Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Mad guys, bad guys and those on their trail

Well, after an enjoyable weekend dwelling in the realms of fantasy and horror down at Fantasycon in Brighton, it's back now to the reality of violent crime.

But a few quick words about the Con first. I didn't win the British Fantasy Award in the capacity of Best Short Story. Even though KING DEATH made the final nominations, for some reason it wasn't announced as a contender at the actual presentation, which left a few people - yours truly included - rather baffled. Though I have been assured that this discrepancy will be looked into.

Never fear, the disturbing images on this column are not supposed to be representative of my state of mind in the light of this (more about those later). I'm not bothered by it - some you win, some you lose - and in fact hearty congratulations go to all those who did win awards this year, especially my good pals, ADAM NEVILL (Best Novel) and ROB SHEARMAN (Best Short Fiction Collection).

And now, as I promised earlier, something a little different.

My latest KILLER READS blog is up and ready to read on the HarperCollins website. Get over there and check it out, why dontcha?

In it, I elaborate a little on my days in the Greater Manchester Police and explain as much as I'm able to in the space provided how this experience empowered me as a crime and thriller writer. The are one or two anecdotes on there which some people may find amusing, or maybe a little bit hair-raising depending on your position re. these matters (personally, I recollect them all fondly).

This is all in preparation for my new series of novels from Avon Books concerning the investigations of seasoned cop, Detective Sergeant Mark 'Heck' Heckenburg, who is attached to Scotland Yard's elite Serial Crimes Unit. The first of these books, STALKERS, is due out in February next year. On that note, I've recently completed the copy-edit for it and what a nerve-racking job that always is. It won't be the last time I get to see it, but when a page is passing through your hands and this time you know that you really are reaching the stage where you must spot anything you don't want to appear in the finished edition, it concentrates your mind wonderfully.

That said, I was very happy the way this near-final draft of the book read. STALKERS puts Heck on the trail of 38 women who have gone missing without explanation, and takes him through the dark, seedy underbellies of two of Britain's dirtiest and most dangerous cities, pitting him against various creeps and psychos, not to mention a plethora of organised crime characters, any one of whom would happily kick you to death if he thought he might gain.

A quick note in advance: though it contains as much authentic cop stuff as I could cram into it, STALKERS is neither a police procedural nor a clue-by-clue whodunnit of the sort we normally associate with Sunday evening TV. Expect horrible murders, tough action and uncompromising language all the way through. Even if I say so myself, it's more in the dark, violent vein of GET CARTER!, THE FRENCH CONNECTION and SE7EN. Lavish self-praise perhaps - so I should maybe qualify that statement by saying that this, at least, is what I'm striving for. Ultimately, you folks out there must decide whether or not I've succeeded.

In celebration of the tone the Mark Heckenburg books will adopt, I've illustrated this piece with some memorably chilling moments from the best of British violent crime drama: At the top VILLAIN (1971); below that THE SWEENEY (1974) and third down, the crazy sledgehammer killer from one of my own episodes of THE BILL: PROTECT AND SURVIVE (2001).

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