CIS: My classics by Luke Delaney

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For 16 years, Luke Delaney was a member of the Metropolitan Police in London, mainly in CID. He worked in some of the roughest areas of South London, investigating everything from gangland violence through to serial killers. To this day, his identity needs to remain a secret, hence the mysterious photo we have of him.

Though he loved the job, he left due to the low pay and the difficult working conditions, and decided to fulfil his ambition to write a crime novel. Thanks to his profession, he has an inside track on how both the police and the criminals work and his first novel Cold Killing was born in 2013. Since then, his DI Sean Corrigan novels have gone from strength to strength and we’ve also reviewed The Keeper, The Toy Taker and most recently The Jackdaw – those last two gained a five-star ratings here on Crime Fiction Lover.

So, aside from his years of experience as an investigator, what has inspired and influenced Luke Delaney? We asked him to join us for Classics in September and share his favourite classic crime novels…

Brighton Rock

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
I remember being quite shocked when I first read Greene’s 1938 crime novel. I can’t recall what made me start it and I don’t know what I was expecting, but this was not an era when people were writing gritty crime novels, so the deep unpleasantness and realism of the book well and truly caught me out. Greene’s tale brilliantly describes the grimy, trustless, brutal, world of low-life organised crime as it follows the marvellously malignant Pinkie – a teenage hoodlum trying to rise through the ranks of the criminal world. Pinkie’s a shockingly fantastic character – a merciless coward capable of anything to save his own skin. Probably still the best British crime novel ever written and a damn fine film starring a very young Dickie Attenborough who played Pinkie superbly.
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Red Dragon

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
Probably best remembered now as the book that launched Hannibal ‘the cannibal’ Lecter but it so much more that that. This was the novel that made me want to write, although it was many years before I actually got round to it. It tells the tale of the deeply disturbed and isolated Francis Dolarhyde – a disfigured, muscular giant who seeks acceptance into the society he hates by slaughtering entire families in their homes and then doing unmentionable things to the mother. It’s a brilliant, troubling story that follows FBI Special Agent Will Graham as he agonisingly closes in on Dolarhyde before he can kill again. Harris’ background in crime journalism comes pouring through and gives this tremendous book a huge hit of authenticity – which is why it’s so damn scary. Probably the finest serial killer novel ever written.
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Along came a Spider by James Patterson
This was the first Alex Cross book Patterson wrote and is still probably the best. Cross was a great character – an African-American detective with a background in psychology, but most importantly to me, he was believable as a cop. The story is great too, with its bad guy, or so we think, Gary Soneji, a type of schizophrenic, kidnapping young children in a quest to become America’s most feared criminal. The whole thing races along at break-neck speed and really is a model of what a good, modern crime thriller should be all about. I think importantly, as well as being, dare I say, a glossy crime novel, it has a very realistic feel to it and the investigation is entirely convincing – which is why as a cop, I loved it so much as I was hooked on Alex Cross until Patterson rather lost his way, some years later.
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American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Before you all scream at me – yes, I know I’m cheating a bit and that American Psycho is more postmodern satire, but I love it and I’ve run out of true crime novels important to me and this book definitely influenced my writing significantly – especially my first – Cold Killing. The star of the book is undoubtedly the wonderfully shallow, crazy, delusional, vicious Partrick Bateman. I thought it was both brave and brilliant of Ellis to have Bateman’s voice hammering away at us throughout the entire novel – describing in detail to us every ghastly crime he’d committed – real or imagined. My own belief is that Ellis was merely describing the pointless futility of working in Wall Street or the City simply to make more money for people who already have too much, but there’s still plenty of murder and mayhem afoot. I unashamedly took the idea of having the killer talking to us in the first person and used it in Cold Killing, although the things my killer describes are definitely not just fantasies. I couldn’t think of a better way to unnerve and challenge your audience. As for Bateman’s – I guess only Ellis knows for sure.
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