Today I am part of the Blood Rites blog tour and it is a great honour. Thank you to Abby Fairbrother and Urbane publications for inviting me. Also thank you to David for his amazing book.
About the Author-
David Stuart Davies is an author, playwright and editor. His fiction includes six novels featuring his wartime detective Johnny Hawke, Victorian puzzle solver artist Luther Darke, and seven Sherlock Holmes novels – the latest being Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Legacy (2016). His non-fiction work includes Starring Sherlock Holmes, detailing the film career of the Baker Street sleuth. David has also penned a Northern Noir trilogy of gritty crime novels set in Yorkshire in the 1980s: Brothers in Blood, Innocent Blood and Blood Rites.
David is regarded as an authority on Sherlock Holmes and is the author of two Holmes plays, Sherlock Holmes: The Last Act and Sherlock Holmes: The Death and Life, which are available on audio CD. He has written the Afterwords for all the Collector’s Library Holmes volumes, as well as those for many of their other titles.
He is a committee member of the Crime Writers’ Association and edits their monthly publication Red Herrings. His collection of ghost and horror stories appeared in 2015, championed by Mark Gatiss who said they were ‘pleasingly nasty.’
David is General Editor of Wordsworth’s Mystery & Supernatural series and a past Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund. He has appeared at many literary festivals and the Edinburgh Fringe performing his one man presentation The Game’s Afoot – an evening with Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle. He was recently made a member of The Detection Club.
Authors Links: Web: http://www.davidstuartdavies.co.uk/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/DStuartDavies @DStuartDavies Via Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/david-stuart-davies/
Blood Rites is a Northern thriller set in Huddersfield, Yorkshire in the 1980s featuring Detective Inspector Paul Snow. DI Paul Snow has a personal secret. He is a homosexual but is desperate to keep it secret, knowing it would finish his career in the intolerant police force of the time. As this personal drama unfolds, he is involved in investigating a series of violent murders. All the victims appear to be chosen at random and to have no connection with each other. After the fourth murder, Snow is removed from the case for not finding the killer but continues investigating the matter privately. Gradually, Paul manages to determine a link between the murder victims, but this places his own life in great danger. Can Paul unmask the killer as he wrestles with his own demons?
Release date 9th November 2017
Exclusive extract about his new crime thriller Blood Rites
My Life of Crime
David Stuart Davies
The room is quiet. I take my seat in the semi-circle and give a silent nod to the others in the group and wait for my turn. When it comes, I stand up, holding a copy of Blood Rites, my latest novel in my right hand and in a clear voice, I state, ‘My name is David Stuart Davies – and I am crime writer.’
Well, I have been an aficionado of crime fiction since the age of twelve. It was in my salad days that I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes after encountering him on the school library shelves. The Hound of the Baskervilles was the particular volume in question and I devoured it with glee. Around the same time the local television station was screening the Basil Rathbone films. Those two happenstances sold me into Sherlockian slavery for life.
Eventually I read the whole of the Holmes canon, all 56 short stories and four novels. I wanted more. What could I do? The answer was obvious: write my own Sherlock adventures. Although this juvenilia was corny, creaky and very amateurish it helped to deepen my love of the character and the art of creating characters and mysteries.
When I went to university, I wanted to write my final dissertation on Conan Doyle but I was told in no uncertain terms that he was not an important enough author for such a project. As an antidote to this dismissal of the great man, for my own amusement, I began writing an article on the films of Sherlock Holmes – a particular passion of mine. The piece just grew and before I knew it I had a book length manuscript. I sent it off to a publisher and, glory be, it was accepted. So the year I received my degree I also had my first book published, Holmes of the Movies. Peter Cushing agreed to write the
introduction and I had the thrill of meeting the great man and begin a correspondence with him.
My first published Holmes novel was Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair in which I mixed Conan Doyle’s characters with those of Anthony Hope’s from The Prisoner of Zenda. My second Holmes novel continued this crossover approach by having Holmes tackle Count Dracula in The Tangled Skein.
I continued to write Holmes novels – as I still do – but around 15 years ago I thought that it was about time I invented my own detective. That’s when I came up with Johnny Hawke – Johnny One Eye. He was a private detective working in London during the Second World War. He was a promising young policeman working at Scotland Yard as war broke out in 1939 and so, like every patriotic fellow, he joined up to fight for his country. However, during training a rifle exploded on the firing range blinding him in one eye. He was invalided out of the army and the police could only offer him a desk job because of his disability. This was too tame for adventurous Johnny so with his compensation money he set himself as a private detective, determined to fight for his country on home territory dealing with criminals and all enemies of decency and law and order. The first novel was called Forests of the Night. Five other books followed: Comes the Dark, Without Conscience, Requiem for a Dummy, The Darkness of Death and A Taste for Blood. All are available as eBooks now.
When I felt the Johnny Hawke saga had run its course, I returned to the Victorian era with a hero of my own: Luther Darke. He is a somewhat dissolute and eccentric fellow, a wealthy artist, a lover of alcohol but an ace ‘puzzle solver’ who is often consulted by Inspector Edward Thornton of the Yard to help clear up a little mystery. Darke appeared in 7 short stories in The Darke Chronicles. I was particularly proud of the
first tale in the collection, The Curzon Street Conundrum, which is a cunning locked room mystery.
Then came Detective Inspector Paul Snow. I wanted to have a policeman working in my home town of Huddersfield. Colin Dexter used Oxford for Morse; Ian Rankin used Edinburgh for Rebus; I would use Huddersfield for Snow. I decided to set the novels in the 1980s before DNA and other forensic discoveries made policing less cerebral and more scientific. Today crimes can be solved by a microscope and a computer. I wanted personal interaction.
Snow had to be different from all the other sleuths on the block. I decided to make him gay. This wasn’t a casual or cynical decision. I remembered a colleague and friend when I was teaching who was gay. He was terrified that other members of staff and the pupils would find out and make his life hell. He lived with this danger hanging over him. I saw that this was a situation for many gay people, especially in the 1980s. It was a time when homosexuals were seen as comic characters or sexual threats. With Paul Snow as a high ranking officer in the police force, which at the time had quite a homophobic culture, this terrible situation could be explored with sensitivity and sympathy. Despite the danger of exposure, Snow had to carry on his job dealing with terrible crimes, desperate to catch the real villains in society, while protecting his own back. It was only later that I saw a connection between Paul and Johnny One Eye: two men on the periphery of mainstream society doing their level best to clean up those mean streets of Murdersville.
The first novel, Brothers in Blood concerns a trio of young men, who as teenagers go out to kill someone for fun. It provides them with a high which normal life fails to give them. As they get older and move away from Huddersfield, they still meet up once a year to murder a stranger – for fun! And then something happens which forces them
to kill for a purpose and their brotherhood is now under threat. Snow investigates only to discover threads of his own life entangled with the crime.
The second in the series, Blood Rites, concerns the murders of a group of young children. Snow identifies the link between the victims, but the murderer has gone to ground. During his investigation Paul meets a young woman, Matilda, for whom he has some affection. He likes her and they get on well. Reluctantly he asks her out. On one level he realises that he is using her as his ‘moustache’ – a term used by gay men for women who give them heterosexual ‘respectability’. However, Paul really likes Matilda, a secondary school headmistress, and feels warm towards her – but in essence his affection is platonic rather than sexual. He is aware that in the long term this relationship cannot go anywhere and this preys on his conscience. Certainly, for him, marriage would be the ultimate deceit. He is too decent a person to go down that road. Complications arise when he is propositioned by a fellow officer and he has to deal with this dangerous scenario while carrying out his investigations.
In the final novel in the trilogy, Blood Rites, while Paul is searching for a serial killer at loose in Huddersfield. There is no apparent connection between the victims and so Paul meets a brick wall at every turn. He feels the murderer is taunting him. Meanwhile Matilda is pressing him to take their relationship to the next level. Matters grow more complicated when her estranged gay brother turns up and takes a fancy to Paul. Once again his feelings are in turmoil, but greater shocks are in store when he finally tracks down the killer which leads to a heart stopping climax.
I have to say that I am proud of the Snow novels and genuinely believe I have created a memorable trilogy of crime stories. If you do not gasp out loud as you reach the final pages of Blood Rites, I will be most surprised.