Fresh Blood

Name: Col Bury

Title of Book: My Kind of Justice

'...a stunning debut which delivered on every page.'

Someone is hunting down the hoodie wearing ne’er-do-wells in Manchester and killing them. DI Jack Striker of the Force Major Incident Team is assigned to the case. Together with his team he has to delve into areas and characters he thought he’d left behind. His own youth was mis-spent but he’s moved on and put it behind him - until now.

Col Bury’s debut novel is long overdue. His name is well known on ezines for his punchy short stories and the years spent editing the now defunct ThrillsKillsnChills blog. These years of experience have honed his craft and for a debut novelist his prose and sentence structure is first class.

Throughout ‘My Kind of Justice’ I was struck by the strong sense of place, excellent dialogue, and tight plotting. While I guessed the killer’s identity around the half way mark, I was made to doubt my suspicions and for me, that is a true sign of an author’s skill in keeping the reader guessing.

DI Jack Striker is a wonderfully drawn lead and is ably supported by Lauren Collinge and the wonderful Bardsley whose lack of political correctness lightened the mood at just the right times. Striker’s police nemeses of Cunningham and Stockley were ably drawn but for me the stand-out support characters were the miscreants targeted by the ‘Hoodie Hunter’. Bury encapsulated their personalities with rich earthy dialogue and recognisable characteristics.

I loved the moral ambiguity of the police hunting someone who was removing the worst echelons of society and in their own way actually lowering crime statistics. While not being an advocate of public floggings myself, I almost wanted Striker to not catch the Hoodie Hunter as the streets were safer with him around.

‘My Kind of Justice’ is a stunning debut which delivered on every page.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) What drew you to write crime fiction?
I started off reading horror - Herbert, King, Koontz - but picked up an old US crime novel called ‘Switch’ by William Bayer, and absolutely loved it and my head was turned to crime, so to speak. This, coupled with the fact I grew up in a Manchester suburb, meant I was pretty much surrounded by criminality. The motivations of criminals, the risks they took and decisions they made, fascinated me, and I read a lot of true crime, too. I ended up working with offenders to help try and prevent crime, so it seemed natural to write about crime.
2) There is a strong theme of vigilantism running throughout ‘My Kind of Justice’. While you do address the rights and wrongs of such actions, do you think there is ever a case for vigilante actions?
I would never condone vigilantism in real life, but this doesn’t mean I don’t understand why someone at the end of their tether would embark upon it as a consequence of, say, being badly let down by the justice system. However, taking the law into your own hands invariably leads to more criminality, so it can’t be right… can it?
3) The criminal activity and police procedure are all expertly drawn. How did you research these elements?
Thank you. I consume a lot of crime books, programmes and films, and have worked with violent offenders. Plus, I know a lot of cops!
4) Your dialogue sparkles despite being earthy or even industrial on the odd occasion. How much do you consider realism over protecting delicate sensibilities when writing the more sweary exchanges?
Thanks again. Violent and unbalanced characters do not say, “Oh crumbs, Slasher, those chappies from the west side are running toward us with guns, so we jolly well best get our damn acts together and give those rotters a ruddy good hiding.” The categorical fact is they swear… a lot. Much more than is portrayed in most crime novels, but you obviously have to dilute the expletives, so you don’t lose too many readers. However, I would feel like I’m selling out if I didn’t use some swearing because it’s real and I’m all for realism in fiction, if that’s not too paradoxical!
5) Manchester plays a huge part in the novel and becomes a character in its own right. Was this intentional and if so why?
When I worked with New York agent, Nat Sobel I learned a lot about the process and, though it didn’t quite work out, one of the things he pointed out was making Manchester a character in itself. I’d also heard Chris Simms saying the same thing and I love his writing. Since I’ve been brought up around Manchester and always worked here, it was the obvious thing to do, especially since it’s such an interesting historical city that’s booming with the vibrancy of ‘the new’, yet everywhere you turn the signs of ‘the old’ are still present.
6) You’re also a renowned short story writer and spent many years editing an ezine promoting short stories and flash fiction. Which medium do you prefer to both write and read?
The lifelong ambition was to become a novelist and I view the short story writing as an invaluable part of my apprenticeship in that it taught me to make every word count. I still enjoy writing and reading short stories, though prefer the novel, just. Obviously the time to write and read a short is much less so they are more appealing in that sense - I’ll always flit between the two.
7) Can you tell us about your journey from aspiring author to published author and the benefits and drawbacks of editing Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers?
I played with writing at the start and school mate, David Barber and I used to swap amateurish short stories we’d penned then discuss them and other ideas. In my early twenties, I briefly embarked on a writing correspondence course and received enough encouragement from my tutor to spur me on. I entered comps and submitted children’s stories and was rejected over and over again. I chipped away at two novels in between work, marriage and two wonderful children, but I hit brick walls twice at 41,000 words. I was still playing at it really and it wasn’t until thriller author Matt Hilton published half a dozen of my stories on Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers - and real readers began praising my fiction - that I started to actually feel remotely like a writer. I’d also joined Writers’ News Talkback forum and mixed with other writers on there, winning a few of their monthly flash fiction challenges and slowly my confidence grew enough for me publish two short story collections on Amazon – MANCHESTER 6 and THE COPS OF MANCHESTER, and they are still being (thankfully) very well received.

Regarding TKnC, I loved reading and editing short stories from all over the world and studying the different styles and discovering what worked and what didn’t, and why, then offering constructive feedback when necessary. It was a pleasure to help other writers and, off the top of my head, I can think of three writers whose stories were first published there and have gone on to become novelists – Luca Veste, Graham Smith and little old me. It definitely enhanced my own short stories and put me on the right track.
8) What’s your writing process, do you work to an outline or just start with a blank page and see where the story goes?
It’s pretty random really. Sometimes I have the germ of an idea and run with it based on a couple of notes scrawled down on a scrap of paper, then invariably the ending seems to come naturally somehow (it’s just the ‘tricky middle’ then!). Other times (and this is better technique) I’ll make a few pages of notes on an A4 pad and, as I write, I make notes in capitals or different coloured font as I go, and try to keep pushing forward. As the manuscript grows, I write a précis of each chapter in the A4 pad so I can refer to it to remind me. I rarely plan ahead outline-style. It’s more like organised chaos!
9) What two tips would you offer to someone starting their writing journey?
Ease the solitude of writing (and reading), preferably every day, by…

…joining an online writers group, where you can ‘chat’ with like-minded people, enter comps and get constructive feedback.

…and attend writing events in order to build up industry contacts and become inspired enough to keep you focussed on learning the craft and gradually finding your voice therein and honing your talent.
10) Which three crime novels have left a lasting impression on you?
‘Switch’ - William Bayer (psychological procedural with a jaw-dropping twist).

‘Relentless’ - Simon Kernick (pacy, exciting, suspenseful).

‘Dead Men’s Dust’ - Matt Hilton (action thriller with a truly memorable serial killer).

Aw, can I have four? Forgot ‘Silence of the Lambs’!

Thanks so much for having me.