Detectives make natural story-tellers, police officer turned massively successful British début novelist Clare Mackintosh said at a major crime-writing festival in Spain on Wednesday, yet few crime writers have police experience.
“That surprises me,” Mackintosh said during Semana Negra (“Noir Week”), an annual gathering of crime writers mixed in with a fun fair which draws a million visitors every year in the northern Spanish seaside town of Gijón.
“As a police officer, you gather stories from witnesses, victims and offenders and you try to piece together the truth of what's happened, and so I do that now with my books,” she added.
“It's a huge advantage to have been in the police. It means I can be very lazy in my police research, and it means that I have experienced a huge range of types of people and experiences that I wouldn't otherwise have had access to.”
A former riot commander and Criminal Investigation Department officer with the Thames Valley Police in Britain, Mackintosh's first novel “I Let You Go” was on the SundayTimes top ten bestseller list for 12 weeks after its release last year and to date has sold more than 500,000 copies and been translated into 30 languages.
In addition to police experience, a personal tragedy inspired and moved Mackintosh to write “I Let You Go”. Firstly, a hit and run accident in which a child was killed deeply moved her as a young officer.
“I kept thinking, how can someone kill a child and then drive away? How can a mother lose a child and continue to survive?”
The answer to the second question came when Mackintosh lost her own child, years later, when he was still a baby.
“I realised you have to survive trauma because there's no alternative,” she said. “You're grief-stricken, but you continue to breathe, you continue to put one foot in front of the other, and you continue to get up every day.”
“It made me realise that grief changes you; it defines you and changes the way you behave in life, it changes the decisions you have and the relationships you have.”
Mackintosh's second novel, “I see you”, will hit the shelves on July 28th. Like her first novel, it is based on a real-life incident, that of a woman who sees her own photograph in the classified section of a London newspaper whilst commuting, and her quest to find out how and why it came to be there.
It is already being touted as a one of the best holiday reads of the summer.
By Martin Roberts in Gijón