David Jackson is the author of Pariah, his debut novel which came out last year. His new book The Helper has just come out. Both are crime thrillers with an edge, delivered with a panache and style akin to Lee Child or Simon Kernick. A review of The Helper will appear here soon, but we also had the chance to ask a few questions of David himself…
Can you tell us what The Helper is about?
Sure. One of the things I set out to do in my novels is to put someone in a huge dilemma – one which doesn’t always have a straightforward resolution. In the case of The Helper, Detective Doyle is offered anonymous help in the form of clues to solve a series of murders. The catch is that he’s not allowed to tell anyone about the assistance he’s getting. So the question for Doyle is whether to accept the help or not. If he rejects the offer, he will have nothing to go on, and people will undoubtedly die. On the other hand, if he makes the pact, he may fail to interpret the clues correctly and people will still die, with the added problem that Doyle will have concealed knowledge that might have been useful to others in finding the killer. The book is about what Doyle decides to do, and the consequences it has for him.
This is the follow up to Pariah. Did you always envisage writing a series with the character of Callum Doyle?
Yes, I always wanted to do a series. My hope is that readers, having invested in Doyle and the other characters, will want to continue to follow their lives. As time goes on, we will learn a lot more about these central characters, with quite a few surprises to come!
Your novels are set in New York, yet you live in the less fashionable North of England. What prompted you to write in that setting?
I think the simple answer is that New York suited the type of story I wanted to tell. I needed a crowded place where the pace of life is frenetic, where the cops carry guns, and where a high body count does not raise eyebrows. The quiet part of England in which I live simply does not fit the bill. It’s also true to say that most of the crime fiction I read and enjoy is by US authors, many of whom have had a big influence on my writing. New York in particular has always held a great fascination for me. It’s such an iconic and exciting city, and I’ll read or watch anything set there.
Your books are quite cinematic in nature, are you influenced by film when writing?
I think much of modern genre fiction is influenced by film and television. Gone are the days of long descriptive passages about the weather or the geography of the setting. Readers, like movie viewers, expect to be gripped throughout, especially in crime and thriller novels. They want the story to move along, or they get bored. To an extent, I have taken this a step further than many other authors by writing my novels in the present tense, in the same way that screenplays are written in the present. This gives them a much more immediate feel, adding to the pace.
Have you always wanted to write?
Actually, no. I’m probably one of a small number of published authors who had no burning ambitions to write fiction when young. My epiphany came about ten years or so ago, when I took writing up as a hobby to pass the time, discovered that I liked it and had some talent for it, and then went for it!
What was the best piece of advice you received when starting off with your writing career?
Probably that persistence is crucial. Getting published is all about getting the right piece of work in front of the right pair of eyes at the right time. A tiny minority of authors strike it lucky straight away, but most of us don’t. You have to keep writing, and you have to keep sending your writing out. If your work is any good, it’ll eventually reach someone who loves it as much as you do.
If you could name one book which inspired you to write, what would it be?
I don’t think I could name one. I think it has to be the sum total of all the books I’ve read that has equipped me to be a writer. I aspire to be better than the bad ones and as good as the brilliant ones.
What are your future plans?
Book number three in the Callum Doyle series has been written and is currently undergoing edits, and I’ve made a start on book four. I’ve also got several events coming up, including CrimeFest in Bristol and the Theakstons Crime Festival in Harrogate, so I’m going to be busy!