For every shiny skyscraper and sparkling restaurant in Manchester, there’s a cavernous warehouse and tenebrous canal path. It’s a glossy metropolis with rugged edges – and that’s what makes it the perfect setting for a piece of crime fiction.
This was something author David Menon immediately identified upon his move to the city, and he promptly picked up a pen to build an epic series of locally-based crime novels.
Doing The Best I Can, the tenth book in David’s DSI Jeff Barton series, has just been published – and once again Mancunia serves as the setting.
“There’s something terrific about being able to bring this city to life,” David tells MM.
“As soon as I moved here, I wanted to portray the place for the international city it truly is, and I wanted readers to vividly picture themselves being here as they read the books.”
David sees the mystery in the Manchester milieu and uses it to shape his scenes and villains.
“I take inspiration from what’s going on around me in the local news, but I also look at the dark corners of the city, too,” he explains.
“Could something be hidden below that bridge? What might be going on inside that dark room? Who is that person in the distance?”
The hero of his series, DSI Jeff Barton, is a product of pure imagination – a character quite different to many you’d find in crime fiction.
“There’s no one person who inspired me to write Jeff,” tells David.
“I wanted to escape the concept of the alcoholic, rugged officer who is skilled but damaged and instead create a modern kind of copper.
“Jeff is a single dad with a boy called Toby and a male nanny. His wife died a few months after giving birth, and his parents disowned him because he married Chinese girl.
“He is a very good, very dedicated policeman with a modern interpretation of life and the law, accepting many for who they are.
“He’s got a lot harder over the years, too, particularly after certain events in the later books, and he’s relentless if you step out of line.”
Now that the series is in double figures, David has a vivid picture of his protagonist, stating that if Jeff were ever to make the leap from page to screen, he’d be best brought to life by Tom Lister – the actor who played Carl King in TV drama Emmerdale.
“I know Jeff so well now,” says David.
“I can finish a book in three to six months. It’s simply a case of fitting the story around him.”
Most of these said stories are fish-out-of-water scenarios, assembled with a rollercoaster-style structure that runs an emotional gamut.
“I’m interested in ordinary people finding themselves in extraordinary situations,” says David.
“It could happen to any of us, after all. When we find ourselves in a corner and the only solution is to strike out – could we do it?
“I don’t like anyone being able to guess the plot halfway through. I like to keep the reader guessing. If I can achieve that, I’ve done my job.”
Whilst crime writing is his bread and butter, David does occasionally venture into different territory; and his upcoming novel is an Australian love story.
The eleventh Jeff Barton novel – Violet & Blue – is also in the works, and the latest instalment is another page-turner; revolving around a suspected leaker revealing the identities of child abusers released back into the world from prison under new names.
With such a rapid production rate, David is fast-becoming one of the most prolific crime writers in the region. Now, inhabiting the same occupational realm as many of his writing heroes like Val McDermid, Adrian Mckinty and Peter Robinson, David is well-placed to offer his valuable two cents for aspiring writers in Manchester aiming to traverse similar ground.
“I always wanted to be a writer, but it was only when I was offered voluntary redundancy at the age of 49 that I decided to jump” he explains.
“If you want to write, you have to be determined to get down to it, sometimes putting social occasions on hold.
“You’ve got to keep at it and concentrate. Get out there and have a go.
“Remember you’re entertaining people. And that’s a wonderful thing.”
*Doing The Best I Can is out now. You can buy it HERE.