Author of the Month

Name: James Carol

First Novel: Broken Dolls

Most Recent Book: Watch Me

'...pitch dark in subject and tone...'

Everybody has got something to hide.

Ex-FBI profiler Jefferson Winter has taken on a new case in sunny Louisiana, where the only thing more intense than the heat is a killer on the loose in the small town of Eagle Creek.

Sam Galloway, a prominent lawyer from one of Eagle Creek's most respected families, has been murdered. All the sheriffs’ department has to go on, however, is a film of Galloway that shows him being burned alive.

Enter Jefferson Winter, whose expertise is serial criminals. But in a town where secrets are rife and history has a way of repeating itself, can Winter solve the case before someone else dies?

Jefferson Winter is a very welcome addition to the crime fiction world. A highly intelligent profiler with an unnerving ability to get inside the mind of killer, he has an original dark and disturbing past which makes him almost as unpredictable as the killers he's chasing. James Carol has created a brilliant central character. While he is open about his childhood I feel Carol has merely scratched the service, and in subsequent novels, Winter's past will hopefully be fully explored.

‘Watch Me’ is pitch dark in subject and tone; the murder scene is gruesomely detailed and genuinely chilling. The pace is relentless and Winter's powerful mind drives the plot forward, making this a one-sitting read.

Jefferson Winter is reminiscent of Lee Child's Jack Reacher; he goes where he is needed and throws himself into his task, not shy to take a risk and will do whatever is necessary to solve the case.

In the first Winter novel, ‘Broken Dolls’, he seemed almost super human, hardly setting a foot wrong. I wanted him to make an error of judgement. Thankfully, Carol has made him more human in ‘Watch Me’, and he does make the odd mistake in his hunt for a dark and dangerous murderer.

With a nomadic protagonist there is the chance of making him a loner and while Jefferson Winter is a one-man law enforcement agency, he surrounds himself with genuine characters to keep him grounded. In ‘Watch Me’ he teams up with Taylor and Hannah, two very likeable subordinates, who act as Winter's conscience. Carol uses these to perfection and Winter is much more rounded here than in his previous outing. ‘Watch Me’ is a suspenseful novel with nail-biting action and a satisfying finale. Roll on book three!

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) Jefferson Winter is a bit of a Lone Ranger. I get a bit of a Jack Reacher vibe from him. Were you influenced by Lee Child's protagonist?
I’m a massive Lee Child fan. With Reacher he has created this amazing iconic character who appeals to both men and women, a modern day knight errant who travels around America righting wrongs. I’m currently reading ‘Personal’ and loving every page. Child is now nineteen books into the series and they just keep getting better. That’s one hell of an achievement, and definitely something to aspire to.
2) Jefferson and his past is a brilliant and original creation. Where did the inspiration come from?
Thanks for the compliment. There wasn’t a single moment of inspiration; instead it was a slow process of evolution that even now is still ongoing. With each book I’m learning more and more about Winter - hopefully that’s something that will continue.

That said, the moment where Winter really began to come alive for me was when I started thinking about his family. I remember lying in bed, unable to sleep, and the idea that his father was a serial killer came to me. The idea was too good to lose, so I got up and sketched out the execution scene that was eventually used as the prologue in ‘Broken Dolls’.
3) With book one set in London and book two in Louisiana, how important is location for the novels?
Because I have a low boredom threshold I would find it difficult to write a series that featured the same characters and locations each time. By setting the stories in different places, I can approach each book as a standalone. This way I can keep things fresh. If things are interesting for me, hopefully they’ll be interesting for the reader too.
4) Your supporting characters are very well written, will you return to any in future books or are you satisfied with Jefferson moving on every time?
My intention has always been to have a completely new cast for every book. However, the phrase that springs to mind here is ‘never say never’. If readers are keen to see a character return then I’d definitely consider it. However, the deciding factor would be whether I can find a story that’s good enough to justify bringing that character back.
5) How much research do you put into the psychological aspects of your novels?
Over the years I’ve done a lot of reading into serial killers and profiling - I find the subject fascinating. I’m particularly interested in what motivates people to kill. Is it nature, is it nurture, or is it a bit of both? The issue of motivation is also one that I grapple with as a writer. I believe that getting the psychology right is the key to creating believable characters. This is particularly true when you’re dealing with the bad guys. And it’s such a fine line. Step just an inch over that line and you end up with a pantomime villain rather than a believable character.
6) What does your family think about you writing such dark books?
I passed this question on to my wife and she said that after reading the books she tends to sleep with one eye open for a couple of nights. As for my kids, they’re still young enough to be reading Fairy Tales, so it would take a lot to freak them out. Believe me, some of those stories can get pretty dark.
7) For writers who are just starting out on their ‘novel journey’, what one piece of advice would you give?
The second draft equals the first draft minus ten per cent.

This piece of advice came from Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’, and it’s a gem. All stories can be improved by condensing them down – you need to make every word work to earn its place.
8) What is next for Jefferson Winter?
‘Hush Little Baby’ is coming out in October. This is the second instalment in an eBook series of novellas set during Winter’s FBI days.

‘Prey’, the third full-length Jefferson Winter novel is scheduled for release in early 2015. This time Winter is thrust into the middle of an investigation when he witnesses a murder in a New York diner.
9) You have published two Jefferson novels and a novella in quick succession. Are you a fast writer or have you been writing Jefferson novels for some time?
I do write quickly. When I’m working on a first draft, I aim for 1,500 words a day. Most days I do more, but never less. That’s not to say that there aren’t days when the words don’t come easily. On those days I have been known to stop mid-sentence the second I hit 1,500 words!

In addition, I don’t take breaks between drafts. Instead, I tend to have multiple projects running at the same time and jump from one to the other. I’m currently working on the fourth draft of ‘Prey’ and the fifth draft of ‘Hush Little Baby’. I’m also getting ideas together for the fourth full-length novel, which I’ll be starting in the next couple of weeks.
10) Are you a fan of crime fiction in general? What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you?
I love all sorts of books. There’s nothing better than losing yourself in a good story … and that for me is key, I don’t care what the genre is, the story has to grab me. As for singling out my top three crime books, that’s tough, but here goes…

‘Red Dragon’ by Thomas Harris: This isn’t my favourite Harris book, but I’d argue that it is his most influential. This book introduced Hannibal Lecter and spawned a whole new sub-genre in crime. Even though it was published over thirty years ago, its influence is still being felt today. Incidentally, the TV series is fantastic - I can’t wait for season 3.

‘Killing Floor’ by Lee Child: Every now and again you come across a novel that blows you away. This was one of those books. When I finished it I just wanted to know where I could get hold of the next one. Right now, I’m gutted that I need to wait a whole year for book twenty.

‘The Godfather’ by Mario Puzo: What’s amazing about this book is the way that Puzo turns everything on its head, and in doing so creates one of literature’s most enduring characters. Don Corleone is the hero here, but he’s actually the bad guy. Sheer genius.