Welcome to my stop on the Blood Rites blog tour! As we celebrate the release of third book in the DI Paul Snow series, which was published on 9th November, I’m delighted to welcome author, David Stuart Davies to my blog today for a Q&A session. But first, let’s take a look at what the book is about…
Blood Rites is a Northern thriller set in Huddersfield, Yorkshire in the 1980s featuring Detective Inspector Paul Snow. DI Paul Snow has a personal secret. He is a homosexual but is desperate to keep it secret, knowing it would finish his career in the intolerant police force of the time. As this personal drama unfolds, he is involved in investigating a series of violent murders. All the victims appear to be chosen at random and to have no connection with each other. After the fourth murder, Snow is removed from the case for not finding the killer but continues investigating the matter privately. Gradually, Paul manages to determine a link between the murder victims, but this places his own life in great danger. Can Paul unmask the killer as he wrestles with his own demons?
For those who haven’t read Blood Rites, can you tell us a little bit about the book and where the idea came from?
To answer this question, I will quote an online review of the book:
This is the book that takes all the Police Procedural Novels stereo-types, rips them up and throws them in the bin.
Set in 1985, when being gay was still seen as being taboo in the Police, the main protagonist is Detective Inspector Paul Snow.
Paul is gay, and to protect his professional “credibility” he keeps it to himself. In fact, to protect himself, he has been celibate for 10 years.
As the story starts Snow is dating a recently divorced Headmistress from a local Catholic school; and to convince himself he has changed, he even sleeps with her.
If this book hadn’t been so well written some people might find this story line insulting, but it isn’t. It highlights the struggles people had and the book is set right in a time when bigotry was rife.
The book starts with a killer washing a blood-soaked knife in his kitchen sink, and then regresses 3 months to the start of a killing spree.
Whilst Snow is on a date with Matilda, the Headmistress, a man is mugged and the mugger is later knocked over and killed in a hit-and-run. The mystery killer of the novel loves the instant karma that has served justice, and a seed is planted.
It’s not long before the killer starts his spree.
Snow and his team investigate the first murder, the victim is a drunk wife beater.
As more murders take place Snow and his team make very little headway. Pressure is starting to mount on Snow; both professionally to catch the killer, and personally as he struggles with his sexuality and a conflict in his relationship with Matilda.
The plot moves quickly, and realistically, showing the investigation from Snows perspective. His frustrations with the lack of a break in the case multiply with every new victim. The only apparent connection between the victims is the manner in which they are killed.
When he does begin to realise there is a connection he has no proof of it, leading to more frustrations.
The book crashes to an unbelievable climax that actually had me utter an expletive out loud, luckily, I was sitting in the lounge on my own. What an ending. I honestly cannot think of another one like it.
That gives you a flavour, I think. I knew that the this book had to have a terrific climax and that came to me first. I also like the idea that all the victims off the murderer were murdered for different reasons…. And yet the same reason. Oooh, work that one out! Read the book
Will there be a Book 4, and what’s next for DI Paul Snow?
Blood Rites is the third novel in the DI Paul Snow series and it places him in a situation where he is alone and confronts the murderous zealot he was pursuing throughout the investigation. Snow is a character I’ve grown very fond of and would be reluctant to let go – but on the other hand they often say you should leave people wanting more! At the risk of sounding like a trailer for a 1940s B-Movie cliff hanger, you’ll have to read Blood Rites to find out where this leaves Paul and whether there will be a fourth novel in the series… (to be continued – or not!).
Can you tell us the best and worst thing about being an author?
For me, it’s all wonderful actually! I’m incredibly lucky to be able to spend my days creatively, in the company of my imaginary friends, which is something I’d always wanted to do, right from being a child when I wrote short stories to read out to my patient and supportive Mum. Sharing stories and ideas with others, and hopefully entertaining readers a little, is a great joy. Art and culture play a hugely important place in people’s well-being, and to be a small part of that is amazing. To me it is still the greatest joy to see something I have written on the computer in my office at home in a published form and know it will be read by others.
The worst thing? It’s hardly terrible but sitting at a keyboard can be quite lonely – writing is a solitary occupation. I don’t mind it too much, as I’m an only child and learned how to keep myself occupied without relying on others. However, as a sociable chap I really miss being surrounded by work colleagues, developing work-based friendships, the daily, silly office banter, and being part of a team with a shared purpose (I was a teacher before I left to pursue writing). When my wife returns from work, exhausted and seeking the peace and tranquility of home, she’ll find me gabbling at her non-stop because some days I’ll have spoken to no-one other than a fictional private eye, an Amazon courier and a few unsolicited call centre workers trying to sell me a new kitchen.
To compensate for this solitude writers have to seek out opportunities to meet people and experience new things to stay inspired and connected.
Virtual networking is marvellous, particular for those of us based outside London, which is the centre of the UK publishing industry, but you can’t beat face to face friendships. That’s why being a member of the Crime Writers Association is so important to me – meeting other authors, discussing common challenges and supporting others through writing crises, celebrating your friends’ successes and sometimes making a connection which, somewhere down the line, may lead to a new writing job, are all vital. I have to thank a lot of very kind friends who have put me in touch with other people, sometimes leading to work, sometimes leading to lasting friendships. But none of that is possible unless you get out there and show your face, whether it’s through attending literature festivals, a writers’ group, a readers’ group or a professional body like the CWA – a bit of advice which anticipates Question 5 below.
‘Networking’ is a horrible term but sadly you do have to sell yourself and develop a personal brand. A lot of this can be done online – if you’re good at it, that is! – you can make people notice you if you have something to say, but personal contact is still so important in building trust and genuine partnerships. You can be the most amazing writer in the world but, if nobody knows you exist, you’ll remain unpublished. If you get out there, even though your talent may be only mediocre, you may be offered work if people like you and buy into what makes you special.
If you don’t attend the party, nobody will offer you a drink. If you don’t but the raffle ticket you’re not going to win the prize.
Unfortunately it’s the way of the world, which makes it so hard for shy people, young writers and just anyone generally trying to break into the world of work in whatever field. This can be an insidious vicious circle, perpetuating more of the same ‘people like us’ cliques and not allowing new talent to break through. I don’t know the answer to that, except to say be yourself, work hard and be nice to people – not creepily nice, stick to your principle, but just kind. Kindness goes a long way.
What book, if any, have you read that you wish you had written?
Well, my favourite novel is The Hound of the Baskervilles. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have been responsible for the greatest detective ever, Sherlock Holmes? Maybe not! It would mean being Arthur Conan Doyle, ergo now 158 years old, or dead, a man who really wanted to be remembered for his historical novels when all the public wanted to hear about was Sherlock Holmes. He is forever shackled to Sherlock though he did become more accepting of this as he grew older, and, I hope, would have been tolerant of those of us who follow in the great man’s footsteps. I came across The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was eleven and was the first spark that set me off on the road to be a writer – a writer of crime fiction. I still re-read the book about once a year and never tire of it.
As an accomplished author, do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Thank you for the ‘accomplished’! ‘Published’ is more accurate. Probably the only difference between me and anyone out there who identifies with the label ‘aspiring author’ is that I’ve finished a lot of books and have been lucky enough to see some of them published.
Notice the emphasis on ‘finished’ – what I’d say to anyone starting out as a writer is ‘finish it’, advice I was given by my tutor at Leeds University. If you feel like listening to me say more, you can hear my thoughts on the topic on the Royal Literary Fund website here:
If you write fast, instinctively, you’ll soon have words down on the page. You will have finished a first draft, however bad you might consider it. It doesn’t matter – the only person who will see it is you. Spend too much time thinking rather than doing, editing as you go and being self-critical and you’ll get bogged down, lose confidence, feel discouraged and probably never complete it. Be brave, take risks, but finish it – then, and only then, can you begin to shape it into something you can share with others.
A massive thank you to David for taking the time to answer my questions and providing such thoughtful and informative answers!
About the Author:
David Stuart Davies is an author, playwright and editor. His fiction includes six novels featuring his wartime detective Johnny Hawke, Victorian puzzle solver artist Luther Darke, and seven Sherlock Holmes novels – the latest being Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Legacy (2016). His non-fiction work includes Starring Sherlock Holmes, detailing the film career of the Baker Street sleuth. David has also penned a Northern Noir trilogy of gritty crime novels set in Yorkshire in the 1980s: Brothers in Blood, Innocent Blood and Blood Rites.
David is regarded as an authority on Sherlock Holmes and is the author of two Holmes plays, Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act and SherlockHolmes: The Death and Life, which are available on audio CD. He has written the Afterwords for all the Collector’s Library Holmes volumes, as well as those for many of their other titles.
He is a committee member of the Crime Writers’ Association and edits their monthly publication Red Herrings. His collection of ghost and horror stories appeared in 2015, championed by Mark Gatiss who said they were ‘pleasingly nasty.’
David is General Editor of Wordsworth’s Mystery & Supernatural series and a past Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. He has appeared at many literary festivals and the Edinburgh Fringe performing his one man presentation The Game’s Afoot – an evening with Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle. He was recently made a member of The Detection Club.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DStuartDavies @DStuartDavies
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