The basic concept for The Verdict came to me at the Old Bailey in 2004, when I was working a murder trial. I was a legal clerk, a notetaker, sitting in court every day, writing down everything said in court – every question, every answer, every legal argument, every ruling. But that wasn’t all I did. I also dealt with cops, gunshot experts, witnesses. I even did a bit of sleuthing, visiting a crime scene, working out bullet trajectories, matching buildings to eye witness testimonies. It was inspiration as osmosis.

I not only had a front row seat to the judicial endgame, but the two barristers I was working for included me in their discussions about the trial. They’d plot and strategise in the cafeteria. Without meaning to, I started seeing these people as characters just waiting to be written. They were hardboiled naturals: sharp, witty, cynical. Who says TV cops and PIs get the best lines?

It was at the Old Bailey that I got the call telling me my first novel, Mr Clarinet had found a publisher.

Two weeks later I met my new editor, the person who’d signed me. She asked me if I had a follow up. Not exactly, I told her, but I did have a sketch for a legal thriller series set in contemporary London.

My new editor listened attentively, nodded enthusiastically, and then solemnly shook her head and said she wanted a sequel to Mr Clarinet.

That is essentially the way it works in commercial fiction: most – but not all – publishers want more of the same thing that attracted them to you in the first place. If they liked it once, they’ll like it again.

(God and publishers – they have their plans for you.)

So that sketch of mine went on the back burner while I wrote a prequel and sequel to Mr Clarinet in that order. Yet in that time the idea for what became The Verdict never went away. London, a legal clerk as protagonist, two former best friends who have a bad falling out, revenge harboured for twenty years …

Fast forward to 2011, and I’m talking to my new editor, David Shelley at Little, Brown. I’d just finished Voodoo Eyes, the sequel to Mr Clarinet. He asked me what I was going to write next.

(God and publishers, I remembered… )

So I made up an idea for a Miami-based standalone featuring two corrupt female cops, a game of Russian roulette, a ticking bomb and a little voodoo on the side.

Shelley looked at me like I was an idiot.

“What else have you got?” he asked me.

“Well there’s this London legal thriller I planned to write seven years ago …” I said.

“Do it”.

“Don’t you want to know what it’s about?”

“No. Do it”.

God and publishers – sometimes they get it right.

The Verdict is published by Little, Brown

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This