Good Reading : March 2009
behind the book double dose double dose an unfeasibly hot day, to write my first novel. There was nothing premeditated about it. I didn’t know I was going to be a crime writer. I didn’t know that on the first page I was going to meet a character named Bob Skinner, or that he was going to change my life by giving me a route out of a career that I was enjoying less and less each day, for all the modest trappings that it had brought me. I didn’t know at all, but that’s the way it was. At that time I was a media relations I consultant and my client list included the Faculty of Advocates, (the Scottish bar) and Scotland’s biggest firm of solicitors, so it was pretty much a given that the first person I killed was going to be a lawyer. (That’s not the dumbest thing I’ve ever done; it proved so popular with the reading audience that I’ve bumped off a few more since.) Big Bob Skinner’s birth wasn’t like that, though. He appeared in my head out of nowhere, and jumped down on to the page. Looking at him there, in Edinburgh’s rain-lashed old town, with my pal Tony’s steel-grey hair and my black leather overcoat, I made a decision that I see in hindsight as hugely important. Skinner wasn’t going to be a mid-ranking detective with a 100 per cent clear-up rate and a career-crippling personality problem – he was going to be a high- flyer, who’d already flown. That’s why the man on page one was a Detective Chief Superintendent, and that’s why 18 goodreading i MARCH 2009 t’s almost 20 years since I sat down on a holiday in Spain, and began, on The prolific QUINTIN JARDINE talks about the creation of Aftershock, the latest book in his bestselling DCC Skinner series. he became an Assistant Chief Constable halfway through the book. I learned a lot during the creation of the work that became Skinner’s Rules. I learned how to plot, I learned how to put on the clothes of different characters and think in different ways, I learned how to keep focused on the action, and most important, I learned how to trust my instincts. That’s how I came to create a bloody, quick-stepping story full of crime scenes and body parts. And that’s how I came to understand, without being told, that it wasn’t finished. I was happy with it, understand, but I wasn’t happy enough. So I sat down again and asked the most valuable question a crime writer can ever put to himself: ‘what if ...?’ Sixty-five thousand words later, my original story had been stood on its head and finally, I was there. (There are people who will try to tell you that such moments are better than sex; they’re not, but they’re pretty damn close.) That’s why Skinner’s Rules is the only one of my works to be set in two parts, ‘Right and righteous’ and ‘Adapt and survive’ ... two parts within a single book, that is. Let’s wind on 17 years, and I’m back in Spain, in somewhat larger premises, working on a book known then only as Skinner 17. Big Bob’s evolved, he’s now Deputy Chief Constable, he’s gone into and out of a marriage, he has a couple more kids, a new partner and he’s managed to age around six years ... although his son is seven: work that one out. He’s on sabbatical; his troops are working on an odd series of murders in which the perp seems to have a down on young, female artists. To make it even odder, one of the bodies is found in Bob’s own home village. The story evolves and becomes a book called Death’s Door, published in July 2007. The plot’s tight, the killer gets his, one of Edinburgh’s finest gets whacked in the process and in a final twist, Bob and his sidemen, Neil and Mario, are left frustrated by the disappearance of the man who made Maggie Rose a widow. Except ... about halfway through the book I knew that wasn’t quite how it had happened. I had a bigger story in my head. In a complete reversal of what had happened during the birth of Skinner’s Rules and the birth of the series, I had far too much to fit into a single novel. That’s how Aftershock came to be. The book begins with DCC Skinner and his team facing an awkward question: how come the young female artist who’s just been found dead in a wood was killed in exactly the same way as those bumped off by the guy who died in Death’s Door? And another: how come the DCC has a picture painted by each of the dead women? Surely it couldn’t have been ... Aftershock by Quintin Jardine is published by Headline, rrp $19.95.