Throughout most of my latest book 23 Cold Cases the main character, retired murder specialist Mac Maguire, spends virtually all of his time in bed. Why did I write a crime book with this in the plot and what were the challenges?
When I started writing the book I must admit that I had doubts about this plot line and considered scrapping it more than once. Why? Mostly because it was difficult to come up with a sustained story that would keep readers interested and wanting to turn the next page. There’s also the fact that I had to include the details of many crimes, quite a few in some detail, and at times I began to wonder if I’d have any plot lines left for future books!
So why did Mac Maguire have to be in bed?
Mac is already disabled having a chronic pain condition and at the end of the previous book The Blackness he injures his back (I won’t say how as this would be a spoiler). I had a similar soft tissue injury after a car crash a few years back and ended up in bed for six weeks. It was a truly miserable six weeks too as all I could do was lie there and be in pain. As I always try to be as true to life as I can, especially about Mac’s disability, I just couldn’t have him shrugging off his injuries too quickly so six weeks in bed it had to be. I had also considered setting the book after he’d come out of bed rest but, if I’m honest, the challenge of writing a book where the main protagonist is flat on his back most of the time was, in the end, too good to turn down.
What were the challenges?
The number one aim of all my books is to entertain and provide readers with a crime puzzle that they’ll enjoy reading and hopefully won’t solve too soon. So, in order to do this, I had to invent two new characters. There’s Amrit Singh who is brought in by Mac’s daughter Brigid to look after him. She’s a retired nurse and also a big fan of TV crime and detective programmes. When Mac’s chewing on a case there are times when he likes to bounce ideas off someone else and Amrit fulfills this function as well as her being able to ask questions about the cases. Through this device I could give the reader much more information. I was surprised when Amrit started to grow and become her own person. She’s now one of my favourite characters.
Without some ‘on the ground’ investigation a crime book would be very dull indeed so another new character, DS Kate Grimsson, did most of the running around in the book. Writing is a very strange thing sometimes. Originally Kate was just a very small character who was only there to explain why the original investigation failed but she’s somehow become a major character in the book and will certainly feature in the next one too. I know a fair bit about her – she’s half Icelandic and half Irish, she looks strange having pale skin and flame red hair and she has a temper. I have no idea where she came from but I find that I want to write more about her because I want to know more about her myself and I hope my readers will too. Kate teams up with young Tommy Nugent and they are not short of action in the book.
What do I think about the idea now?
It was certainly a plot line that stretched me in a number of ways, forcing me to introduce new characters and plot lines, but I see it now as a totally positive experience. Whatever our failings or disabilities I really believe that we can all contribute in our lives as indeed Mac does in this book. Even though he’s flat on his back and in pain he can still crack a case with the best of them.
However, the only judgment that means anything is what you as readers think of the book. So if you do decide to spent a little of your hard earned cash on the book please leave a review and let me know what you think.