Competition published on April 7, 2017.
When the victim seems perfect, is it the perfect crime?
On a bitterly cold winter’s night, Liverpool is left stunned by a brutal murder in the grounds of the city’s Anglican Cathedral. A killer is on the loose, driven by a chilling rage.
Put on the case, DS Nathan Cody is quickly stumped. Wherever he digs, the victim seems to be almost angelic – no-one has a bad word to say, let alone a motive for such a violent murder.
And Cody has other things on his mind too. The ghosts of his past are coming ever closer, and – still bearing the physical and mental scars – it’s all he can do to hold onto his sanity.
And then the killer strikes again…
Reviewer Paul Burke approved:
“If you are looking for the kind of compulsive crime novel that will keep you gripped from start to finish look no further than Hope to Die. Jackson has written a white knuckle ride of a thriller, nuanced and twisty – it will keep you guessing all the way. The smooth flowing prose is both vivid and very evocative with real depth. The story is quicksand, the ground slips and shifts under your feet – you can’t take anything for granted. More twists and turns than a cork screw – this is red herring heaven. It is a serial killer novel that is both original and grounded in the real world.”
**We have 2 copies of Hope to Die to give away – scroll down for your chance to win!**
AUTHOR MEETS REVIEWER
We asked Paul to interrogate author David and he took us at our word…
PB: The backstory is always important for character development but Cody’s has an intensity that really haunts his day to day existence and this murder investigation. Was that the original spur for the Cody books?
DJ: When I devised the series, I very much wanted Cody (and the other main characters) to ‘grow’ in each book. Many fictional cops have a traumatic past; the difference with Cody is that it is not as fully consigned to his past as he would like it to be. Its resurfacing means that he may one day get to confront his unknown attackers, but it also means that he will have to go through various ordeals to get there. I hope this all helps to add a richness to the books.
PB: I really enjoyed Hope To Die, I thought I knew where the story was going but the novel is more complex than I first realised. I had to constantly re-examine assumptions, did you intend to draw the reader in this way?
DJ: I do my best! I think the best stories are ones that make you think, feel and be surprised. If the reader always knows what’s coming next, there is no tension, no challenge.
PB: Nathan Cody and several of the other characters feel very ‘now’, (e.g. the banter and relaxed dialogue), similarly they are ordinary, if conflicted, people. Was it important to get that realistic modern feel to the novel?
DJ: Definitely. In particular, I always try to inject a little humour here and there. Cops I have met in real life have a strong (and sometimes highly morbid) sense of humour; they probably wouldn’t survive long in the job without one. When we see police officers on duty, it’s sometimes easy to forget that they are normal human beings with their own personal issues.
PB: As a reader you know more than the police do in the early investigation, (they are chasing red herrings) but all is not as it seems, (the reader is constantly wrong footed). Is that layering key to involving the reader in the story?
DJ: Yes, I think the trick is to give the reader more information than is known by any individual character, and yet still manage to pull the rug out from beneath the reader’s feet towards the end. Readers accept this as part of the genre rules, and are usually eager to rise to the challenge.
PB: Religion and upbringing are key themes in the book, do you think that the wider social context matters? Is a crime thriller social critique?
DJ: I certainly don’t set out to proselytise in my books. As mentioned above, however, I do think it’s my job to make readers feel emotions and ponder issues. If the issues are big enough, then they are probably relevant to society as a whole. That said, a story about one person or small group of people should not necessarily be construed to be a commentary about the wider population.
PB: I liked that the police are sometimes stumbling in the dark, a little dysfunctional, heart in the right place, stressed. Do you think that represents the reality of a complex murder investigation?
DJ: I’m sure it is. It still constantly surprises me that, even with the vast array of technology now at their disposal, the police still make some fundamental errors in investigations. They are, after all, only human.
PB: Camilleri writes about the dark side of Sicily, crime corruption and murder but he clearly loves the place. The Cody series is set in Liverpool, do you want the reader to get a feel for the place as more than just the backdrop to the story?
DJ: Absolutely. With any location, a cop out is to name some streets and buildings and hope that it’s enough to add authenticity. Some authors don’t even bother to go that far. A city like Liverpool is very much a character in itself, and I hope that my love for the place comes across in my writing.
PB: I felt compassion for the killer, (the barbershop incident is both chilling and heart breaking), did you want to create a character, not just plausible but one you could empathise with, (a lot of serial killers are great creations but often composite or comic book)?
DJ: I’m glad you felt the compassion, so thank you for that. My view is that nobody is one hundred per cent good or bad. In particular, most villains don’t see themselves as evil, and to write them as such is to end up with caricatures like something out of a Batman comic or Bond movie. When I create an antagonist, I like to know why they behave that way, and revealing these reasons to the reader gives them far more depth.
PB: There are contrasts in the novel between light witty passages and tense gripping darkness. Do you think that contrast reinforces the power of the story?
DJ: I believe so. The power of darkness is most potent when juxtaposed with light. I hate novels that start dark and just get unremittingly darker; it becomes boring. And, as I said above, real life has both sides of the coin. I suspect it’s difficult for most of us to recall a recent conversation in which at least one person didn’t toss in an attempt at humour, however serious that discussion. This is particularly true of Liverpool-based novels, where a failure to incorporate wit would simply not be realistic.
PB: The Callum Doyle series was set in New York and now Cody is set in Liverpool, your hometown. Was it easier writing about Liverpool as it is in your blood?
DJ: I think that’s fair to say. I feel a great affinity for New York, and have read extensively and watched an uncountable number of programmes about the city, but it’s not my birthplace or my home. I think that fact accounts for important differences between the two series. Although both are crime thrillers, the Doyle series is more ‘Hollywood’ in nature, whereas the Cody series focuses more on the life of the city and its people.
PB: You say in your afterword that this will be an ongoing series. Do you see DS Nathan Cody having the longevity of a Rebus, Roy Grace, or DCI Banks?
DJ: I hope so. I’ve invested a lot in these characters, and they have many more stories to tell. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely in my hands!
PB: A lot of TV detectives feel a bit old hat, Hope to Die would be a breath of fresh air, any chance that something might be on the horizon?
DJ: Thank you. I’d love to see something adapted for TV, but I’m also aware that so many books get optioned and so very few of them get produced. We shall see.
PB: I see that you sometimes run workshops for writers, do you think everyone has a novel in them?
DJ: Possibly, but like the old joke says, in many cases that’s where they should stay! I think many things about creative writing are teachable, but not everything. I can’t teach talent and I can’t teach dedication to the craft. I certainly can’t teach how to get lucky, and a big part of success in this business is luck.
PB: I remember Ian Rankin said something about Scandinavian crime fiction not being better but having better PR. Do you think British crime fiction is in a good place? Does what other writers do matter?
DJ: I wouldn’t argue with the great Mr Rankin. Any country’s fiction is neither better nor worse than the others; it is merely different. These differences arise from geography, culture, history and standards of living, but a good book is a good book, irrespective of origin. Book-buying does go through fads, though. Next year, I’m banking on it being books from the north of England.
Many thanks to both for their time.
For your chance to win a copy of Hope to Die by David Jackson, simply fill in the form below:
About the author
David Jackson is the author of a series of crime thrillers featuring New York Detective Callum Doyle. His debut novel, Pariah, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Awards. When not writing fiction, David spends his time as a lecturer in a university science department. He also gives occasional workshops on creative writing. He lives on the Wirral peninsula with his wife and two daughters.
Follow David on Twitter @Author_Dave
Join the conversation #HopetoDie
Hope to Die by David Jackson, published by Zaffre on 6 April, 2017, in hardback
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