Message From The Author

Daniel Blake

Genre: Suspense, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

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Author's Message

The ideas behind Thou Shalt Kill came to me in stages. The first thing I wanted to get right was the setting. I wanted to place it in an American city, but not one that everyone knew and that already had a whole heap of crime fiction set on its streets: so no New York, LA, Miami, Chicago, Boston, and so on. Eventually I narrowed the choice down to two: Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City. And with the kind of hero I wanted, a cop from a working-class Italian background, Pittsburgh fitted much better. Besides, I wanted to convince my wife that my research trip wasn’t a vacation, and no one in their right mind goes on vacation to Pittsburgh in February. New Orleans in April, for the sequel, was a different matter….

It’s easy, in these days of Wikipedia and especially Google Earth, to write about a place without ever having set foot there, but for me nothing beats – to borrow an army phrase – boots on the ground. I spent ten days in Pittsburgh, just walking the streets, working out which character would live where, which locations I’d use for certain events in the narrative, and so on. I let the place soak into me, until the city became very much a character in its own right.

Then it was down to the nitty-gritty: writing the darn thing. I wrote the first draft just after our second child was born, so I was running on about 75% of optimal sleep, and I guess it showed. It wasn’t calamitous, by any means, but it wasn’t great either. Every writer will give you a different answer to this, but for me, the first draft is the worst time. I love doing all the research, I love plotting things and mapping them out – and I love going back over a first draft with a big red pen, my editor’s notes and a hard-ass attitude, saying to myself: "that’s garbage… that’s garbage… that’s OK but would be better somewhere else..." and so on. It’s the bit between those two stages that feels like the slog. Whoever said all writing is rewriting got it pretty much spot on. Subplots were changed or ditched altogether (a whole body parts theft scam went by the wayside: it was a good idea, but it just didn’t fit the rest of the book). Some characters were excised; others got bigger parts. My English editor wanted me to tone down the lead character’s womanizing: my US editor wanted me to ramp it up! With each pass, I felt like it was getting closer to where I wanted it to be. The difference between first draft and second was huge; that between second and third, much less so.

And finishing itself is bittersweet: you spend so much time with this story, these people, inside your head, that sometimes you’re loath to let them go. I felt this especially with Franco Patrese, the hero of Thou Shalt Kill. He’s the kind of guy I’d have a few beers with. I like him. And I hope you do too.

- Daniel Blake

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