When I’m about to settle down to write another crime novel, I’m always brought back to Raymond Chandler’s essay in which he states: ‘Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man…’
Obviously Chandler had certain ideals in mind when he put his fingers to his typewriter, and set about crafting a very specific kind of man- a man that would be hard to come by in the real world. And so I’ve found myself, as I’ve sat down at my laptop, trying to create a very different kind of character, someone a little more ‘real’, if such a thing can exist in the world of crime fiction.
As I’ve always protested before on this website, every time I write an Edmonton Police Station thriller I try to avoid using the same main detective character in each book. Instead, I invent a new lead character and merge the protagonist of the last book into the background, perhaps making the occasional cameo.
That brings me to my latest Edmonton Police Station thriller: THE AMOUNT OF EVIL, from which emerges yet another detective protagonist. He’s called DCI Jairus- We do not learn his Christian name, even though sometimes other characters refer to him as ‘Jay’.
Chandler liked his characters to be untarnished, to be super brave in face of the grim world he pushed them out into. He’d dunk them into the sewer and expect them to come up smelling like a new car.
I think crime writers are somewhat more cynical these days, and therefore are keen to bring a deep rooted cynicism to their work. I know I do. I want a protagonist who is truly human and tarnished and afraid, even if the fear they carry in their hearts is the fear of failure. DCI Jairus has fear deep in his heart, nestled closely to his self loathing. Death haunts his sleep as well as his conscious hours, while guilt consumes his every thought. He’s broken but also unable to accept failure in his ultimate task of finding justice for the murdered.
Policeman are human beings, and are prone to weakness like any one of us. Who says the detective has to solve the puzzle and save the day? Why have the detective slap on the cuffs when he can quite easily bludgeon the perpetrator to death? Anything is possible in the shadowy world of Edmonton, North London.
When the reader meets DCI Jairus, he’s recently returned to work after killing a suspect in self defence. Also he’s still recovering from the unexpected and sudden death of his girlfriend, Karine. Very little in his life is stable, and only the drive to track down two mysterious killers who have slaughtered several businessmen is keeping him from cracking up.
Readers of my previous book, LAST ALIVE, might be pleased to learn Terence Marsland returns in THE AMOUNT OF EVIL. Still recovering from the tragic events of the last book, Marsland agrees to investigate the disappearance of three young women who happen to look very much alike, but it’s not long before he finds himself face to face with unspeakable evil.
Marsland and Jairus are similar in a few ways, most of all in the way they doggedly chase down the perpetrators of the crimes they are investigating. The real difference between them is the lengths they are willing to go to for justice. In the case of Jairus, there seems little he won’t do to close a case.
THE AMOUNT OF EVIL will be out in the new year. LAST ALIVE is out now on Amazon Kindle.