the 90s). It would be too coincidental as well. It’s okay to include coincidence in a story provided that coincidence makes everyone’s life or dream or goal harder to attain. But if it makes things nice and pretty, sums up something wild and unmanageable, or snips off those split ends of not quite finished threads, then it’s illegal and the Story Police will bang you up for doing it. And lastly, something quite similar happened in Ledston Luck. The mother unwittingly killed the child she longed for. Can’t have that happening again now, can we? Nope.
Let’s also discuss the effluent in the room, shall we? The baby – whisper it, in case one of those curious types has drifted this far south by mistake. GET OUT!
Right, the baby. I gridded this little bugger – the story line, I mean, not the baby. I played with this thing every way conceivable (ahem) to see how the ending would pan out if this happened or if that happened. And believe me, this ending was the best ending – for everyone. With this ending, we saw inside Alex, like staring at a fine whisky through a fine crystal whisky glass; we saw deep inside – very deep inside. We learned that she couldn’t get rid of the kid, and that she wasn’t selfish – she gave the kid away and the eight thousand pounds too to make sure it had the best possible upbringing – certainly one better than she could muster.
And because of it, we also see how Eddie would have reacted had Alex told him back then that the child was his. He would have stood by her – and I believe that to be true. Guess what, though, the line where he says he’s disgusted with his family for wanting to oust a pregnant teenager instead of wanting to protect her, came from nowhere. It hit me in the side of the head – and it hit me hard, because I hadn’t given that aspect of Eddie’s thought process the first thought, never mind a second thought. Glad I caught it, though, before it went out to the readers. When you do catch something fundamental like that, it can be quite scary. You begin to wonder, seeing as you nearly missed that little bastard, what else has scuttled through your writer’s God-like vision.
There are lots of little clues in this story about Eddie’s feelings for Alex. He denies to his bosses that Alex will be after him, more in the hope that she really isn’t rather than in a belief that she isn’t. He wants her to be on her toes, heading as far from him and Leeds as she can get; he wants her safe. He rubbed out his initials that she’d left in blood on Chester’s carpet. Yes, you’re right, he tampered with evidence – not something he’s known for doing. But it illustrates his feelings for her because he’s trying to buy her time, I suppose. And I suspect, part of Eddie is living in denial – but only a small part of him. The bigger part of him goes to a solicitor and makes out a will. Perhaps he’s looking forward to a confrontation? Perhaps he’s looking forward to the Big Sleep, who knows.
He was also lax with her in the derelict nightclub. He was clumsy, perhaps hoping she’d run away. And lastly, I wonder if part of that lengthy hesitation where Alex is strangling Charles is to give her the chance to leg it, constantly asking the question, ‘Are you sure you want to kill my dad?’
Lastly, I think, is the mental health aspect of the story. I was praised by lay-people and professionals alike for portraying Alex’s mental instability. While I humbly bow and accept the praise (I get so little of it!), I feel as though I could have done better. I could have reached down even deeper and depicted her mental state much better than I actually did.
The spectrum is huge. Every person on earth sits on it somewhere because no one is truly normal (whatever the hell that is), but if you spend a couple of hours looking into what those poor people among us who live at the extremities of that spectrum have to suffer – the voices (scared the crap out of me, reading and listening to how people lived with someone else’s voice inside their head!) and the paranoia, the fear and the loneliness, well, it becomes a character all of its own – an addendum to the character it inhabits like a parasite.
To answer the question a lot of people ask of the character Eddie Collins (possibly in an attempt to grant him access to the Acceptable Club in their minds, and granted after reading This Side of Death because ‘Sssshh, he has a disability, and not all disabilities are visible!’): does he suffer from autism?
My answer is probably. But if you were to ask Eddie if he suffers from it, he’d say that he doesn’t suffer anything at all – except maybe his father. He’s quite happy with whatever he might have or whatever you think he might have. He’s happy to leave that part of him entirely up to you.