it takes a friend to tell you what kind of writer you are. Author and friend,
Tony Broadbent, was responsible for my enlightenment. We hail from the same
hometown back in the UK. We got to chatting and he gave me a pat on the head
and told me I was an anarchist.
“You’re like the Gary Oldman of the mystery world,” he said.
I love Gary, but I asked, “Is that a good thing?”
“Yes,” he exclaimed. “There’s a lot of anarchy in your writing.”
How subversive, I thought. I’m a rebel without an agenda. Mum will be
Well, the little exchange got me thinking about my writing. I don’t think
people hit the keyboards with an agenda or a theme tucked under their arm—or if
they do, it sort of sticks out. Agendas and themes develop on a subconscious
level. Well, they do for me. I don’t go out of my way to put a slant on my
stories. I just try to entertain, but inadvertently, I show a little leg now
and again. So, I looked for the anarchy. And I think I saw it in the shape of
Conflict. Stories require conflict. It’s a driving force. Characters and
stories thrive on it. More so in mysteries and thrillers than other genres. The
nature of the genre means there are going to be casualties and collateral
damage. So I like to inject my stories with a lot of conflict. The problem is
that I’m quite a literal person and I think about things in very pure terms.
Blame my engineering background. When I think conflict, I think about total
annihilation. Everything my lead character holds dear is under attack. I create
this person so that I can destroy them. I place them and their world in an ivory
tower, then go about stacking as much C4 explosive around the foundation as
possible to blast it all apart. It only seems fair, doesn’t it? Conflict by its
nature is salt to a wound. Character assassination is key. Only by putting
everything in a protagonist’s world at extreme risk can the character grow and
thrive. There can’t be a comfort zone for this person. Wouldn’t you want to
read about a character in a situation like that?
I flicked through some of my stories to see what I did to my characters and the
annihilation is there. Characters have their reputations destroyed, home life
obliterated, are framed for things for crimes they didn’t commit, have personal
property confiscated or stolen or destroyed. These characters’ lives will never
be the same. There will have to be a lot of rebuilding by the end.
So I guess I do have anarchistic bent. Sorry. It wasn’t intentional. It’s just
the way I tell ‘em.