One thing that is common amongst most crime writers is a character series. Even more common is that the most successful crime writers have a tendency to have multiple character series, going back to the time of Dame Agatha Christie with Poirot and Marple to modern day writers such as Val McDermid, James Oswald and of course James Patterson (who has about 47 series now).
When I started writing my debut novel ‘Alive’, I wanted to do something different. Rather than set the novel from the perspective of the detective, amateur sleuth or the killer, I set it from the murderer’s target’s view. To challenge the reader to work out if the protagonist lives or dies, I wrote it in diary form. Although DI Edward McCreedy appears in the novel, it is not often and written second hand so I was not sure if the novel would be a good starting point for a traditional detective series. My second attempt was DI James Slim, whom would later transform into DI Joanne Christie.
I started writing a series of short stories with DI James Slim, a Partick Thistle supporting detective in Glasgow. The series of stories were named after the track list of Glasgow band Love and Money’s second album ‘A Strange Kind of Love’. I think I wrote stories named after the first four tracks before I decided to change. The story for the song Strange Kind of Love was edited and moved to Stirling for a writing competition (that I never entered ultimately) and is available to read on this website at the ‘Short Stories’ tab in the menu. I was worried that DI Slim was turning into a Glasgow Rebus, so I changed tack somewhat.
Having lived in Edinburgh now for over 15 years, I moved my detective to the Capital which meant that it had to be even less like a certain other detective. I always wanted to write a female detective series so DI Joanne Christie was born. I don’t know why I chose her first name, perhaps I was listening to Jimi Hendrix playing Hey Joe (she is referred more as Jo than Joanne) but the surname was taken from Dame Agatha. She doesn’t have a particularly difficult back story, likes an occasional glass of wine so doesn’t have a drinking problem, has never smoked or taken drugs and trains for triathlons in her spare time. What she does have, however, is the challenge of being a female DI at a relatively young age.
I had enjoyed starting to write short stories with a title, then trying to fit the story to that title. With that in mind, and a large amount of Classic Rock references from her side kick DS Mike Lyle, I picked a classic rock album at random. I think I had just watched a documentary about the making of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album so chose that one. I instantly had an idea for the first story (Second Hand News). I imagined a body being found outside a newsagent covered in old newspapers awaiting recycling. Second Hand News was written with that premise.
My favourite track on the album is The Chain, which I thought would make a great crime story. I decided to create a killer who would call himself ‘The Chain’. It was my favourite story, and villain, to write, however, I was a little concerned when Adrian McKinty’s ‘The Chain’ novel came out, fortunately the stories are completely different. I did struggle somewhat, however, when I reached ‘You Make Loving Fun’…
Ten short stories and finishing with a novella, ‘Christie’s Early Cases’ was completed. The title was another nod to Dame Agatha’s and in particular Poirot’s short story collection. Over the eleven stories, I had created the characters for a potential series and was happy with the result. DI Christie had solved a number of cases, but I wanted to make sure the other members of her team contributed, rather than just being bit part players in the stories. The main piece of feedback I got was that these characters needed a full length novel, so ‘Five Against One’ was created.
Sticking with the music theme, ‘Five Against One’ was the original name for Pearl Jam’s second album ‘Vs’ and once more I used the track list as inspiration. The book has twelve parts, each named after the tracks and (like Christie’s Early Cases) written in order that the tracks appear on the album. Downloading and streaming has taken away the joy of the album as a complete piece of work for most people, this was my way of appreciating it as a whole.
I’m really happy how the novel turned out and I think that there is much to come from these characters. DI Christie is the detective I wanted her to turn out to be, different from most but interesting none the less.
I hope my readers agree…
‘Five Against One’ will be available soon on Amazon and I will post a link on the ‘Books’ tab of this website when it has been launched.
‘Christie’s Early Cases’ and ‘Alive’ are currently available in eBook and paperback.
‘A Strange Kind of Love’ and three other short stories can be read on this website.