They say you can always trust a copper. They’re lying.
They lied thirty years ago and they’re still lying today.
A booby-trapped body in a long-abandoned chapel. A scene examination that goes horribly wrong. CSI Eddie Collins and DI Benson are injured and one of the team killed. Eddie is heartbroken and guilt-ridden. And angry.
Now let's meet the author - Andrew Barrett and ask him a few questions about the book, starting with the title, which is the name of a village near where he lives.
Andy - welcome! Place names. I know you set your books in the area where you live. Ledston Luck was a bit of a gift. Lucky you don’t live near Little Peover or Piddletrenthide! Tell us a bit about the place.
I also live close to Fanny Pit. But we won’t dwell on that one.
Ledston Luck won by a nose when I was selecting where to base this story. I also had my eye on another magical sounding place (to me, anyway). Monk Fryston. It conjures up all kinds of medieval scenes; it’s evocative.
But Ledston Luck won because firstly, as a book title, I think it offers its own intrigue, and secondly because it really is unlike any other village I’ve come across. There is one street, and though I don’t describe it in the book, it’s bent in the middle. Before the bend there are a few larger houses and a bit more greenery, after the bend is the bus terminus with an old coal cart parked in the middle that’s now used as a planter.
The rest of the street after the bend is just terraced houses on either side, rising up a gentle incline. It ends at the top quite abruptly with a dozen yards of grass and then you hit woodland. The playground I mention here in the book is actually at the foot of the hill. But, true to life, at the top of the road is a lane that threads through a mile of countryside until it hits a secluded farmhouse.
Add to this that the mine closed down in ’86, and that you can still see ghostly remnants of it, and I think you’ve got a sparkling setting for a book.
I think a lot of places which used to thrive and have fallen on hard times have a ghostliness about them. I'm thinking of my local fishing industry. Empty docks and abandoned smoke-houses.
Do you ever base stories on real cases you've worked on or is all this straight out of your head?
Working for the police and writing fiction can prove a little problematic if you’re not careful. I have to abide by the Data Protection Act and the Official Secrets Act, among others. I also have a few extra conditions imposed upon me by the Force if I want to continue to write while working there. And I think that’s fair enough; certainly the conditions themselves are fair enough. I must not write about any real life suspect or witness that I happen to meet during the course of my duty.
I’m pretty careful to abide by these not unreasonable rules.
So the answer is no. Essentially.
Back in the late ‘90s I heard of the Russian mafia messing about in Leeds, and I heard that one or two other groups were beginning to encroach on our patch too. I genuinely don’t know any details, but details didn’t matter to me back then as I was thinking of a follow on story to A Long Time Dead.
In Stealing Elgar we meet elements of the Russian mafia and of the IRA. I simply couldn’t resist making up a story with those two parties involved.
All my other stories really are total fiction. I even make sure that I’m not giving out any of our secrets by checking the internet for open source forensic techniques. If they’re on there, I can safely use them.
The only real advantage I have over other crime writers is that I can, and do, use the overall flavours of what it’s like to work in a large Force. I know the feelings of walking into a murder scene and seeing lots of blood and gore, I know how it smells, I know to be aware of dried blood flaking away and becoming airborne. And I know how to sample it, the techniques we use, and the language we use. I know, though seldom put into my books, the procedures we use too – these are far too boring to include in a work of fiction.
The secret is balance, isn't it?
Eddie's his own worst enemy. Are you like that?
I’m much more courteous than Eddie is. I’m also much more tolerant. Other than that, I suppose I am, really. I dislike authority if it messes up my day, and I wasn’t afraid to tell it so. I could often find myself in a rather loud and angry argument across the office with my supervisor and area forensic manager.
Sometimes, they just don’t understand! Sometimes they get it plain wrong.
But even though they’re wrong and they don’t understand, I don’t argue any more. I pretend life there is bliss. This is because I got into some rather hot water last year for arguing perhaps a little too vehemently one day. Okay, for several days. I got a big telling off. So now I’m quiet; I am bliss to work with.
Luckily for me, Eddie’s hot water is totally fictional, so he can say and do as he pleases. He can even throw the punches for me, and tell them what I’d like to tell them with no real fear of consequence. Thank God for Eddie Collins.
Eddie has the time (in your head) to come out with the quips!
Quick-fire questions now –
Tea or coffee?
Wazz of the gods, that's what!
A day off - the bright lights or the country or coast?
Country, coast, and quiet. Every time.
Favourite pudding. Don't say tiramisu and then I can have it all for myself.
Sherry trifle. Actually, let me amend that. Lots of sherry trifle, with added sherry. And added trifle.
A cat called Eli, and a daughter called Ellie. Both are up to date with their jabs and have good teeth.
Best film you've ever seen. If it's Frozen, I've gone right off you!
Frozen makes me want to vomit. And I know the bastard word for word. Thanks Ellie! That’s an unfair question on the ground that there are too many to narrow them down to one. For a start, it depends what mood I’m in. And then it also depends what mood I’m in.
I love The Martian
I love Carry on Screaming
I love The Theory of Everything
I love The King’s Speech
I love Heat
I love Ronin
I love Sideways
I love Saving Ryan’s Privates
I love Fury
I could go on and on…
What colour are Eddie's eyes?
I have no idea. Really, I don’t; I’m pretty sure I’ve never described them either, or any of his characteristics. I like to leave it up to the reader. It’s not because I’m lazy, honestly; I just never saw the need to draw him for people who are quite capable of filling in those gaps. I think if you draw your main character too thoroughly, then readers have to keep a list of descriptive tags on him as they read about him. I choose not to tag him, let people decide for themselves.
But it’s an interesting question. It’s so interesting that I’m going to ask what you think, and what your readers think. So, what colour are Eddie’s eyes? And while we’re here, how tall is he?
He's got hazel eyes and he's 5ft 10. Now how did I know that?
And finally, as an upholder of the law, is there any law not currently on the statute books that you’d like to see brought in – and why?
I’m sure there are many. And the next time I’m driving around and some taxi cuts me up, I’ll remember this question.
But I think, overall, we’re too lenient on criminals. Even petty criminals. Some of the sentences our colleagues in wigs hand out (sometimes by the command of legislation) are laughable when compared to the suffering they cause.
I realize much of the Sentencing Guidelines Council’s work is to do with rehabilitation, and so prefer shorter sentences; and I suppose we do have a severe overcrowding problem in prisons that also taints their decisions.
But when I see some of the… some of the people who go through the system time and again, when I see the destruction they leave behind them, I could weep for the victims who are left to suffer. And I’m not even talking about serious crime (as in murder) here. The old fella who’s been burgled and now has nothing left. Nothing. Not even his medals. I’ll stop there before it becomes a rant.
Of course I also think that Audi drivers should be publicly humiliated :)
You get my drift so...
Yes, I do! Thanks, Andy, for the full and frank answers.
Now here's my five star review -
Eddie Collins is such an annoying man. Sometimes I could slap him. He’s irascible, angry, stubborn, but usually, he’s right. He’s a man driven by a desire for justice. He’s at a scene when a booby-trap kills his colleague and injures him. It’s the scene of an old murder, but a new killing, also booby-trapped makes old and new murders come together. Someone higher in the system is trying to frustrate the case and sideline Eddie. They didn’t reckon with the fact that Eddie won’t let go, especially when he’s angry – and he feels guilty.
The wonderful thing about an Andrew Barrett book is that you often don’t totally like the goodies and you feel strong sympathy for the baddies. As with real life, there are no black and white characters, but many, many shades of grey. Stories like this make you think and there are often no easy answers. This book’s packed with action but there’s room for thoughtful contemplation, too. It works on many levels. A brilliantly good read.
Should you wish to buy the book (and you really should!) you can find it here in the UK or here in the US.