Writing crime fiction
I had never thought of writing crime novels because to me those had always meant ‘detective stories’ and although I enjoyed reading them, I knew I would be no good at the problem-solving sort of story with a series of dropped clues and a surprise ending. But the crime novel has become a serious literary genre over the last few decades and I realised that it presented the sort of challenge I wanted.
My aim was to look at issues in the world around me and contemporary life – which I have not done in my novels before. I also wanted to know not ‘who dunnit’ but much more importantly, WHY ? What motivates a criminal ? Why does someone murder and perhaps not only once ?
Various real crimes interested me, I talked to psychiatrists, police, doctors and gradually worked my way towards the first book.
I wanted to follow the successful formula of many contemporary crime writers of having one main detective – and some other regular characters – and also to anchor the stories in one place, even if other places are visited during the course of one book.
I also wanted to make sure that the victim is someone about whom the reader can care. The ‘body in the library’ at the beginning of a story is just that – a body, not a real character. But if we have got to know the victims, even a little, then we find their murder more moving, distressing, involving - we care about them, as readers.
So, Lafferton, a cathedral city somewhere in the South of England, came into being. I am often asked if it is based on a real place. No, but if you think of places like Exeter or Salisbury you are on the right lines.
The detective is Simon Serrailler, a Chief Inspector in the first book, later promoted to Detective Chief Superintendent.
Members of his own family also appear in all the books – his parents, both retired doctors, his sister Cat and her husband Chris, both GPs, and their children.
Although the novels follow in chronologoical order, each one can be read independently.
THE SIMON SERRAILLER CRIME NOVELS do not have to be read in order but it may help, and a lot of people want to start at the beginning and continue to two and so on. Here is the list.
1.The Various Haunts of Men
2. The Pure in Heart
3. The Risk of Darkness
4. The Vows of Silence
5. The Shadows in the Street
6. The Betrayal of Trust
7. A Question of Identity.