I began writing novels around 1985. The first one was called Lord and Master and was
utter rubbish. 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. 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.
In 1996 something life-changing happened. I was offered a job by West Yorkshire Police 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.
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 was 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 started 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.
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.
Eddie’s story doesn’t end there. To show how Eddie reacts to certain situations, I published The Lift – it’s a very short story, but it packs a punch, so beware.
Sword of Damocles came next in August 2015. 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 that reaches 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.
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.
Two more stories came along in early 2017. The first was a novella called The Note is a short story (not as short as The Lift), and has at its heart a death threat that Eddie receives. I know what getting one of those feels like; you feel victimised just for doing your job. And it’s damned scary but you can’t admit that because we’re men, and we laugh in face of death. Pfft. Like all my Eddie novellas, it’s written in first person so you can get right inside Eddie’s mind and see things the way he does for a while.
The second story was Ledston Luck. I can’t tell you how much I loved writing this book. Actually I can, and you can find more here. But it gave me a buzz the likes of which I’ve seldom encountered before. It launched very well indeed, and has earned Best Seller status with Amazon, and scored some wonderful reviews.
Mid-2017 saw me hook up with Bloodhound Books for a rather exciting project. Initially entitled Dancing at the Devil’s Door, I was asked to write a stand-alone thriller for them. I did, and it also launched well because, I think, it’s a book that’ll take you to rather harrowing places, and it will shock you – I hope. You might know this book better as The End of Lies.
A year later, Bloodhound and I went our separate ways. They were kind enough to give back the rights to all my work, and I’ve since gone on to republish them all again under my own brand – The Ink Foundry. I added The Death of Jessica Ripley and This Side of Death to Eddie’s catalogue, and I’m thoroughly delighted to say that people have really connected with him.
I added another couple of novellas, too: The Lock and The Crew. Writing these novellas gives me a fresh canvass to begin a new Eddie Collins story with. There is no messy background to deal with, no family ties (or woes), and generally only one plot line. These stories are tremendously invigorating for me to write because they are fast-paced, no extraneous words or story to clog up the machinery; and it’s a thrill to write as Eddie.
It hasn’t all been strawberries and cream, however. I’d decided that The Third Rule was the odd one out. Sales for the series were disappointing, you see, and I knew the reason for that was The Third Rule. It might have some great reviews, but the majority of crime thriller readers didn’t go for books that had a political slant to them – something The Third Rule has, and so, because of this miss-match of genres (or categories, if you will), I took the huge decision to pull the book and write another, wholly different, series opener. The Pain of Strangers was born, and you can read more about it and the process that resulted in its existence, here.
I managed to find a talented cover artist in Emmy Ellis, who agreed to produce new covers for all six books.
What might the future hold? Well, more books, hopefully. I’m writing CSI Eddie Collins #7 right now (no title yet) and hope to publish boxsets of Eddie’s novels and novellas. Just writing this series has given me ideas for a couple of spin-offs – but more on those if and when they materialise.