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Author of the Month

Name: R C Bridgestock

First Novel: Deadly Focus

Most Recent Book: Snow Kills

'‘Snow Kills’ is a ghoulishly gripping novel...'

Synopsis:
When a young hairdresser – Kayleigh Harwood – is reported missing in one of the worst blizzards Harrowfield has experienced in years, DI Jack Dylan and his team are called in to investigate. Kayleigh’s car is found abandoned. Her mobile phone lies inside but there is no sign of her. Clothing is discovered on local moorland and a local quarry is searched.

The investigation begins to focus on a loner, living close to where her car is found. As the snow thaws, human remains are found and Dylan’s Chief Superintendent calls out the whole of the Major Incident Team. Meanwhile Dylan’s wife becomes distracted and distant when an ex-fiancé makes an appearance.

Review:
Husband and wife team RC Bridgestock return with their fourth novel and it is far and away their best effort yet. The story seems quite linear and straightforward at first but as the pages turn, things become much more convoluted as suspicion is shifted from one character to another.

The narrative is ever engaging and in the early chapters, the weather itself assumes the role of a character, such is the strength of their writing. The prose is neat and tidy while the pace increases with each passing chapter.

Dylan’s interaction with Vicky is a joy to behold and throughout the novel he dominates the landscape with good common-sense and old-fashioned values. Vicky’s acerbic comments and nature is the perfect foil for him. Other minor characters are all depicted with aplomb, but the Norman Bates-like, Norris Regan is the one who rises above the crowd to rival Dylan for dominance.

The dynamics of Dylan’s home life features heavily in the story and as a humanising sub-plot I have to say that I found it to be first class. All in all, ‘Snow Kills’ is a ghoulishly gripping novel which deserves a much wider audience.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) After as many years working in and for the police, why did you choose to write crime fiction instead of breaking away from all the horror?
We thought we had made a complete break when we retired from the police force ten years ago. Relocating three hundred miles from ‘our patch’ was intentional. Our move to pastures new on Bob’s police retirement meant we would not be constantly reminded, of work. The latter three years of Bob’s CID led career was particularly gruelling as he took charge of twenty-six murder enquiries, some of which were very high profile.

They say an SIO’s (Senior Investigative Officer) ‘lifespan’ is three years and Bob did five. He has twenty five commendations from Judges and Chief Constables for outstanding detective work, but when his thirty year retirement date drew nearer he knew it was time to go. We bought a home on the Isle of Wight, our holiday destination for a number of years. Although we keep in touch with a number of serving and retired police officers who have become friends over the years, our new social circle have no connections with the police service.

Writing was most definitely not on our radar at all. Although I had always kept newspaper cuttings, to show the grandchildren in years to come what Grandad Bob did. I wanted Bob to write his life story, but for now he writes his thoughts and feelings through DI Dylan.

Our writing journey began when we were asked to do a talk for the volunteers at the Earl Mountbatten Hospice. The occasion that was booked for one hour and ended up as four with the audience not even breaking for tea and cakes! Numerous people made the comment, ‘You two should write a book’. There has been an element of serendipity to our writing that began on that day. In our local newspaper, The County Press, we spotted an advert for the college which read, ‘Write Your First Novel’. The rest, as they say, is history.

We enrolled and attended the two hour sessions over a six week period at the local college and the first draft of our first novel in the Dylan series was written in longhand. Having typed it up we knew we had one hundred and twenty thousand words. Cathartic? We have to say yes, in many ways...
2) The weather itself becomes both a character and an obstacle in ‘Snow Kills’. Was this a deliberate thing or a by-product of the story?
This was deliberate. All our books are born out of our experiences, those of our family, friends or acquaintances. We truly believe that the best, maybe only way we can write is by writing about what we know or writing from the experience of others who will talk to us about their own experiences.

We want the reader to feel as if they are present at the scenes, that the story strikes a note with their own personal experiences. Most of us can identify with being in a ‘gridlock’ type situation when a snowstorm arrives and creates problems, no matter how much preparation there has been to keep the arterial routes open. In any murder investigation the weather can be a hazard and unforgiving.
3) Norris Regan is a character who will draw many comparisons with a certain Norman Bates. Having read the novel and fully met Norris, I wonder how you feel about such comparisons as I found Norris similar, yet unique?
We agree now we’ve looked it up but it wasn’t intentional and we hadn’t considered him. The character of Norris was based on personal knowledge of an individual’s appearance and lifestyle. The guy in question was actually part of an enquiry and was found living in an old people’s home for ladies. However we would never use real life cases as we believe it is the victims of crime who serve the life sentence of any incident and would not want to cause any more hurt.
4) One of Dylan’s greatest attributes is his moral fibre. Where does this come from?
Dylan and Jen are based loosely on ourselves. I repeat ‘loosely’. But the moral fibre does come from our own beliefs. As we said previously we find it easier to write what we know.
5) Rather than a typically noir and downcast lead, DI Jack Dylan is positively cheerful by accepted crime fiction standards. What made you decide to write him this way?
Anyone who knows us will tell you we have a good sense of humour – believe me as a police officer/working for the police you need one! You can’t allow yourself to be drawn into the sadness of an incident no matter how horrific it is, which is not easy especially with the added burden or breaking the news to the family, as any SIO will tell you.

Most people who are the first responders to major incidents go into ‘autopilot’. There is a certain routine to follow and it’s only afterwards when reality sinks in that it hits you. For instance, Bob was in the mortuary at a post mortem when the person’s glass eye popped out and bounced off the table onto the floor. To the surprise of those present the assistance caught it and dusted it off! That’s when you use humour as a defence mechanism when seeing the worst of man’s inhumanity to man. Dylan values life as we do and has a good sense of humour born out of dealing with horrendous situations. He finds a positive in most things as Bob did.
6) RC Bridgestock is really a pseudonym for Bob and Carol Bridgestock. How do you manage your writing together? Does one of you have the ideas and the other the literary skills or do you share each part of the process?
We probably write a bit like ‘the tortoise and the hare’. Bob setting off writing the crime plot from start to finish with the mask of the police officer firmly in place. At this stage the incident unfolds and he knows nothing more about the body or missing person involved, as you wouldn’t. It has to be procedurally correct for us and is a mixture of things he has experienced. There isn’t great depth to the characters or the surroundings at this stage, it’s purely about the plot and the investigation. This first draft will be around 65,000 words. He then moves away from this narrative and starts on another idea. He is usually one book ahead of me.

This allows me to then develop his home life, develop the characters as I see it and set the scenes. I use my own experience in the police force as a civilian employee but also as the wife of an SIO. I also interview Bob, and get him to open up, something that he is getting better at with time. I have heard the police officers side, now I want from him the true feelings of the man ‘behind the detective’s mask’. Also I want to know who he bases the characters on and more detail of the scenes through his eyes whilst he is writing. I have never been to a mortuary or a post mortem, but I do need to find out what one looks, feels, smells, like to portray that to the reader. In summary I put more flesh on the bones.

Once this second draft is done the wordage is around hundred thousand. We then sit down together and go through every sentence, every paragraph and every chapter until we are totally happy with the story and the way it moves forward, at pace. The pace is also really important. Then we send it to our publisher.
7) Knowing a little of your history, I can see similarities in Jack and Jen vs Bob and Carol. How much of yourselves have you put into writing?
It was the intention to do this, seeing we had been in the thick of it. We use our own emotions and how life was for us when working for the police service. Our total service amounts to nearly fifty years. I was a civilian support worker for seventeen of those years and in that time did numerous roles in the administration departments. We worked at the same Division for a number of years. I was the wife of a serving police officer, who looked after the children and his home life and saw and felt how much each incident took out of the man I love. Some people say Jen is ‘too good’. There isn’t any other way but to be a team and yes, I wanted to kick ass sometimes and throw my ‘teddy out of my pram’ but what good would it have done other than upset Bob and the kids? Most partners of emergency/uniform personnel will tell you, you either live with the life or you get out.
8) You have done some consulting work for TV programs, can you tell us about it?
Everything we have done so far seems to have been meant to be. From doing the talk, going on the course and even finding our publisher.

The TV work came about by our meeting with one of the West Yorkshire police reporters we have known for some time at a book signing. She had just interviewed the infamous Sally Wainwright and suggested to us both that we talk to each other. Sally was writing ‘Last Tango In Halifax’ at the time. She got in touch about a police series she had been commissioned to write for BBC1. ‘Happy Valley’ is set in West Yorkshire where they are filming now. Happy Valley will air on BBC1 in 2014.

We have also been signed up to be the consultants for storylines and police advisors for the award winning police series Scott and Bailey series 4.
9) What are you currently working on?
There are two further novels in the Dylan series scheduled to be published next year. We have also commenced writing book seven.

Very early days yet but we are also in talks with a couple of more well-established scriptwriters for the UK and America regarding further TV work.
10) Which three crime fiction novels have had a lasting impression on you?
We don’t actually read crime novels or watch a lot of crime drama on TV unless we are asked to. I know we shouldn’t say that but it’s true...

Our busy schedule always meant that Bob never got time to read for pleasure. When he did pick up a book it would be something factual. However, authors he did enjoy are Harry Dunn’s ‘Smile of The Viper’ recently, ‘Abide With Me’ by Ian Ayris and ‘Turtle Island’ by Darren E Laws. Carol prefers to read the classics and autobiographies. I guess no one can accuse us of plagiarism!

Watching crime drama grates when it is not procedurally correct. However, we have been known to watch a few ‘Midsomer Murders’ episodes and thoroughly enjoyed them. We fully appreciate the need for drama but when the correct procedure is blatantly not even attempted, it spoils it for us both which brings me to the reason we are both thrilled to be asked to work on Scott & Bailey.