No matter how successful a series of crime novels is, at some point it makes sense to start over, create something new and refresh your creativity. For British crime author Tony J Forder, that time has come. His DI Bliss crime thriller series has become very popular with readers, who enjoy the author’s careful balance between psychological crime and touches of dark humour, but Tony has just launched a new series. The setting has shifted from grey and gritty Peterborough to rural Wiltshire, and we’re about to meet his new detective character, DS Royston Chase. The crimes? Well, they’re some of the most brutal imaginable.
With his latest novel, The Huntsmen, now on the shelves, we decided to sit down with Tony to find out more about Chase, Wiltshire and his inspiration.
What are crime fiction lovers going to love about The Huntsmen?
I think crime lovers will find the storyline engrossing and compelling, even while feeling somewhat disgusted along the way. The heart of the story is as dark as humans can be, but hopefully the effect is lessened by the two main characters. This is a book that could have been graphic in nature, but I wanted to lead readers to it and have them rely on their imaginations.
You’ve already had success with your Bliss novels – what made you decide to start a new series?
There are eight novels and a prequel novella in the DI Jimmy Bliss series. I still enjoy revisiting those characters, but the truth is that Bliss is approaching retirement age – and while he still has much to give, I wanted a new series to be up and running by the time Bliss took on his last investigation. Also, when the storyline for The Huntsmen came to me, it didn’t feel like a good fit for Bliss and so it felt like the perfect time to try something new.
How did you conceive of your new lead character, Royston Chase, and what sets him apart from your previous creation?
Royston Chase is different from Bliss in that he is a happily married family man, whose only real issues stem from an accident that left him with a brain injury which causes him to lose his social filter at times. Where the two characters are alike is in their determination and desire to see justice meted out. From the outset, though, I had to make sure that when reading this book, my Bliss fans didn’t yearn for Jimmy – and that proved to be the case.
How about Chase’s police colleague Claire Laney, how did you develop her?
Claire Laney came to me fully formed – a one-time DI now demoted back to DC, desperate to retire and no longer willing to play by the rules. Readers often mention the scene in which she and Chase meet, with many of them howling with laughter – as I’d intended, I should add. But we see throughout the book that Claire still has what it takes to be a great copper. Again, Claire had to be completely different to DS Penny Chandler from the Bliss series, and she’s certainly that.
What made you choose Wiltshire as a setting? It doesn’t crop up very often in crime fiction.
My Bliss books are based in Peterborough where I now live, so I needed it to be far away from here. I chose Wiltshire because it’s a place I know well, having had family living there for the past 30-odd years. I needed a rural setting, but one with strong ties to local county HQ stations (Swindon and Devizes) so the eastern edge of the county just felt right. Although, for reasons which become clear as the book progresses, I invented the small village of Little Soley where Chase is stationed, its location right on the Wiltshire-Berkshire border was always in my mind.
Who are the criminals and what crimes are they up against?
The bad guys in The Huntsmen mainly stem from the upper echelons of British society; people of wealth and influence. There’s an opening prologue of sorts, but at the end of the first actual chapter the reader will be hit between the eyes with the type of crimes the police are up against here. For sure it’s the kind of gut-wrenching crimes the establishment will do anything to cover up. Operation Yewtree gets a mention, which should inform the potential reader, also. Hopefully my touch is light enough not to put readers off because of the subject matter, because few of the abusive acts make it onto the page – and those that do don’t linger and are sensitively written. There’s no exploitation here, other than that which is perpetrated by the real villains.
What are some of the themes you want to explore in the new series, and why?
I’m not a writer of social or political themes, as such. However, when you write about crimes you will inevitably touch upon them. My works have included stories about people trafficking, serial killers, county lines drug gangs, the use of the Dark Web to facilitate deviant desires, but there are also cover ups and plain old revenge motives, too. I write to both inform and entertain, but have no desire to inflict my own ideologies on my readers.
How and why you became a crime fiction author?
I started writing short stories as a child, and had some publishing success a few decades ago, especially with Pan Books and in magazines. Back then I was very much into dark fantasy and horror, but segued across to crime via the first two Hannibal Lecter novels. I held down normal jobs until 2017, and shortly afterwards made the switch to become a full-time writer.
What other writers, reading and/or crime shows inspires you?
My favourite author for the past couple of decades and more is Michael Connelly, in particular his Harry Bosch novels. I’m inspired by great crime writing, and for me he’s the best. The Bosch TV series is superb, but I am also a huge fan of NYPD Blue, and the various Morse incarnations. The two series featuring DCI Colin Sutton played by Martin Clunes were fascinating due to their accurate portrayal of procedure.
What’s next for Tony J Forder?
Coming up for me I have set myself a target of finishing the current work in progress which is the next Bliss novel, then writing the second DS Chase book. After that I would like to write a tenth Bliss novel, the third Chase, and to complete a trilogy of my Mike Lynch action-adventure thriller series, though I have no idea in which order. Having written two standalones, I won’t rule out writing another if the right idea comes along.
We bring you this article with the support of our partners in crime, Spare Nib Press. You can find out more about Tony J Forder and his books here.