Recovering from injuries sustained in a road collision, DI Bliss is taken directly from hospital to a fresh crime scene and ordered to investigate the vicious stabbing and murder of Jade Coleman.
When Bliss realises the victim had reported being stalked, and that two of his own team had been drafted in to take her statement, he is given the unenviable task of interviewing both of his detectives.
Increasingly it appears that the stalker may be their killer. However, several other people soon become part of the team’s suspect list.
Bliss also finds himself being questioned about his own past, and has to battle to defend himself whilst continuing to investigate the murder.
Soon more questions arise.
Why would anybody target Jade Coleman?
Why are the team unable to identify the victim’s close female friend?
And why did Jade recently leave her job without any explanation?
With his work cut out, and his team under pressure, can Bliss solve the case before more victims show up?
Or will the shadows of his own past reach out and drag him under before he can succeed?
Guest Post – HOW MY CHARACTERS ROLL
We authors do love a ‘five star’ rating. It helps our average rating for each book, and that full array of stars certainly attracts the eye. But there are things about reviews that I enjoy more than the rating, because to me they suggest I have done my job in getting across to the reader exactly what I was hoping for during the writing and editing process. So, when I see positive comments about the reader’s sense of being in the scene, in the moment, in the story, that really pleases me enormously. As does any comment which expresses appreciation of particular characters – perhaps especially so in some cases.
When I look back now on Bad To The Bone and the first outing for DI Jimmy Bliss, I wish I could go back and change a couple of things. One particular moment from his past has caused more controversy than any other, with a few readers claiming they refused to read any further Bliss books because of it. Personally, I think that’s going too far. People change as they get older. They are human, therefore they are prone to error and misjudgement. I like to think I have allowed Bliss to grow and develop as a person, not only from the point in his life at which we first encounter him, but from his younger days, too.
There is no doubt that Bliss can be belligerent, stubborn, and single-minded. But he has no time for fools or anyone who gets in his way when there is a major crime to solve, and it is his fierce determination that ultimately often results in a successful investigation. Bliss has his flaws, some of which he has worked on to improve. But again, being human he is bound to be flawed, otherwise he would be one-dimensional.
Anyone who has followed Jimmy Bliss through the first three books, and now into a fourth, will, I hope, agree that he is a man who does his very best at all times. A man who continues to overcome adversity, a man driven to find justice on behalf of victims and their families, but also a man haunted by his past and determined to put the worst of it behind him. Bliss is loyal, dependable, and if his aggressive approach occasionally troubles the minds of some readers, then I can live with that. DI Bliss is old school, and genuinely believes old school methods work best. He can be faulted for many things, but not for having no heart.
Unlike Bliss, who was born and raised in London’s east-end and has since twice been posted to the Peterborough Major Crimes team, his partner, DS Penny Chandler, is a local woman looking to make her way in a challenging role. Chandler has her own personal challenges, but is a much better balanced person than her boss. She is his voice of reason, the rock he clings to at times of great strain, the person who both mothers him and motivates him at the same time. Yet, beneath it all, Chandler is more like Bliss than she is ever willing to admit. Facing everything with a calm, reasoned, methodical approach, Chandler has based much of her career on the things she learned from working with Bliss. And although a ‘will they-won’t they’ undercurrent exists between the pair, neither appear willing to chance ruining the friendship and partnership they have. I hope Chandler is seen as a likeable character who gives as good as she gets, who can be ruthless yet understanding, a woman without ego who loves a job she happens to be very good at.
My action-adventure novels, Scream Blue Murder and Cold Winter Sun, have allowed me to introduce a character in Mike Lynch whose initial persona was one of a troubled man, wallowing in self-pity and thinking only of himself and the bad times he was enduring. I knew it was a huge risk creating another character whom readers might not take to at first, but the story arc for the first book required Mike to find more and more reasons to leave his current self behind, and to find the man he had once been, buried beneath all the current baggage. I knew the way Mike was going to develop, so it was easy for me to like him right from the off, but the challenge was to make my readers like him as the first book wore on, and to then delight in the change when book two came around. The vast majority of readers have done precisely that, for which I am immensely grateful.
But as much as I like Mike and his good friend, Terry Cochran, it is the supplementary characters in these books who have been the most fun to work with. I particularly like two henchmen in Scream Blue Murder who go by the names of Rhino and Haystacks, their quirky partnership often making me chuckle as I wrote their lines. From Cold Winter Sun it was a toss-up for me between the Lincoln County Sheriff, Dwight Crozier, and a Native American fixer and proud Apache warrior, Joe Kane. I really managed to wear their skins – as I like to describe it – during their scenes, and in fact a great deal more of those scenes were trimmed in order to streamline the book. I also took a shine to two thugs from Nevada, who appear initially as ‘Goatee’ and ‘Snakeskin’, due to their appearance. Because of the setting, the storyline and the type of book it was, I was able to have fun with these characters even though the situation they were all in was deadly serious. The idea – as always – is for them to come alive on the page, and many readers have told me this is what I achieved.
Degrees of Darkness, my only dark, psychological crime book so far, provided me with the opportunity of writing three main characters.
First, there is Frank Rogers, an ex-cop who learns that his wife and son have been murdered, his daughter abducted. Tofind the right level of strength and determination necessary for this character to overcome his grief and instead fight to hunt down the man who has his daughter, I looked within myself and tried to work out how I might react in that same situation. This was helped by my choosing a family name in ‘Rogers’ as it kept me focussed. I genuinely found myself trying to feel as if I were experiencing the full range of emotions Frank went through, and at times it was extremely dark and uninviting.
Then there was his twelve-year-old daughter, Laura. For inspiration here I used my own young daughter, and I can tell you there were some emotional scenes which on more than one occasion forced me to stop writing. Writing a young girl, who is existing in terror, constantly on a knife-edge with the man who abducted her and who now wants her for some unfathomable but clearly horrific reason, was not easy. At times it was unbearable, and on other occasions I wondered if I was doing her justice. Laura was probably the most difficult character I have written so far, but I like to think I got there in the end.
Finally, there is the deviant himself. By far the sickest, most despicable character I have ever written, I also knew that as the book went on I had to reveal the torments and horrors that drove him. I believe there are purely evil people in the world, whose back story offers no indication as to why they ended up as monsters. However, I wanted my monster to have experienced life in a way that might explain why he became what he is – not for the reader to accept or seek to explain away his awful crimes, but simply to understand that his evil did not exist in a vacuum. I have since read several reviews in which people commented they felt a little sorry for the man, despite the truly wicked things he had done. To me that suggested I’d done my job properly.
Balancing the three characters in Degrees of Darkness was a challenge. In the case of Frank, it was impossible for me to show the funny and happy-go-lucky side of his nature. Here was a man in utmost torment at losing one child, fighting to save the other. I could only portray him as such, and as a father who loved his surviving child so much that he would risk anything – including moving into the darkness himself. Laura’s main job was to stay alive, and she had to learn how to read the man she knew had killed her mother and brother. She endured several traumatic moments herself with the man she thought of as being ‘the dark’, but her will to survive was fierce. As for the man who was the dark, his driving force was a perfectly reasonable course of action inside his own head, but he also experienced mood swings so severe he became two entirely different extremes at times. I have to say, though he was a very sick man indeed, I enjoyed creating him and enjoyed writing every scene in which he appeared.
For me, great characters can often rescue a less than exciting story. I try to get both aspects right, but I work really hard at making sure my characters don’t let me down.
About the author:
Tony J Forder is the author of the critically acclaimed, internationally best-selling crime thriller series featuring detectives Jimmy Bliss and Penny Chandler. The first three books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, and If Fear Wins, are now joined by The Reach of Shadows, published in January 2019.
Tony’s dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, featuring ex-detective Frank Rogers, was also published by Bloodhound Books. This is a stand-alone novel. Another book that was written as a stand-alone was Scream Blue Murder. This was published in November 2017, and received praise from many, including fellow authors Mason Cross, Matt Hilton and Anita Waller. Before it had even been published, Tony had decided to write a sequel, and Cold Winter Sun was published in November 2018.
Tony lives with his wife in Peterborough, UK, and is now a full-time author.
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