Fresh Blood

Name: Neil White

Title of Book: Fallen Idols

'... a whirlwind of a novel.'

The famous footballer, Henri Dumas, stands in Old Compton Street in London for an assignation when out of the air a sound like a crack of lightning is heard above the street. Seconds later, the footballer is dead, shot through the head. A few days later, another footballer is dead. Shot. And then another…

Returning to Turners Fold to write a feature on the celebrity footballer, David Watts, Jack Garrett is suddenly in the thick of the chase to hunt down this sniper who is targeting some of the most revered and idolised footballers in the country. As Jack Garrett digs up information about his subject, little does he realise that he is about to be embroiled in the manhunt of the decade. And, strangely enough, it all leads back to Turners Fold and a ten year old murder. Soon Jack, helped by DC Laura McGanity, is personally involved and - even his loved ones are in the firing line.

Fallen Idols comes with a strong byline that could seem slightly bold… It informs the reader that “Fans of Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid will be left gasping for more”. Brave indeed! For a writer launching his first novel, it is a very daunting task to be compared to these masters of their craft who have been writing for many years. However, I would say that Neil White certainly gives it a good stab. The action takes off from the word go with the assassination of Henri Dumas, setting the flavour for the rest of this novel.

The writing is fast and furious, giving the action a dazzling pace throughout the book. I did worry where the writer was going to take me - with 500 pages exactly to hold my attention - but I was pleasantly pleased and surprised by the end result. Neil White obviously has a penchant for bringing places to life with in-depth descriptions of London and Liverpool in particular, especially the Molly Moggs pub at the end of Old Compton Street. Even Turners Fold is vividly brought to life. It is, in a way, partly to blame for the consequences of today’s actions - started ten years after the initial murder.

Fallen Idols is a whirlwind of a novel. It would certainly be on my list of recommended books to take with you on a beach holiday, or to wile away the dark hours of a winter’s evening. The actual puzzle doesn’t take much to fathom, however, the breakneck journey getting there is definitely worth taking. And – what about that byline? Did it live up to the claim? I think Mr. White needs a few more books under his belt to be sure - but I would certainly call him a serious contender to match these giants of the crime fiction world in future. So to all their fans… I’d say that Neil White would, indeed, be one to read – for sure!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) As it slowly evolves and increases in popularity, crime fiction seems to be organically sub-dividing into a number of widely diverse categories. Which genre (or sub-genre, even…) of crime novel would you say you write in?
I’m not sure, is the honest answer, as I haven’t purposely written in a sub-genre. The best description I can think of would be “contemporary”, but that probably doesn’t describe Fallen Idols well enough. I don’t have a problem with the tag “mainstream”, as I tried to write a book I would like, not change the world, and I read mainstream crime fiction.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I tend to read standalone more, just because I tend to pick and mix my authors, rather than waiting for a further instalment, and to pick up a series character can be more difficult when, for example, I have read just a couple out of many.
3) Your book features some very specific real locations. Is a sense of place important to you?
The strongest crime fiction has a sense of place, and it is that sense of place that makes it so strong. Would Morse be as good if it was set in, say, Leicester, or would James Lee Burke work as well if the setting was New York rather than the swamps of Louisiana? The place is part of the story, not just where the story happens.
4) Where did the basic idea of killing footballers come from? Is the fact that they are idols for many people important?
The identity of the victims as footballers isn’t a necessary part of the plot. The idea was really more to do with the idea of fame, and what people will do to hang onto it. I chose footballers as they are the epitome of fame and wealth and greed, and their competitive nature makes them ideal for characters who would not tolerate losing.
5) Will we be hearing more from Laura and the other lead characters in the book…?
Yes, the Laura McGanity and Jack Garrett characters will continue, and I am enjoying working more with the characters. Although I am a lawyer by profession, I didn’t like the idea of a lawyer as a main character, as he or she would always be limited by legalities, whereas as a journalist isn’t limited by anything. It gives me all the fun of the crime but without the restrictions a lawyer would face. And as Laura is a detective, by putting them together as characters, there is an inbuilt confict: Laura will look for the truth, whereas Jack will look for the story.
6) Is “Turners Fold” based on a real place? It’s really an important ‘character’ in the story. Is it somewhere that you know well?
I wanted to set Fallen Idols, and future novels, in a typical small Lancashire cotton town, with its cobbles, mills and hills. Although the cotton has long gone, the buildings and terraced streets are still there, and they are packed full of character. I had an idea of what a typical town would be like, but it is drawn most heavily from Great Harwood, just outside Blackburn, although with Burnley’s canal and the hills of the Rossendale valley.
7) Without giving away the plot, which book - yours or by another author - included your favourite plot twist of all time?
Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow is the one that springs straight to mind, as it came right at the end, and took me by surprise.
8) What is your favorite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Mystic River, although maybe for an unusual reason, which is that I haven’t read the book. I chose Mystic River because it is a very good film, with fleshed-out characters, and works well as a work in its own right. Film adaptations of good books tend to disappoint, so if Mystic River is a great film on its own, it must be a great adaptation.
9) Would you describe yourself specifically as a Crime fan and, if so, which classic and current authors do you most admire?
Although I will sometimes venture into other genres, crime fiction is my default choice. I quite enjoy some of the comic crime authors, such as Carl Hiaassen or Christopher Brookmyre, but my only requirement is that it really rushes along so that I don’t have to work hard. I’m a lazy reader, and I want the author to do all the work, so I read like I watch films, lying down and with no mental effort expended.

I tend to veer more towards the American market, purely because it is easier to suspend my disbelief, so I like Harlan Coben and Lee Childs (I know he isn’t American, but he writes American books), but there are great British authors now, and we have moved away from the cosier end of the crime genre.
10) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
Striptease by Carl Hiaassen was a great read, laugh out loud funny, as was Lucky You.

I don’t tend to go back to books once I have finished them, although To Kill A Mockingbird was the only book I have read where I immediately wanted to read it again after I had finished it.