Today I welcome author Tony Forder to my blog to take part in my feature A Life in Books. Tony’s latest novel, Degrees of Darkness was released on September 19th. As well as discussing A Life in Books, Tony has also written a guest piece about his new novel, which is published below.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Thank you, Juliet.
I am fast coming up on 60, and I have no idea where all that time went. I do know that, in one form or another, I have been writing for around 50 years now. It was a long time before I took my writing seriously, and when I did I had some success with short stories. My first attempts at novels were average, but when I wrote Degrees of Darkness I thought I had something. That came close to being published, but it wasn’t until many years – and several re-writes – later that it finally emerged on 19 September. It’s done well so far, and the reviews have been amazing.
I live in Peterborough with my wife, still do an occasional bit of IT consultancy for a UTC in the city, but spend as much time as possible these days writing.
My next book, Scream Blue Murder, is being released in November, whilst the follow-up to Bad to the Bone, called The Scent of Guilt, follows in 2018.
What was your favourite book from childhood?
That’s a nice easy one – The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner.
What type of books did you read as a teenager?
I was really into comics – superhero and war stuff. But when it came to books, I suppose it was pretty diverse – from Charles Dickens to Ian Fleming (and I don’t mean Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, either).
When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?
Sadly, I have no recollection of studying any particular. But at a parent-teacher evening at my Primary school, my parents were astonished that the book in my desk was my dad’s copy of Thunderball.
What is your favourite classic book?
I think A Christmas Carol is a classic, but if we’re looking at the books generally deemed to be so, I’d probably say 1984, for all of its dystopian imagery.
What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years.
That’s a really tough one. I think I’d have to call it even between I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes, and 11-22-63 by Stephen King.
What book to you think you should read but never get round to?
I think a Hemingway, probably For Whom the Bell Tolls.
What do you consider to be your favourite book ?
The Silence of the Lambs. No question. An author at his very peak, saying so much with such few words.
Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?
Several. The most recent being the latest John Puller adventure by David Baldacci. Sloppy writing, tired plotting, and with every character seemingly ‘barking’ rather than saying, it felt like the literary version of the Battersea Dogs’ home.
If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?
‘How to Escape from a Desert Island’ by literally anybody.
Seriously, I’d have to have Lambs with me, but then it’s a toss-up between a Stephen King, a Charles Dickens, and a Michael Connelly. If pushed, I think it would have to be The Shining.
Kindle or Book?
Book – every time. Can’t be doing with e-readers.
Thank you so much for these great questions. I’ve really enjoyed answering them.
Degrees of Darkness was written a fair number of years ago. I was holding down a full-time job that demanded a lot of my spare time as well, and so creating a piece of work that came in at around 130,000 words in its original form, was hard going. Since January this year, when I have had the luxury of being able to devote many consecutive hours to writing, I have appreciated the difference that continuity brings. It was not always easy at the end of a hard day grabbing an hour here and there and getting straight back into the story or beneath the skin of the characters. It wasn’t for me, at least.
Degrees is a dark, psychological crime thriller that perhaps owes more to my many years of writing horror than it does my more recent experience of writing about crime. Yet when I decided to self-publish towards the end of last year, in preparation for being made redundant, Degrees was the first book I made available. It had been a labour of love, after all. By then I had trimmed around 10,000 words (they call it ‘killing your darlings’ when you have to prune scenes you really like) but at the time I left the setting exactly as I had written it – when the world was a slightly different place to the one we live in now.
When the opportunity came to have it published by Bloodhound, I removed some of the more graphical content, but also used that editing opportunity to update the book. I decided to do so both in case I ever wanted to return to the main character of Frank Rogers in the immediate aftermath of what takes place in Degrees, and also simply to have the reader live in the moment.
In the book, Frank is an ex-detective for the Met, now working as a debt-collector. He is estranged from his ex-wife, but sees his son and daughter regularly. One Monday morning in his office an old colleague visits him with the worst kind of news: Frank’s son and ex-wife are dead, murdered in their new home, whilst his daughter is missing, presumed abducted. Within the day he learns that his daughter, Laura, has been taken by a serial killer/abductor.
Frank wants to involve himself, but is initially kept at arm’s length by an old foe within the job. However, the man who has taken Laura shows an interest in playing mind games with Frank, and will only deal with him when he calls the police. Then the bodies start appearing; the bodies of previously abducted girls. They have been tortured and ‘prepared’ in a way no one can fathom. Frank knows then that a countdown has begun, and that his daughter will die if the man is not caught.
Without giving much more away, Frank’s insight is critical to the police tracking down the killer, but his dark mind is also essential to breaking him. The final denouement sees further tragedy and a further impact on Frank’s life that he had not anticipated.
The character of Frank is really an amalgam of many people I have known in my life, together with a soupcon of me thrown into the mix. His daughter Laura is based on my own daughter, and after reading it in manuscript form she has consistently told me that I will be responsible for all of her future therapy bills.
I have a theory about first books (it will be my second published novel, but was written first). I think they emerge from the mind almost fully formed. This is because the idea has probably had a lot of time to stew and foment and take on most of its necessary constituent parts.