Ever wondered how you make the leap to become a writer? This month sees Paul Finch recall the transition from his days in the Police to his time as a scriptwriter for The Bill in his fourth blog piece for Killer Reads.
The first time I ever put pen to paper to write a serious thriller, it was just after I’d finished serving as an actual police officer. The piece of work in question was a speculative teleplay entitled Knock Off Job. It concerned a murder inside a suburban police station, and presented every member of the shift, both uniform and CID, as potential suspects, none of them knowing who to trust.
Now that I look back on it, it was very talkie: lots of tense conversations in dim corridors and cramped offices, lots of frank, fraught interviews, lots of suspicions being cast in every direction. It wouldn’t work today simply because modern police stations are filled with CCTV, and the comings and goings of staff and non-staff are more carefully monitored. But the concept was of sufficient interest to the production team at The Bill to make them ask me to come in and see them. I accepted the invitation, and though I didn’t realise it at the time, my life changed as a result.
This month sees our third blog entry from the incredible Paul Finch. The Former The Bill scriptwriter turned author is back this week with a sneak peek into his life as a journalist, a period in which Paul feels had a huge impact in becoming the author he is today…
People often ask me how it happened that I went from being a policeman to writing police stories. Well, the cross-over is not as straightforward as some may think.
While I was in the police, I wrote almost no fiction at all. I had a yearning to write – I’d always written fiction as a youngster, and my father had been a professional author, but whenever the temptation came over me, I used to tell myself that I was too tired, too stressed and too busy obsessing about dreadful incidents in the real world – and for the most part that was probably true. But it’s also the case that I was being sucked into a radically different discipline. I was buried in a world of procedure and legalities, which came to completely dominate my daily thinking. It was near enough impossible to go home at night and put the job, or whatever case you’d been working on, out of your mind. These were serious affairs after all, and people’s lives and liberties might be at stake.
This is something I’ve tried to bring into the Mark Heckenburg books in fact; the way police life can consume you. Even your recreation time tends to be spent with other police officers, or at least it often was for me, and usually such R&R consisted of drinking hard and yet again discussing the job. Anything else seemed frivolous.
Former The Bill scriptwriter turned author, Paul Finch, tells us how his time working for the Manchester police force was the starting block for his passion of crime fiction writing. Read Paul’s second instalment into the killer reads diary…
There’s no question that my police service gave me an excellent grounding from which to write crime fiction. It’s not just about procedure, you see – it’s an innate understanding of the police officer’s role in society, and more importantly, the role the police may play in his or her life.
Being a cop is not like any other work. You can’t just put it away at the end of your shift. By its very nature, the job can alienate you from everyone you know. It can depress you, frighten you, outrage you. But by the same token it can empower you, and be massively rewarding. Above all though, it’s a weird occupation – where the complexity of experience can truly be stranger than fiction. And this air of the unreal is something I feel honour-bound to try and bring to my crime-writing, particularly in my forthcoming trilogy of cop thrillers from Avon Books.
But where does having actually been a cop leave you as a crime writer?