Monday, 10 June 2013

Living with a Gangster

I was honoured to be invited onto author and reviewer Graham Smith's blog in May, which is where the following post first appeared. Graham has a lot of interesting posts on his blog from up and coming writers. There's a chap on there at the moment called Lee Child for example and he seems to be doing okay.

For the past three years now I’ve been living with a gangster. It’s been a dysfunctional and abusive relationship but you might be surprised to learn that he took the brunt of the violence not me. In three books now; ‘The Drop’, ‘The Damage’ and ‘The Dead’, which has just been published by No Exit, I have taken great delight in placing my Geordie, white-collar criminal, David Blake, in trouble again and again. Blake has been beaten up and shot at, chased by men on motor bikes then threatened with imprisonment, torture and execution. He has been targeted by hit men, assaulted by Police officers and forced to fend off an attacker in his apartment, using nothing but an urn containing the ashes of his girlfriend’s mother.

Blake is no saint however and he, in turn, has killed people in all three books; with knives, guns, machetes or simply by ordering their deaths. Not bad for a man who never actually considers himself to be a gangster. Blake’s life is pretty stressful, so he has occasionally turned to drugs but, being an old fashioned, northern lad, he tends to prefer booze or, on occasions, women to relieve that stress. He is not the best boyfriend material however, having cheated on his girl with minimal guilt, and is unlikely to empathise with you if you’ve had a hard day at the office, as it is unlikely to have been as tough as the 24 hours he has endured.

And what has David Blake given me in return for all of the grief I’ve put him through? Well, plenty. Apart from the obvious relief and joy that comes with finally becoming a published author and seeing my name on a book cover, I wasn’t sure what to expect as a first time novelist. Would anybody read my book, would anyone actually like it? Thankfully they did and they do. I have had some wonderful moments because of Blake. I’ve been reviewed positively by, amongst others, The Daily Mail and The Times; the latter naming me as one of their top five thriller writers of the year because of ‘The Drop’, an accolade that I still can’t quite believe, even now. Frankly I’d be happy to have that one etched on my tombstone.

In the north east in particular, the books have gone down really well and I have received a stack of messages from folk who enjoyed reading a story that is set in an area they know. I’ve been interviewed in all of the local papers, made numerous appearances on BBC Radio Newcastle and even been on TV.  I’ve also given away my books in competitions on, the web site for exiled Newcastle United fans around the globe, which I think gave me almost as much pleasure as the Times review. ‘The Drop’, renamed ‘Crime Machine’, has been published to great reviews in Germany, so ‘The Damage’ will follow it there next year and, in the Autumn, Harper Collins will publish both books in the U.S. God knows what they will make of my Geordie gangster in America.

The only thing that could possibly top all of the above is the e-mail my publisher received from someone claiming to work for David Barron, producer of the Harry Potter films. He had apparently bought a copy of my book, read it, loved it and wanted to turn it into a TV series. This seemed a tad unlikely but it turned out, astonishingly, to be true. A few weeks later I was sitting in my agent’s London office in a meeting with David, who turned out to be a very nice bloke indeed. I spent a pleasant hour or two with the man behind the most successful movie franchise the world has ever seen, discussing the practicalities of bringing David Blake to the small screen. The scripts are being developed by JJ Connolly, another top man, who wrote the great British gangster flick, ‘Layer Cake’. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to watch David Blake being put in peril all over again; this time on the telly.

Now that the trilogy is finally complete, I’m not going to say whether Blake, or his large assortment of supporting characters from the Newcastle underworld, will ever make a re-appearance. That’s dependant on me coming up with a strong enough storyline. The last thing I want to do is churn out two dozen very similar books, on auto pilot that, like Hollywood sequels, fall foul of the inevitable law of diminishing returns.

I have an idea for a new book and I’m afraid there’s no space for David Blake in this one. I owe the fellah a great deal but I’ve been seeing other people lately; in my mind’s eye at least. I’m going to take a break from Blake for a while, to allow some different characters to live with me instead. However there is no way I am ever going to forget the man and everything he has done for me. Who knows, maybe one day, I’ll come crawling back to him.


  1. Well, well, Lee Child is nothing new, we all know him from his books with Preston.
    So I've read The DROP and I'm finishing again ThE DAMAGE (that one I read twice in order to see what the sequel was in THE DEAD.
    Do you mind telling me what the upheaval was about at the end of The Damage, except if it's explained in The Dead. Because frankly I wondered why such a stampeding in Thailand.

  2. I wonder if the reason of the Gurkha's disappearance was actually because they learnt about Blake's activities or if there's another danger lurking.
    Let's hope The Dead will give the answer...

    1. Sorry for the delay in replying Orage - just seen the questions. You were spot on with the reason for the Gurkha's disappearance in The Damage. They belatedly realised what kind of man they were working for and for the sake of their honour they felt they had to leave.Thanks for reading the books and I hopw you also enjoy The Dead. Best wishes. Howard