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.
“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