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You are in: Berkshire > Blast > Prime time for crime

Patrick Lennon in Cambridge

Patrick visits his home city, Cambridge.

Prime time for crime

BBC Berkshire talks to Berkshire crime author Patrick Lennon about his new book. Want some writing advice? The author dishes out some top tips below!

Patrick Lennon has lived and worked all over the world. Now based in the Reading area, he headlined the first Reading Festival of Crime Writing.

Steel Witches book cover

Patrick's new book is second in the series

The author of Corn Dolls has  released his second book Steel Witches, which is the second in a series of four books that follow Detective Tom Fletcher through ten years of his life.

"This new book takes place just after he's left the police force in Cambridge, where he lives," explains the author.

"He gets involved with a conspiracy involving an abandoned American airbase in Norfolk. There is a rumour that the Americans built this airbase and then immediately destroyed it.

"The question is: why build an airbase then knock it down and pretend it didn't exist?"

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Want to become a crime writer? Listen to Patrick Lennon's top tips here:

You can also read more advice from Patrick below.

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Detective Tom Fletcher

Many authors create characters which represent themselves, but Patrick insists this is not the case in his writing.

Patrick Lennon

Patrick Lennon - is he Tom Fletcher?

"People often ask if Tom Fletcher is me," he says. "To be honest, the answer is no."

He adds: "A lot of people who write crime books create a hero or a heroine that is the kind of person they would like to be.

"Characters get to do interesting things that you would never do in real life, like shooting people and driving around hitting policemen," Patrick jokes. "The kind of thing you might occasionally like to do!"

Writing crime fiction

So why has Patrick chosen to write crime fiction?

"Probably because I'm a devious, dishonest, criminal sort of person!" Patrick laughs.

"Actually, that's not true," he adds, "I have always enjoyed crime books, especially American crime books by people like Dennis Lehane and Elmore Leonard.

"It does make sense to write the kind of book that you enjoy reading."

Many of Patrick's book ideas spark from watching and reading the news.

"There are so many bizarre and wonderful things going on in the world that a lot of them are very good material to use as the basis of a crime book."

And how does the crime writer go about planning his books?

"For each book I write I keep a scrapbook which I build up over a year or so before I start writing," he says.

"I collect pictures; photographs I've taken myself; maps of places which are interesting and things that I've cut out of newspapers that I thought would make an interesting story."

Crime writing has to be believable, so research is a vital part of the process.

"You need to physically go to places to see how machines work and how people do their jobs," the author explains. "It has to be realistic."

Combine Harvester death...

Every aspect of Patrick's writing is true-to-life, even the nasty fate of his victims.

"In my first book, Corn Dolls, there is a scene where someone gets runs over by a combine harvester, which is a great way to die!

"The local combine harvester dealership let me climb over their machines for the afternoon.

"They talked to me about what would happen if you were actually run over by a combine harvester. The answer is: it's pretty messy! Don't get close to them."

Each book takes an enormous amount of dedication and work.

"It's 90,000 words, which is a substantial amount of writing to do in a year or less. It's like a college essay times 100 in terms of the amount of work you have to put in."

More advice for budding crime writers

If the huge word-count hasn't put off Berkshire's budding writers, Patrick imparts some more pieces of wisdom:

"These days it's really important to get an agent as quickly as you can," he advises, because you need them to present your work to publishers. Otherwise, it's almost impossible to get listed with a big publisher."

Despite never being published, it was one of Patrick's more experimental books which put his foot in the writing door.

"I spent a long time writing a book which my agent presented to a lot of big publishers in London," Patrick says. "They all politely said 'no thank you', because it was rather strange!

"It was about a Cambridge college which was conducting experiments on homeless men by spiking their soup with hallucinogenic drugs: I thought it was a great idea!"

He adds: "It was useful because when I wrote my next book, my agent took it around the same publishers and they remembered me as the guy who wrote that weird book. They wanted to see what I'd written next."

Patrick loves Reading!

Patrick lived all across the world from Italy to Thailand and Mexico, but chose to settle in Reading 16 years ago.

"Reading's such a great place to live," he says. "We are so well located. It's near enough to London to be useful but not to have all the congestion.

"During the time I've lived here it has really changed and flourished. There are so many cultural things going on, the Reading Festival of Crime Writing for one.

For more information on Patrick Lennon:

last updated: 24/09/2008 at 13:19
created: 10/09/2008

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