Author of the Month

Name: Lynda la Plante

First Novel: Widows

Most Recent Book: Deadly Intent

'Deadly Intent is Lynda la Plante totally firing on all cylinders.'

An ex-police officer is found shot dead in a seedy drug den in Chalk Farm. Frank Brandon has a clean record and was not one for taking drugs. So why was his body found in such a dump? What was his connection with a seedy place where drugs were bought?

Anna Travis is soon on the case and acting in her usual maverick way. Soon the body count rises rapidly – all people who have a connection with the drug den. Only Brandon is the odd man out until the team get a break in the case. A drugs baron named Alexander Fitzpatrick was seen with Frank Brandon on the night he was murdered. Fitzpatrick is a wanted felon and has evaded the law for nigh-on twenty years. The thought of capturing such a big name is too much to resist. Soon, wheels within wheels start to make themselves known to the team as they try to unravel the complicated relationships of all the people involved with this elusive man and the case of the murdered Brandon.

Then, just when things couldn’t get worse - as all leads appear to go nowhere - Anna’s ex, James Langton, appears to take over the case. Not only does she have to deal with people disbelieving her theories, she also has to deal with the man who broke her heart. Is this a case that will spell the end of Anna Travis?

As we have come to expect from any TV script or novel from Lynda la Plante, she hits the ground running. Within the first few pages la Plante starts the investigation at a gripping pace. In Deadly Intent, the body count is high and the action fast. You can tell that the author feels comfortable with police procedure and works it in to the storyline with ease. You can also tell the author has done her research and makes this a believable story because of it.

As with much of her TV work, la Plante goes over the same ground on a number of occasions, offering different scenarios as to how things could have happened. All the while the suppositions fly about and evidence is slowly and painstakingly collated. The reader can feel the frustration of the team as they grasp at straws without a shred of evidence, waiting for that one lucky break.

Deadly Intent is an excellent, high-octane police thriller with lots of strands intertwined within the main story. Some sections could possibly be regarded as being slightly coincidental... but real events can also be strange. Strange enough as to throw up absurd coincidences. It’s a quibblke really, and none of us would want to read a crime novel if there wasn’t the need to suspend disbelief somewhat. This is all about heightened reality, and all the more enjoyable for it!

This is a marvellous story well told by a brilliant writer who is a true mistress of her craft. Lynda la Plante has given us many wonderful powerful characters and gripping stories that have thrilled and captured our imaginations. Deadly Intent is Lynda la Plante totally firing on all cylinders. And there are enough strands left untangled to make anyone want to read the next instalment of the turbulent life of Anna Travis...

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) How would you classify your writing, and do you consciously try to write to a certain style or genre?
I never write consciously in one style but appear to continue producing novels in the third person. I find this very comfortable, as the switch into first person becomes stronger when using dialogue.
2) What type of crime or thriller novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I enjoy reading crime novels and prefer stand alone, but that said, I do enjoy Karin Slaughter’s long running characters and especially Michael Connolly.
3) You have been credited with being the first writer to give women strong character roles on our TV screens. With the arrival of Widows, Prime Suspect and now The Commander - how do you feel being given such an accolade?
I have never set out to continue to write strong characters for women, it is quite simply something that happened naturally. I enjoyed huge success with my first series WIDOWS but it was based on a real life crime family and I just extended the story. It was lucky because unaware of it, it had hit the right desk at the right time, and Euston Films had been discussing the possibility of commissioning a series with a strong female lead. It was a very positive move for my writing career, as it was the first time, not only women had dominated a series, but unknown actors were cast. The freshness these actors gave to the show enhanced it enormously. It was very disconcerting for me to be only offered a similar type of commission following this series, all women bank clerks, all women dairy farmers, etc, etc..

PRIME SUSPECT came about because Granada Television were keen for me to submit a new idea for a series. I then met Jackie Malton, a plain clothed DCI working for the murder squad. She was such a brilliant character and insisted that if I was going to write a new thriller police series, I should get it right from the horse’s mouth so to speak. Without her assistance, her inspiration and the kindness shown to me by her colleagues, I would never have been able to come up with the show.

THE COMMANDER came about simply because of a police function I attended. I met numerous female Commanders who impressed me and it was suggested I should show a female at the top of the tree. Again, I had not formed any idea about writing a strong female character it just happened. As with THE GOVENOR, I met a young woman prison Governor, in fact she suggested I write the series. So, basically I think I have been very fortunate to have been guided by the real women who should in reality have all the accolades.
4) Were you surprised by the huge positive reaction of the nation to Prime Suspect when it was first aired?
I was very surprised by the positive reaction to PRIME SUSPECT but again, I owe so much to the many officers who gave me their time and the forensics and pathologists who also instructed me throughout. They insisted that I should get it 'right' as they were tired of seeing so many inaccurate portrayals on the TV. I think due to research, there was an added freshness and reality, and the impressive portrayal of Jane Tennison by Helen Mirren paved a way for police drama to no longer be dominated by male detectives.
5) Anna Travis is, again, a strong woman who has a softer side to her especially regarding her recently finished relationship with James Langston. Did you decide to show an emotional side to Anna rather than make her a simply a hard-driven career woman?
Anna Travis is a young trainee Detective and it is from her point of view we open up murder enquiries. I think part of me was getting very tired of seeing clone versions of Helen Mirren, but by far too young to hold such a high rank. Anna Travis is young, very keen to succeed and I have the opportunity of watching her grow through the continued books.
6) The first Anna Travis novel, Above Suspicion has been made for television. Writing direct for screen must be different than watching a character from your books coming alive on the screen. How did you feel about this process - and were you involved with the script?
Writing directly to screen from one of my books ABOVE SUSPICION was a very interesting, and at times excruciatingly hard job to do. Basically the cost of transporting the book to the screen would have been impossible, trips to the US, trains journeys, etc. When I have to wear the hat of producer, I also have to take into consideration the budget. This meant slicing the book down, cutting out all the flack and it became very exciting. I really liked the dramatic value of bringing the victims alive. In the book each character has a lengthy description, in the film we see them emerge from the actors’ perfomances, it‘s very dramatic and very strong.
7) Deadly Intent deals with the killing of a retired police officer in a crack den. The information regarding procedure and forensics is very concise and appears very believable. Do you do a lot of research to make sure the scenarios involving the police and the way they deal with a case is as true to life as possible?
All my novels and television scripts have many fingers prints over them. As soon as I have completed, what I call a working draft, it is sent to police officers, forensic experts, pathologists and barristers and they give me their notes. Some rather critical but I adhere to their criticism totally. They are the real world, mine is the fantasy. I very rarely take dramatic licence as I feel it is an insult to their professionalism. As a result, I have, over many years, acquired many dear and trusted friends who make my work very authentic and realistic and above all believable.
8) Do you find writing a book a totally different process to writing a TV script? If so, are there different methods you use when writing a book or a script? How do you know when an idea is good for a book and another idea good for TV?
To write a novel is very different to setting out a script. It is basically all to do with budgets. I enjoy the freedom of writing a novel, as I can have six helicopters, two Learjets and wonderful locations. TV scripts are really down to how many patrol cars can we afford? No to the helicopters and foreign locations. We have to cut the cloth very tightly to make ends meet on any television drama, so to be free to do anything in a novel is very liberating. The two opposing worlds are very good for a writer and I enjoy moving from one to the other. If one knew truthfully when a good idea is going to be a great success, I think it would be bottled and sold for a fortune. There is no real lightening bolt that says 'yes this is a winner'. For me, I can only go with my gut feeling, not looking at a storyline as being a huge success, but one that interests me. Unless I have that 'interest' and fascination, I don't think I could ever contemplate writing either a TV or a Novel. Newspapers are my brain fodder but you have to have a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end.
9) In Deadly Intent there is a high body count – and at a very rapid rate. Do you feel the need for a good number of bodies to make a thriller/crime novel work well and sate the reader’s appetite? Or do you just enjoy writing about the intensity of the experience?
There may be a high body count in DEADLY INTENT but then in another book like RED DAHLIA there is only the one tragic female. It really does depend on the storyline I am working on. There is a sort of excitement around another body, another murder, but I have never sat down and thought I'd better get the blood and violence boiling. Again, I always consistently retain truthfulness.
10) Without giving away the plot, which book - yours or by another author - included your favourite plot twist of all time?
I think 'Jagged Edge' has one of the best twist's at the end and for me DEADLY INTENT was a pretty good one, it was a sort of twist within a twist. But just take out every movie made by Hitchcock and you have a perfect master of drawing out an audience and then twisting their thoughts around.
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime or thriller novel?
My favourite crime writer is Raymond Chandler and I think all his novel adaptations for the big screen work but my favourite is ‘The Maltese Falcon’.
12) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction or thriller fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
I think I am both a crime fiction and a thriller fan. Authors that I admire are as above Raymond Chandler and to me the best crime writer at the moment is Michael Connolly.
13) What is your favourite crime/thriller read of all time?
I have no favourite crime book; I am such an avid reader in this genre, most of the time to make sure I don't cross over someone else’s plot! Imagine working for a couple of years on a crime novel, only to find another was published with almost an identical plot! I would encourage everyone to read Raymond Chandler’s short stories, they never cease to entertain me, but a hard author to beat is Michael Connolly, he grabs you from page one.