Author of the Month

Name: Graham Hurley

First Novel:

Most Recent Book: Beyond Reach

'Nothing is ever black and white...'

Late at night, on a deserted road, a man is run over and badly mutilated. There are no witnesses. He turns out to be an unsavoury bully boy who has persecuted the neighbourhood for years without retribution. DI Faraday is charged with the investigation.

Meanwhile ex-policeman Paul Winter has a job from his new boss, Bazza Mackenzie, erstwhile drug baron with a façade of respectability. He has to investigate the affair that Mackenzie’s daughter is having with a local high-ranking police officer. He is also responsible for setting up a youth programme for the local delinquents - part of McKenzie’s charm offensive in the pursuit of a possible political career. Both these strands prove to be more complex and involve deeper family tensions than was immediately obvious.

Faraday and Winter pursue their separate lives but old habits die hard and they provide each other with vital information which finally sorts out the problems of murder and kidnap, jealousy and revenge.

This is another excellent book by Graham Hurley. Well known for his accurate and true to life portrayal of police work, this book builds on the characters from the earlier books in the series and develops them in a fascinating and sympathetic way.

Faraday, an individual and cerebral policeman, is having a crisis in his personal life at the same time as his work presents him with the paradox that enforcing the law is not the same thing as seeing justice done. The ambitions and weaknesses of individuals result in mistakes and failures. It is witness to the strength of Hurley’s writing that everything comes across as so true to life.

Winter has already chosen his path away from the frailties of the Police Service, but now finds that he is asked to commit more and more to a dubious way of work. The rewards are there, but is it worth it?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because, as well as being a good story, carefully plotted and with a gritty and realistic appreciation of the setting in Portsmouth, there is such a vivid description of the life led by these two men that I can empathise with their quandaries and the decisions they make. Nothing is ever black and white; there is no right and wrong answer, only the best possible in the circumstances...

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) What makes a truly great crime/thriller novel?
I’m probably not the best guy to answer this question because, to be honest, I don’t read a lot of crime fiction. In fact, hardly any. But from the handful of books I’ve really enjoyed – stuff from James Lee Burke, Alan Furst, Gillian Flynn, Denis Lehane, Fred Vargas – I’d say that the usual rules apply. In other words, I’m looking for an author who can hook me from the opening pages, take me places I never knew existed (chiefly the insides of strangers’ heads), set me traps I was never clever enough to anticipate, and spit me out the other end, slightly altered, slightly wiser, and deeply moved. Easy, really…
2) Now that the crime/thriller genre represents the largest section of fiction sold in the UK and Ireland, do you think we do enough to celebrate the quality and diversity of the writing?
There seem to be loads of crime festivals, not to mention websites, so I guess the answer must be yes. I often wonder why crime fiction does so well compared in the marketplace compared to other genres and I can only conclude that this stuff comes with the implicit guarantee of a complicated story heading for some kind of resolution. If that’s true then there’s plenty of room for both quality and diversity and that’s certainly bred a huge army of awesomely well-informed readers. I’ve done eleven crime books now and some of these guys know more about the early titles than I do.
3) Paul Winter starts off as a regular member of the police force, albeit one with maverick ideas and questionable contacts. When you started writing the series did you envisage his decision to move to a more dubious employment?
Winter, in my view, has always been the mainspring for the series, partly because he pressed his voice on me so early on (the first paragraph of the second chapter of “Turnstone”, to be precise), and partly because he’s such a delight to write for. As each next book began to shape itself, it was Winter’s guiding hand on the authorial tiller and it was exactly his sense of abandonment, frustration and plain disgust that took him to the Dark Side. From my POV that was a bold move, with unforeseeable consequences, but the latter books seem to have worked extremely well. Another round of applause for Mr W.
4) In relation to that, do you start a book with a preconceived plot, or do you see which way the characters lead you? It seemed to me that it was an entirely logical decision Winter made to throw in his lot with Bazza Mackenzie, but that it was almost a surprise to you that that was the way things turned out.
Exactly. Winter led the way and I followed. This is the first series I’ve ever written (my first nine books were stand-alone thrillers), and one of the early lessons for yours truly was the absolute need to listen to the characters. If the thing is working properly then you have to go with the grain of the people they are. This applies equally to Winter and Faraday, often with fictional consequences that amaze me. They’re wise old guys. It pays to keep myself well tuned in.
5) I can see these characters fitting very well in a TV series. Are there any plans for this, and if so who would you see playing Winter and Faraday?
Television can be a mixed blessing for books like these (character-led, with a heavy emphasis on location and procedural authenticity). The demands of a prime-time audience aren’t necessarily the same as those of my readership and I’m very conscious that a great deal can be lost in the transition. There’s been considerable TV interest but we’ve yet to get it right. Though one current development feels more than promising.
6) The latest book seems to have a very pessimistic view of the justice system and the ability of the police to see that right prevails (because of the constraints of the system). Is that your view, or simply that of Winter and Faraday?
Both. I do an enormous amount of research, both in terms of the detailed demands of a particular plot, and in the wider sense of trying to keep up with an ever-changing culture. I realised very early on that contemporary policing is a very uneasy marriage between a political agenda largely driven by the Daily Mail, and the resource and sharp-end restraints of the Job itself. Cops, to no one’s surprise, are a cynical breed. Through no fault of their own they’re often helpless spectators as society begins to implode and I’ve tried to capture some of that frustration (and occasionally despair) in the books. Faraday, especially, struggles on but as the outlook darkens I sense that the very phrase criminal justice begins to verge on the oxymoronic.
7) The accuracy of your description of police life is well respected. How do you keep up to date, both with procedure and attitudes?
At the start, before I put pen to paper, I ring-fenced a couple of months and tried to get alongside working cops. This was a huge ask but I persevered in the knowledge that most of them – very wisely – were waiting for the first book. Once they realised that I was serious about mirroring the culture, they began to open up and – eleven books in – I now have the contacts book of my dreams. A number of these guys, as you might expect, have become good friends and that trust gives me added insights into the reality of what they do. At the same time, I have a number of contacts on the Dark Side. And they can be equally candid.
8) What do you think drives a story best – plot or characters?
Both. In an ideal story, you believe and maybe like the characters and can’t wait for the passage of events to put them to the test. That cage of circumstance is what we mean by plot, and without it the author is short-changing not just the readership but the characters themselves.
9) In a dream scenario who would you like to direct and star in a film/TV adaptation of your book?
Ken Loach and Ray Winstone.
10) What is your favourite movie adaptation of all time of a crime/thriller novel?
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. A masterpiece.
11) What is your favourite crime/thriller novel of all time?