Meet Luke Delaney, author of the terrifyingly authentic London-set debut crime novel with a psychological edge, Cold Killing. London Calling caught up with him to find out how things have been since his book was published...
London Calling: How has the reaction to the book been since the launch?
Luke Delaney: It looks like it’s gone extremely well. The Times, The Mail and The Sun have all been very kind and encouraging, and blogger reviews have been almost universally fantastic – better than I could ever have hoped for.
LC: Without giving too much away, you switch the narrative between cop and killer in the book. Which came first, the character of DI Sean Corrigan or the killer he’s trying to catch?
LD: The killer – definitely the killer. I really wanted to write a book about a kind of super baddie, but not a comic book character – more a killer who had all the qualities of the most scary and most intelligent criminals I’d ever come across, but all rolled into one man. All the other characters were originally just created to allow me to tell the killer’s story.
LC: Do lots of police read crime fiction?
LD: Most of the cops I know tend to stick to autobiographies and all types of philosophical books, although I’ve been told by friends I still have in the police that word is beginning to spread amongst the ranks about Cold Killing, and it’s attracting a growing following amongst my former colleagues, which is tremendously flattering.
LC: You put a lot of focus into the forensic science side of the investigation. Is this something that you’re personally very drawn to?
LD: Not really, but all good cops, particularly detectives, realise the importance of forensic science and just how valuable a tool it is in any serious investigation. For sure, the more you know about it the better you can use it, but the reason there’s a lot of it in the book is simply a reflection of reality: any investigation like the one in Cold Killing is going to entail a lot of forensic submissions and examinations.
LC: Another very interesting idea in the book is that it seems you’re suggesting it’s not so much ‘more bobbies on the beat’ that’ll help combat crime, but more an upgrade in the technologies the police have to work with. Better computers, swifter inter-agency data-sharing and so forth?
LD: Technology helps a lot, especially in high-end criminal investigations, but, as New York proved, there’s no substitute for people on the ground for combatting low-level street crime and anti-social behaviour issues. The best police services have both. My worry for London is that the people in power are increasingly trying to police ‘on the cheap,’ cctv instead of people etc, but it won’t work, not in the long run. Also, with the increase in computer databases and larger numbers of computer-savvy youngsters in the police, I did spot an increasing reliance in technology at the expense of instinct and good old fashioned investigative skills – ‘if it’s not on a computer somewhere it can’t exist,’ type of attitude, which simply isn’t true, and can be very misleading.
LC: I’ve heard from a lot of crime and screenwriters that the mobile phone is affecting the way they have to think about plotting and the way the characters make decisions e.g. They can theoretically call for help much easier, never get lost thanks to Google maps and so on. Do you find modern tech a help or hindrance in plotting a novel?
LD: Definitely a help! Plotting around the ubiquitous cctv can be a pain, especially in urban settings, but I find I can use technology to really speed up the flow of the action e.g. DI Corrigan can be heading towards one thing while explaining something or receiving information from somewhere else – there’s no need for him to be popping back to the station all the while to do it or searching for payphones. It means you can streamline the whole novel, keep the pressure up and make it more relentless and intense for the reader and I love doing that. Don’t give the reader even time to breathe!
LC: The next book in the series is The Keeper. From the sneak peek that’s currently available it looks like there’s echoes of John Fowles classic The Collector? Can you give us any hints about what’s to come?
LD: There have been a few books over the years around the theme of abduction. It’s a subject that lends itself to a really intense atmosphere. So much so I actually found some of the scenes in The Keeper quite exhausting to write and was extremely relieved to get them finished and get out of there. I’m hoping that sense of menace and doom really comes across to the reader. It’s like Cold Killing, while at the same time being very different.
I don’t want to blow the story for anyone who’s planning to read it, but it’s safe to say there’s no element of whodunit in The Keeper – it’s a straight cat-and-mouse tale. And DI Sean Corrigan gets significantly darker too. It’s a challenging read in some ways, but absorbing too, I hope.
LC: And finally, while there’s certainly lots of grit in your fictional London, do you also enjoy the city? Do you have any favourite parts or places to visit when you’re not writing or working?
LD: I love London and always have. I’ve been to many places around this world, but London’s probably still my favourite place of all. The three greatest cities have to be New York, Paris and London and I reckon London just pips the other two. As for specific places there, I can be a bit of a tourist and love the West End, but I love loads of places: Highgate, Hampstead, Primrose Hill, Putney, Blackheath – I could go on and on. London will always feel like home to me!
Luke Delaney's book Cold Killing is avaliable to buy now. Click here.
"I had a cup of tea with Howard Brenton who I think is possibly the best living playwright that’s written for the Globe. The first thing he said to me was, ‘Keep the story going. This place eats story’."