His life experience has given him quite a range of experiences to draw on in his writing: he's travelled the world and worked in airports, nightclubs and telecentres. He is now the lively editor for the Crime Readers Association's free on-line magazine – well worth a look at for exclusive insights into your favourite British writers. His two most recent books are Sleeping Dogs and Sing me to Sleep.
Proud to be a Genre Jumper
Just about every crime novel ever written shares a common link: corpses. That’s always been fine with me. When I wrote my first novel, I didn’t actually think of it as a crime novel – but it certainly featured a few dead bodies. In fact, Britain’s motorway system was strewn with them by the end.
My next few novels kept to convention – people got slashed, stabbed and strangled in all sorts of interesting places. Saddleworth Moor. The island of Anglesey. A secluded hill in the Peak District. I even had a dead guy pop up in the Manchester Ship Canal, putting some of the city’s restaurant goers off their meals in the process.
The city of Manchester makes a superb setting for crime novels. Once known as Cottonopolis, it was the world’s first industrial city. Factories, mills and warehouses sprung up at an astonishing rate – and with them grandiose civic buildings and sprawling slums. The textiles produced were transported around the world.
Manufacturing has now moved to other countries, yet many of those buildings remain. Some have been converted into plush apartments for young professionals. The derelict ones are inhabited by people at the other end of the social scale. I find the city’s stark contrasts fertile ground for plots.
But while writing my detective thrillers, I was always enchanted by another genre where the dead are de rigueur. Ghost stories. They’re a fine British tradition; everyone from Charles Dickens to Daphne Du Maurier has had a go. And so recently, I put my two detectives aside and fulfilled a long-held ambition of writing one. Well, two actually.
In many ways, crime novels and ghost stories are incredibly similar. There’s amystery to solve. There’s a threat of danger. Tension needs to be built. Justice demands it be served. And, most importantly, the reader must be gripped. The only real difference is, in a ghost story, the dead person doesn’t just…lie there.
Writing my two ghost story novels has been a truly refreshing experience. But now I feel ready: it’s time to bring my detectives back from the dead.