Inspired by the Horror of Reality: Patrick Kendrick, author of ACOUSTIC SHADOWS talks the rise of school shootings

Category: Author Post

People have asked how I come up with ideas for my novels and my pat answer is: ‘I read the newspapers.’ While this is not an original concept, with my newest work, Acoustic Shadows, one cannot miss the headline-inspired storyline of the novel. It begins with a shooting at an elementary school.

When I was touring and doing signings for my last book, Extended Family, I would give an accompanying lecture on ‘Mass, Spree, and Serial Killers,’ accompanied by slides, historical information and anecdotes about various killers over the years. The lecture pointed out the differences between these types of killers. Mass murderers: one event, one location, multiple victims, usually targeted, meant to be a statement and lots of coverage by the media. Spree killers: several events over a few days, multiple locations, multiple victims, sometimes targeted, often random, sometimes making a statement, or a person just going over the edge-a lost job, marriage, etc. Serial killers: multiple events, multiple victims, typically over years. They want to be recognized for their heinous acts but do not want to be caught, so they are very careful.

When I began doing these lectures in 2012, there were a number of mass killings but they could still be counted easily enough. Columbine is one of the first that came to mind, then Virginia Tech. But since 2006, these killings have increased exponentially and there have been over 200 of these events since then. Currently, they are happening at a pace of about one attack every two weeks. They are always startling accounts of innocent people being slaughtered by someone, typically, with a long history of mental illness, living an isolated, socially inept, life. For reference, I would suggest this site, based on the FBI’s current data: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/mass-killings/index.html#triggers

For me, none were as disturbing, as heart-wrenching, as the shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, a quiet, small town like thousands of suburban towns that exist all across the world. As a paramedic and fire fighter for many years, I have seen my share of disasters, trauma, and human suffering. But, I could not get over all of those children, so young and innocent, who were slaughtered by another one of these mad men that I often write about in my novels. I could not sleep at night and while I would weep as I watched the news, I could not stop watching it while wondering why does this keep happening and, can it ever be stopped?

I don’t think I answered those questions for myself and am not sure if anyone can. But, my way of dealing with this horrific event was to put it into one of my books, perhaps as a cathartic way for me to deal with my own feelings about the subject, perhaps for people to reflect on the problem that has become epidemic and which, we feel helpless to do anything about. This was how Acoustic Shadows came about. As I pondered the story, a thought kept coming back to me: what if one of the teachers had a weapon?

The novel begins with two armed gunmen entering a school in a small town in Florida. They began shooting, initially it seems at random. But, this time, one of the teachers has a gun and takes matters into her own hands. Of course, teachers having handguns in school has become a source of much controversy and some of that makes its way into the story. But, I posed the question as well, could such an attack come from a different motive? I write thrillers and mysteries after all and, so far, all of them have a common element of conspiracy, so that is where I went with Acoustic Shadows.

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Patrick Kendrick was a firefighter and freelance journalist for years before turning to writing novels. His first book, Papas’ Problem won the Florida Book Award, as well as the Hollywood Film Festival Award. His second book, Extended Family was a Kindle best seller and earned a starred review from Booklist. Kendrick lives in South Florida with his family and endeavors to never be too far from the sea.

Obsession is like a runaway train…

Category: Author Post

Catherine Hunt photoCatherine Hunt, author of Someone Out There, outlines some of the inspiration behind her debut thriller novel.

As a journalist, I’d come across a lot of real life stories about people with an obsession which had made them do appalling things, and it always seemed like a good subject for a book.

Things got a bit closer to home when someone I knew became the target of another person’s obsession. Bit by bit, the problem escalated, until it reached a violent climax.

Everyone was stunned that things could get so out of control and, afterwards, we all tended to dismiss it as a one off – ‘the actions of a nutter’ and ‘a set of really unlucky circumstances’. Maybe it made us feel more comfortable to think it was a rare occurrence.

It was around the same time that a friend told me how she was chased along a country lane in the dark by a driver she had annoyed. The car chasing her had music blaring and tinted windows so she couldn’t see who was driving it.

It was from those two incidents that Someone Out There started out.

Psychiatrists say that when it strikes, obsession is like a runaway train. It begins at ten miles an hour, speeds up to sixty, then ninety and it just can’t stop or slow down. Obsessional minds become uncontrollable as, eventually, compulsion overthrows all reason.

Many things trigger obsession and many people suffer from it: the rejected lover, the resentful employee, the infatuated loner or the jealous colleague. And sometimes lives get shattered without any provocation.

What happens to Laura, the central character in my novel, is random bad luck. She gets in the way of a deranged obsessive – and I think that could happen to anyone. Most people probably know someone a little like that, though hopefully not so extreme! Laura is forced to fight for her life through no fault of her own, because she is caught up in circumstances that are totally beyond her control.

As well as the nature of obsession, the book is about how we think we are more in control of our world than we actually are; it’s about how quickly – and unexpectedly – life can unravel, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Out 21st May.
Pre-order now.

Read the first chapter here.

Where does a bestselling crime writer get his inspiration? Paul Finch reveals all…

Category: Author Post

Paul Finch author photoPeople often ask me are the Heck novels in any way autobiographical? Was I Heck when I was a copper? Did any of the stuff that appears in the Heck novels actually happen? The temptation is always to say: “Yeah, I was one of the senior investigators for an elite British detective unit dedicated to catching the worst of the worst.”

But alas, the truthful answer must be: “I wish.”

My own real-life contribution to UK law enforcement was very small compared to DS Mark Heckenburg’s. I cannot claim to be Heck in any way. But certain aspects of his character and the world he inhabits were informed by my own police experience. There is no denying that.

The weirdest contradiction of law-enforcement is that, first of all, it is a world like no other, and secondly, it’s a job. You do it every day. You become immersed in it; it becomes a key part of your life. But that isn’t to say it will ever become routine or, dare I say it, normal.

Things may have changed a little since my day, but whenever I went on duty, especially at night, my workplace was the backstreets of Salford. That was where the crime happened, so as a young copper that was where you needed to be. Not sitting in central-heated offices processing interminable paperwork, or cruising the streets in comfortable patrol cars (not that we had any such thing). And there was something else. Before your sergeant signed you off at the end of each shift, he didn’t want to know how many little old ladies you’d helped across the road or how many insecure premises you’d found. He wanted to know how many crooks you’d locked up. All that other stuff was important, but mainly it was for the public. In reality, whether you were uniform or plain clothes, you rose and fell in the job by the numbers of hoodlums you collared.

Of course, that was easier said than done.

I mean, those dingy backstreets could be intimidating.

Hopefully anyone familiar with the Heck novels will be able to picture the scene:  endless brick, endless concrete, endless rain. Flats that are towering, faceless edifices. Underpasses that are more like doorways to Hell. And it’s always so dark out there, so eerily quiet. But you see, that’s to your advantage. Because though there are predators in this wasteland, you are one of them – the only difference is you have official status, you have a royal writ to hunt the hunters. That is why you wear black. It’s why your radio has a knob on it by which you can turn down the crackle of dead air; it’s why you are the only person outside the military legally empowered to carry weapons in public.

This is the essential experience of the successful thief-taker.

He prowls silently, ears pricked for those distant, telltale sounds – a drunken shout, a frightened scream, an explosion of glass. He’s in the heart of the city, but civilisation feels a thousand miles away. The bright lights and lively banter of the station canteen might as well be on another planet. But that doesn’t matter to him, because this is what he is here for … hounding and harrying those relentless villains of the urban night, going wherever they go, watching for them, waiting for them, stopping at nothing to ruin their plans.

Okay … this is all a touch melodramatic, as I’m sure you realise. Was that the way I worked night-turn when I was a police officer in Manchester? I’m saying nothing. But it’s certainly the way Mark Heckenburg worked it when he was.

080256-FC3DWhen the Heck novels commence, he’s done seventeen years in the police, working first in Manchester, then down in London and finally at the National Crime Group, where he found his perfect role as a lead investigator in the Serial Crimes Unit. By now Heck, whose home life was so plagued by trauma that he took the job almost as a refuge, has become a complete creature of the police world. Has been absorbed by it totally. That is why he’s so good at what he does. It’s also why he is fundamentally messed up. He has no other life, no social set to mingle with, and no real romance outside the job. Sure, he goes to functions and gets drunk – but most coppers get drunk. He has sex too, but in Heck’s case it’s usually pretty quick and meaningless. The most important thing in his life is always getting back on the job and going after them … which, it has to be said, while it might bring him satisfaction, doesn’t always make him happy.

Of course, there are some good things in Heck’s world, and one of those is Detective Superintendent Gemma Piper. Gemma’s another top cop; she’s Heck’s former girlfriend – when they were both detective constables at Bethnal Green, they had a very hot relationship. Like him, Gemma has never really recovered from the break-up. She hasn’t married anyone else, or had any other relationship that amounted to more than a quick fling. As such, she’s thrown herself into the job too, though she’s managed to retain a little perspective, and as a result has risen fast. She and Heck still work together, but it isn’t an easy relationship. Gemma is the cool organiser while Heck is the instinct man. There’s a lot of friction between them, but also a deep if unspoken affection. Even if they won’t admit it, they draw constant emotional strength from each other. Could they ever live together again? It seems unlikely. But it seems even more unlikely they could ever live apart.

I reiterate that none of this was my personal experience. My wife of twenty-six years still works as a civilian for the police, and I draw plenty of emotional support from her. But thankfully she never had to go across the pavement with me. That would have been too awful to contemplate. So I leave all that to fictional heroes, Heck and Gemma, two cops just about holding it together in a floodtide of violent crime, neither willing, or able, to back down from a challenge that seemingly knows no end.

I’m so glad that wasn’t my life, but I’m gladder still I had a taste of it – so I could investigate it more fully, and of course a lot more safely, on the written page.

Hunted by Paul Finch
Pub: 7th May 2015
Available in paperback and eBook.