Death’s Disciple is my first crime novel – but it’s also my twentieth.
The novel that has been published this spring by Endeavour Press has a long and tortured history, with twists and turns that would keep any lover of classic crime fiction engrossed.
I began writing it in 1991. Over the intervening years, the novel has developed, the plot has changed almost beyond recognition and the writing has (hopefully) improved. So what is the same? The main characters have survived, the murderer is still the same person and the setting remains in place.
In fact, it had gone through so many aborted starts and complete rewrites, that I decided radical action was required. In September 2007 I decided to set myself a concrete challenge – to write a crime novel in 52 weeks. To track my progress I wrote a blog that somehow started to attract the attention of others who were navigating their way along first draft highway. Then the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook took notice and I won their blogging competition – and became their official blogger.
A year after beginning, I had made it. The novel was finished. I was elated, mainly because I naively thought all the hard work was behind me. Writing it had been hard, but finding a publisher has proved devilishly difficult.
Hindsight tells me that the novel wasn’t going to get anywhere until it was edited by someone with a better ability to stand back and view it critically that I possessed. I also learnt that I had to be more merciless when it came to cutting scenes that I loved but did little to drive the plot forward.
It was only when this happened that my twentieth – and first – novel was published.
It is no mistake that Death’s Disciple’s plot references two other great works of fiction. The first, Dracula is almost as part of the book’s setting (Whitby) as fish and chips and cobbled streets (and if we’re being honest, Saturday night hen parties from Middlesbrough). The other book that is central to my tale is… Well, you’ll have to read the novel to find out. I can say this: it is a classic detective novel that remains as much loved today as it did when it was first published.
But it’s there for more than the basis of being a plot device. Death’s Disciple is a modern, contemporary novel; but I also like to think of it is as being part of a tradition that stretches back over a hundred years. It may not be what the Americans call “cozy”, but it has classic crime DNA at its heart.
As will its sequel. Now Death’s Disciple is published, it’s time to start work on my second novel. Or my twenty-first.
Death’s Disciple is published by Endeavour Press