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End of Series Interview with Nick Quantrill

1) “Happy Days” brings a definite conclusion to the series – how easy was it for you to draw a line under it? Did you always have an exit plan in mind?

Under the circumstances, easier than you might think. To be honest, I never expected the series to survive beyond the first contract (for three books). The fact that it did, and went from strength to strength, has been a surprise and a deep pleasure. But my lead guys were starting to show their age and because I’ve alsways tried to keep the series as authetic as possible, there came a time when they had to step off the page. We’d also baled out of Portsmouth (after thirty very happy years) and several visits to the Old Bruiser (aka Pompey) simply confirmed how quickly a city – and its police force – can change. So it was curtains, alas, for Farrars and the gang.

2) As a reader, the characters (I’m thinking Faraday and Winter) seem to develop and change in such a believable manner. Was this the result of deliberate planning, or was it a more organic process?

Nothing deliberate, I’m afraid. Part of the novelty of this little adventure lay in the fact that I’d never written series before. What that boils down to, aside from a whole load of technical challenges (like backstory), is the company you keep on the page. These characters – thank God – grew and deepened from book to book until they became alarmingly real. By mid-series, I was starting with an idea, or a proposition, or a title, or a half-heard conversation on a bus, and literally handing it over. That, I freely admit, was an act of faith. But the guys never let me down. One postscript, of course, is the decision Faraday himself made in “Borrowed Light”. I’ve yet to get over it.

3) Would it be fair to say that your experience of working on television documentaries gives you an edge when it comes to writing crime novels? Did the television experience bleed into the writing process?

Very much so. I came to crime fiction with some reluctance and was in a muddle about what to do. Should I read everything ever written (and end up penning thin pastiches), or should I go back to my TV documentary days and invest a lot of time and effort in trying to work out what it feels like to be a sharp-end cop (or villain)? The latter option turned out to be the hardest research ask of my entire life, especially as far as the cops were concerned, but I sense from reader and reviewer reaction that it’s paid off in spades. The other TV bonus lay in the writing itself. TV makes you think in pictures: vividly rendered scenes anchored in punchy dialogue. This approach has definitely impacted on the books. Hence, I suspect, the eagerness of the French to go full circle and put Faraday on the screen.

4) A lot of police novels seem to feature serial killers and all manner of unlikely crimes. The Faraday series very much bucks that trend and seems so much more vivid for it. For example, Bazza Mackenzie, the bad guy, seems all the more disturbing because he understands the power of legitimising himself. Is that fair comment?

Totally. After the twelve Pompey books, as you might imagine, I have a contacts file brimming with coppers. These are guys whose collective experience you’d probably measure in millennia but not one of them has ever met a serial killer. This was a bit troubling at the research stage but the harder you look beneath the surface of the Pompey cop’s working day (or night), the more you realise where the drama lies. These are stories in the minor key - families in crisis, kids off the leash, everyone on the piss – but this is stuff that pretty much everyone can relate to and – says me – help make the books a credible read. As far as Baz is concerned, his journey from the drug baron to parliamentary candidate has been a real fascination, not least because – once again – it mirrors real life. Totter round a selection of National Trust stately piles, huge spreads the length and breadth of the kingdom, and you quickly realise that the seed fortune often came from piracy, or slavery, or smuggling, all of them deeply unrespectable. Bazza survives in the rich tradition of robber barons. Bless him.

5) Did you have any involvement in the recent French adaptations of the Faraday novels? As European crime programmes seem to be popular, are we likely to see these in the UK any time soon?

The answer to any involvement on my part is no. They chose the books to adapt themselves and simply got on with it. I had early sight of the scripts and was delighted. They made a real effort to capture the spirit and essence of the series, and were generally faithful to the characterisation. This kind of respect is rarer than you might think. The production itself was – to me – magnificent. They spent a lot of money, and it showed on the screen. The viewing figures were excellent (and climbed for the second adaptation) and they plan to start shooting on two more books next month. Will their work ever make it over the Channel? Stay tuned…

6) In “Happy Days”, DS Jimmy Suttle is again to the fore and will soon star in your next novel, “Western Approaches”. What made you decide on Suttle to carry the new book?

For a number of reasons. Firstly, he’s younger rather than older and could easily survive another dozen books. Secondly – and importantly – because he’s recently married, with a young daughter, and must cope with the kind of contemporary relationship pressures that weren’t really a part of the Faraday books. This new series, set in the West Country, will have a tighter personal focus than the Pompey books which – for me – is a real challenge. Fewer acronyms. Less of an emphasis on policework and procedures. More exploration of what these giddy times are doing to us all. Not least, to Jimmy Suttle. “Western Approaches” is now complete in First Draft and will publish in either 2012 or 2013. Once again, stay tuned…