A quick ‘own-up’ to kick things off.
I think of myself as the son of the world’s most prolific writer much, much more than I think of myself as a writer.
So when asked who inspired my ‘fledging efforts’ there’s no question it was Dad, John Creasey, an extraordinary man who inspired me in ways that no one else could, who died when he was just 64, somewhat younger than I am now, having published well over 600 full length books.
Before a single one of these was published he’d received 743 rejection slips. And that was less than the half of it.
Inspiration is a key word for me. My latest book ‘Hard Targets’, which collects in one place three action packed adventures, was inspired by one of Dad’s many characters, Dr Stanislaus Alexander Palfrey. Here’s an edited quote from the publisher’s plug for my new Doc Tom Palfrey series.
Dr. Palfrey, a name that ranked alongside James Bond and The Saint on the best-seller lists, was the creation of the legendary and prolific author John Creasey.
Now Doc Tom Palfrey returns in this action-packed omnibus for a new generation of thriller readers. And who better to write it than the son of its creator – Richard Creasey.
It wasn’t just Dad’s Dr. Palfrey character that inspired me. When deciding on the background story for my Palfrey character, who was to be the grandson of the original, I dipped into my past as an ITV documentary boss. Here it’s worth adding that I think of myself more as a television executive than as a writer.
My department’s many programmes included Year Zero, John Pilger’s exposé of the horrors of Pol Pot’s regime, ‘Walter’ the first ever Film on Four directed by Stephen Frears with Ian McKellen as star, and Latvian filmmaker Juris Podniec’s astonishing series about the break-up of the Soviet Union – more on that anon.
But underpinning these and many, many more award winning television films were factual series like ‘LINK’, for all disabled people, which I conceived as a cub producer and which was transmitted every other Sunday morning at 11am.
According to the nil ratings not a single viewer was tuned into ‘LINK’ but the series kept it’s slot for over 25 years, and was in itself an inspiration to thousands of people whose lives were changed forever by illness, accident or an ‘Act of God’. And because of LINK I stubbornly decided the new Doc Palfrey character would be an amputee.
‘Eternity’s Sunrise’ was the first book in my new generation Palfrey series. It took me years to write and many more to find a publisher, but by the time it was launched the 2012 London Paralympics was fresh in the readers mind so no one blinked at having an amputee hero, who can outrun almost anyone, master a vast array of high tech kit, and whose mistress is the wife of a millionaire playboy and daughter-in-law of a Maharaja.
You asked how I would define or categorise the kind of fiction I write. Pulp fiction is the honest answer, and I’d argue this category best describes my extraordinary Dad’s work too.
By defining Dad’s work as pulp fiction I don’t in anyway mean to denigrate it.
Indeed, in my view, Malcolm Gladwell sums up Dad well in his chapter in ‘Outliers’, where he describes how 10,000 hours of working practice leads to outstanding success.
Dad’s 743 rejection slips turned him into a writer.
His first 300 or so published books turned him into an outstanding writer – by now he would have surpassed Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule.
His second 300 or so published books turned Dad into one of the most successful mystery writers of the 20th Century.
I’d also argue that the Kindle is the perfect place for new pulp fiction. And for a dyslexic like me, who dreaded reading text books at school and who never bothered to read back my own hand written notes because they were, and still are, illegible, the Kindle, a sibling of the computer, is pure magic.
Despite my dyslexia I’ve always dreamed of writing, indeed my first story was published back in 1963 Dad’s in Creasey Mystery Magazine, but it was only with the dawning of the ebook that I knew the time had come to turn this dream of mine into a reality.
So when asked to tell you about my next novel my mind snaps to more Kindle books, preferably novellas like the three new 20,000 word Doc Palfrey stories that make up my omnibus ‘Hard Targets’. And most probably these next books will also be a new-generation-take on another of my Dad’s great characters. The Toff perhaps, who was ‘born’ in the twopenny weekly Thriller in 1933 before, as Dad himself wrote: ‘The Toff took on characteristics all his own and became a kind of ‘Saint with his feet on the ground’.
Dad wrote the Toff, Dr Palfrey and his other early books – he wrote as many as 36 full length novels a year – as fast-reads that could be bought at Euston train station and finished by the time the reader arrived in Manchester or Liverpool.
Seventy or so years later the Kindle encourages a reader to start a story at Heathrow and finish it by the time he or she gets back from a day-return flight to Amsterdam or Berlin. And if you’re an irretrievable optimist like me that reader will be a television drama producer who will be hugely excited by this refreshing new series, and then and then and then.
But if your question had been what do I ‘want’ to write next with the accent being on ‘want’ my mind would snap in another direction.
What I really want to write is that book which I’ve long been promised is ‘inside of everyone’, that book I have been planning to write for years and know will take at least another decade.
It will this take so long because right now I’m well aware that I am not yet capable of doing my story justice. But at long last, after 1) self publishing my first book, Meet Dog Hero, which was inspired by the classic romantic Russian fairy tale, ‘The Firebird’ and written because Disney, of Hollywood fame, told me that if I wrote and published the book they’d co-commission a feature film based on it, and they did. And 2) after getting my new generation Palfrey series published, I am at long last sure that soon I will be capable of writing it, and that with luck, I’ve always depended on a large dollop of luck, I will be able to do the story justice.
This story is inspired less by my extraordinary Dad’s writing and more by my love of Shakespeare, especially the way in which his stories can be transposed as West Side Story’ was from ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
It’s inspired by my documentary days, and in particular my countless trips to Russia where, in 1987 I set up a joint venture between the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Cinematography and ITV. The first film I commissioned was to be directed by Juris Podniecs, who I mentioned earlier. Here are a couple of quotes from a review of the time in The Independent:
Juris Podnieks was the film maker’s film maker: brave, tireless, driven by the urge to bear witness to the inhumanity of the Soviet system.
And Juris, by another stroke of luck, had enlightened British backers. Richard Creasey, of Central Television, was in Moscow in February 1987 looking for someone to make a film about the pending apocalypse when he spotted a huge queue braving a blizzard outside a cinema. ‘What’s on?’ he asked his companion, assuming ET had landed. ‘A Latvian documentary,’ came the reply. Incredulous, Creasey joined the queue and saw Is it Easy to be Young? in which Podnieks tracked a group of teenagers caught up in a trial for wrecking a train carriage. There was, Creasey recalls, ‘an extraordinary energy that burst out of the screen’. The film, which revealed festering disillusion and casual nihilism (‘If you see a dog, kick it’) among the nation’s youth, broke box-office records, coming as a welcome breath of foul air to a country where pollution officially didn’t exist.
Yes, the book I am burning to write is inspired by a true story of the Soviet era, the life and death of Nikolai Vavilov, one of the great scientists of the twentieth century whose dream of ending hunger and famine in the world by using the emerging science of genetics to breed super plants that could grow anywhere, in any climate was backed by Lenin and leaders around the world, but murdered by Stalin.
Stalin turned something exceptional, glorious and achievable into a Shakespearian type tragedy. Nikolai Vavilov, who lived to feed the world, died of starvation in the gulag.
My dream is to transpose the story from plants to water the potential crisis creator of the near future, from Russia to Africa where terrorism is rampant, and from the twentieth century to the twenty-first to grab the interest of a younger generation.
Which me luck!And in the meantime I do hope you enjoy my latest book, ‘Hard Targets’, on your Kindle.
Joe Bright: The Black Garden
Make sure your skeletons are in the closet where they belong.
One of the inspirations for The Black Garden was a murder that took place in my hometown in Wyoming. I learned the details from my older brother’s best friend, whose family kept horses not far from the marsh where the body was found. He said the girl had been raped and strangled. She was ten-years-old.
A murder makes a large impact on a small town, mainly because it rarely happens there and because it tends to affect almost everyone. We know the victim. We know the killer. We know their families. When you come from a family of eight children, like I do, it increases the chances of there being a connection.
In this case, the victim was the same age as my younger sister. The suspect was someone I’d gone to school with. One of my older brothers, a police officer, helped arrest the man. My father, a psychologist, administered the psychological examination on the suspect.
While the suspect was in jail, another little girl was raped but not killed. The rapist turned out to be my older brother’s best friend, the same one who had told us about the murder. My other brother, the police officer, arrested him and asked if he was the one who had raped and killed the first girl, and he confessed.
With the first suspect, I was willing to see the man hanged, even without seeing any of the evidence. When it turned out to be a friend of the family, I felt sick. I felt sorry for his family and for my brother. If he hadn’t confessed, I would have sworn they had the wrong guy. Why? Because I knew him and we often choose sides based on association rather than on the facts of the situation.
Who’s right, the Hatfields or McCoys? Depends if you’re a Hatfield or a McCoy. If you move into a town with two feuding family and get a job working for one of those families, most likely you’ll end up siding with them and seeing things from their perspective—as is the case in The Black Garden.
The second inspiration came with the OJ Simpson trail. I became disillusioned with the American court system, feeling that the rich are innocent and the poor get fed to the dogs.
What do you do when the justice system lets you down? If a wealthy person wrongs someone in your family and gets away with it because he can afford the best lawyers, what do you do? This glitch in the system influenced the events that take place in The Black Garden.
I decided to set the story in the 1950s to keep DNA out of the case. That solved one problem but created others. Mostly, it required a lot of research. Having a brother in law enforcement helped, but he couldn’t say how things were done in the 50s. Expressions and slang also presented a problem. I’d write a bit of dialog and then ask myself if “put a sock in it” or “have the hots for someone” were in usage at the time. In some cases, I had to take creative license.
Richard Creasey and Joe Bright are published by Endeavour Press