Jo's books Her last chance
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The origins of a crime writer

Since I finally ‘came out’ as a crime writer last spring, with the publication of Her Last Chance, the first in the DI Crow crime thriller series, the questions I’ve been asked most by those who know me is, ‘Where did the urge to write crime come from?’ usually followed by ‘What on earth goes on in your head?’ After all, once I yank my leopard print shopping trolley out of the cupboard and head off to the local supermarket, the only crime-busting hero I remotely resemble is Miss Marple.

It made me think, though. When, exactly, did my obsession with crime fiction start? Immediately, my memory took me back to the 2nd January, 1962. I was six years old, and my parents had just treated themselves to a fourteen inch black-and-white TV set. In honour of the occasion I was allowed to stay up late, and we all settled on the sofa. We sat through a news bulletin, a musical interlude, and then, a new drama was announced, and a theme burst out of the tiny set that is ingrained on my memory – a piercing penny whistle and what has become an iconic tune – the first ever episode of Z-Cars.

I could feel my Dad’s excitement, and he whispered, ‘This is going to be good,’ and gave me a hug. Mum made some vaguely disapproving noise and disappeared into the kitchen. My dad and I sat, enthralled. Tuesday nights would never be the same. He had to explain some of the finer points, of course, a tradition that continued for a few years, through episodes of Paul Temple, (‘Who did it, Dad?’ ‘Ticker’ he would reply – I’ve never discovered who Ticker was!) and the Z-Cars spinoff, ‘Softly Softly’.

As I grew older, Sunday afternoon matinees with Basil Rathbone sent me off to discover Conan Doyle, while Margaret Rutherford introduced me to Agatha Christie, and an irresistible desire to read the real stories behind the movies. The books that inspired those movies were a revelation, and discussing them with my father was a habit that continued through the decades of Dorothy L Sayers (Peter Wimsey), R D Wingfield (A touch of Frost), Colin Dexter (Morse), and many others, both of us watching the TV programmes and reading the books.

I went on to become a psychologist, with a particular interest in Criminology, and taught in prisons for a time. But all the while, the conversations with my father continued. Crime fiction bonded us together, and the bond continued until his death in 2015. He died before I became a published crime author, and left me his extensive collection of crime fiction books and DVDs.

There are those who say that TV and film adaptations are a good way to ruin a fantastic book. In some cases I can’t disagree, but for me, those TV series and movies were the kick start into a life of reading and studying both crime and crime fiction and, far more importantly, the close relationship with my father that started with a penny whistle on a tinny, monochrome TV that started more than sixty years ago.

My third offering in the DI Crow series, ‘A Fatal Pact’, is out on 17th January 2024, and I’m currently working on the fourth. I hope my father, wherever he is, would enjoy my contribution to the genre, and have plenty of points for one of our late night discussions!

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