What is there about crime which so fascinates people? I love the suspense of a cracking whodunnit, and today I welcome author VALERIE LAWS to discuss her next book. Watch out you alpha males – she’s decided it’s time some men got murdered!
One of the perks of being a crime novelist is choosing to kill without fear of a criminal record. Having written an award-winning and fairly successful crime novel, THE ROTTING SPOT (‘a darkly intriguing debut’, Val McDermid), I then began to write the follow-up, THE OPERATOR, with this knotty question in mind. All of us fantasise (oh come on, I bet you do!) about bumping off, or at least in some way doing down those who have wronged us. The nasty belittling boss. The school bully who made our childhood a hiding-in-the-toilets misery. And of course, the Ex. Plenty of writers have turned their pain into gain by writing Mr Wrong, very cathartic, and unlike Revenge Porn, not illegal. I’ve read thinly disguised revenge murders of exes in colleagues’ books, and I’ve heard fellow poets at literary events shamelessly murdering in verse the image of an ex who sometimes is right there in the audience. Perhaps even more of a punishment, reading poems written at the height of the affair detailing their sexual technique…
Anyway, in choosing my next victims for THE OPERATOR, two powerful motives came into play. The first is sex, or at least gender, so commonly a motive for murder. I and some other crime writers/readers have become uneasy about the increasing amount of very detailed descriptions of torture, rape and murder of women in some crime fiction – often young girls tied up in cellars at the mercy of psychopaths. I’m all about equal opportunities, so I decided it was time some men got murdered – not just any men, but alpha males, powerful high status men. Just to balance things out a bit. Though I’m far too nice to have anything too torture-porny going on, so don’t worry. I do dark and I do a bit gruesome but I’m a post-mortem mutilation kinda gal.
The second motive for this choice was the theme I wanted to explore, which is why it’s doctors, specifically surgeons, who get the chop in my newest crime novel. THE OPERATOR partly arises from my own experience of being in hospital for three months with multiple fractures followed by years of medical treatment, after I was disabled in a car crash. The loss of autonomy, freedom and status involved is a horror story on its own! Yes, surgeons, consultants, usually male, who give you the worst of bad news while wearing a bow tie and, all to often, avoiding eye contact or showing even a homeopathic dose of empathy or concern. Think about it, I’m willing to bet you’ve either experienced or heard anecdotes aplenty: about how a doctor didn’t listen, or was cold and inhuman at a crucial or tragic time for the patient, or got it wrong – yes they’re fallible, and yes many of them are terrific, but we need empathy when at our most vulnerable and facing major disastrous life changes. Deep grudges can result… And who has a right to hurt us a lot, get away with it, and still receive big salaries and even gratitude? Not just BDSM Doms, but Doctors. We all know what ‘Now, this won’t hurt’ means!
So in THE OPERATOR, my twelfth book (I write in many genres), the second Erica Bruce and Detective Inspector Will Bennett mystery, an orthopaedic surgeon with a sadistic bent is murdered. Erica, herself a homeopath and alternative health journalist, wades in to protect his suspected soon-to-be-ex-wife, but soon it appears someone’s giving doctors a taste of their own medicine – murdering surgeons to mimic the operations they perform. Sexy DI Will Bennett is chasing the Operator, as the press call the serial killer as Erica locks horns with him at every turn, while the sexual chemistry between them sizzles like a hot poultice.
The medical world is right at the heart of the book. It’s a bit darker than the first one, but funnier and sexier too, with even more witty Tyneside banter. Some from Will’s colleagues, but much of it is from excess-loving ‘charva’ Stacey, who invaded the first book and has barged into the new one, Lambert & Butler in one hand, the night before’s high heels dangling from the other – though as she says, she doesn’t do the Walk of Shame, she gets ‘taxis, man!’ The setting is the north east coast of England, near Newcastle upon Tyne, and the actual mouth of the Tyne itself is the setting for a dramatic set piece where the ever-present North Sea, almost a character in its own right, shows what it can do to test Erica to the limit.
I’ve been researching the science of dying for several years in a series of Writer’s Residencies in pathology museums, brain institutes, dissection labs etc, and this has also contributed to my crime fiction. I know quite a lot about death and dead bodies! I still read crime novels where the corpse’s ‘expression’ tells the cop that they knew what was coming or were terrified, when dead people have no expression at all regardless of their manner of demise, though there may be a few specific poisons which distort muscle tissue of course.
I have four of my now thirteen books on Kindle, including Jane Austen comedy spoof LYDIA BENNET’S BLOG and my poetry of sex, death and pathology collection, ALL THAT LIVES, as well as the two crime novels. The crime novels and my newest poetry collection THE FACEBOOK OF THE DEAD can be ordered via my website or from my publisher, post-free in the UK, from www.redsquirrelpress.com.