I am booked to appear on a panel with two other ‘crime writers’ for the UK Crime Book Club on Facebook I will post a link when it comes around.
But it got me thinking about UTB as crime novel, this might seem strange, but for me the book has always been primarily about the experience of the community in Garston and Speke and the issues faced by the families that lived there. The crime was the hook around which to explore these other issues. I don’t know, but my guess is that this is different from a lot of other crime writers, who concentrate on the procedural element, with a detective working out the clues as they go along.
I know the standard format, is either a copper or a private detective, with a quirk, something that makes it look like it is changing the formula, while the old story of good cop against the villain plays out. I wouldn’t write a narrative with the police as heroes because in real life they are not. The idea of the dogged detective finding the killer is a myth, unless they catch someone red handed they are as likely to fit someone up as find the real culprit. I have no doubt there are some examples of the police doing an exemplary job, but for me these are the exceptions not the rule.
So often, it is family members and communities that demand answers, that push police forces to investigate, and campaign in the many, many occasions on behalf of people wrongly convicted. For me the real crime is the waste and brutality of normal lives that surrounds us.
Men and women having to choose between hard physical labour that just about pays the bills, work that leaves you weak and broken in your 50s and 60s. Always struggling to pay the bills, spending days and nights making profit for someone else while your family is growing up. That or a life of preying on your own people, stealing or dealing, however you do it, to chase the dream of a new car, big house, or to just escaping the drudgery of the factory floor, or the dole.
I really liked this comment that Maria Hunter sent to me after reading the book;
Hi Jack, I have finished reading UTB I honestly thoroughly enjoyed it!! Loved how you wove the story around the streets and places I know. I felt I was walking alongside the characters. It was so descriptive anchoring you into the fabric of the story with snippets of Liverpool history you really do get a feel for the place. I cried at the emotion felt at Paul’s death, Jim’s anger, questions why and yet acceptance…it felt so raw!! The two main characters Vinnie’s search for his own identity, not knowing his dad and Ann despite being brought up by her dad but not knowing him…not just a mystery but a journey of emotional discovery for the two characters. Loved it. You felt the hopelessness of factory work, honest though it maybe, but the lack of fulfilment was apparent. So much more I could say but getting ready for work lol.
I like this comment because it refers to the biggest crime at the heart of the book, and it shows that it can be read in many different ways. Later in the year a discussion is being set up as part of the Liverpool Irish Festival between myself and Greg Quiery a really nice guy, and a history professor at Liverpool University. I am looking forward to the discussion on the crossover between fiction and history, what they share and what separates them. The picture above is the cover of Greg’s book, available from News from Nowhere. (buy it!)
Under the Bridge can be read for the history, the locations, the Irish references, the union struggles, or as a page turning crime/mystery novel. The comment above is important to me for another reason, it comes from the community for whom the book was written.
If you haven’t read Under The Bridge yet you can buy it here;