I’m not sure when or why I sat down to write a crime novel, or whether I ever did. Like many authors I have a novel in the digital equivalent of the dusty drawer, in my case a comic thriller with a supernatural twist. This genre-busting manuscript was a blast to write and reflects well my scattergun taste in reading. As a new author I’ve been brought up short several times already with the question – ‘So what do you like to read?’
The short answer is – many things and, more than life allows. Short on time I cherry-pick whatever piques my interest, espionage thrillers, courtroom drama, sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction, non-fiction about planes, space or underwater exploration, and of course crime fiction. One thing I probably share with many authors – I must have a book. I get jittery if I’m nearing the end of one without the next ready. The teetering nightstand tower of unread tombs bedside the bed is as much as source of comfort to me as frustration.
So I don’t just read crime. To begin with I felt hesitant admitting this for fear of offending my audience but I’ve met enough other authors now to see I’m not alone. To me, the genre of a good book is less relevant than its power to engage me. When I’m immersed in a book I’m lost to the world around me in a way that doesn’t even happen with TV, film or theatre, all of which I love. The genre of a book may determine its premise, but only around a convincing premise can be weaved compelling events to grip the readers interest and complex characters in which the reader can believe, empathise with, love or loath.
That is what I have aimed for with If I Should Die. It is a crime novel, first and foremost, but I hope it will also appeal to a wider audience. A crime story is a great place to explore people and ideas. In this instance ideas about friendship in unlikely places, in the face of adversity, about moral certainty and uncertainty, about the nature of service, the line between right and wrong, where we draw it and how far we are willing to go in its defence. But above all, it is about people – the things they do, the feelings they share, the decisions they make, the harm they might do, the sins, sorrows and smiles of modern life. But don’t let any of that put you off; it’s also gripping and fun to read, or so I’m told.
They say, write what you know. That left me too much scope, so instead I wrote what I’d want to read in the hope that others will enjoy it too and I’ll get to write lots more. I’m deep into writing the second book in the series right now. Hopefully Stark, Fran and DCI Groombridge have a long road ahead, with many twists and turns. I hope you’ll join us, and enjoy the ride as much as I intend to.
If I Should Die by Matthew Frank (Michael Joseph, Hardback & E-book- 05 June 2014, £14.99)