Instafreebie Interview

1. What inspired you to create Inspector Harry Hawkins from "London Large: Blood on the Streets"?x

Our books are very much centered on our protagonist Harry Hawkins, or ‘H’. We were inspired to create him by our own need to see a character like him in action. He is a flawed, often drunk and occasionally unstable murder detective from south east London, with a brilliant but problematic career now mostly behind him. The Falklands War left him with PTSD, and his subsequent police career has exposed him to the depths of human depravity. But we see him as a heroic figure who will always choose to protect the innocent and punish evil. He fits, therefore, squarely into the tradition of self-determined and hard-bitten cops who tend to go off the reservation to get their idea of natural justice dispensed. We like this kind of character, about whom it is cathartic, fun and satisfying to write, and we know that many others do to.

2. Are any of your characters based on real people?

Yes, a number of them are based on actual people, while some of them are composites. H himself is a combination of our father and a few of his friends, as we knew them as self-reliant men in the 1960s and 70s, as well as some of the people we've met in pubs and at football matches over the years. Others, like Confidant John Viney, are made up of the character traits - humour, musical preferences, way of speaking - of one or two specific people of our generation. Others still, like Amisha Bhanushali, Ronnie Ruddock or Basim Dragusha, are idealisations derived from an understanding of certain social types rather than anyone in particular. Sometimes we just use the surnames of people we know, having got their permission first, for characters like gangland executioners, veterans of the Polish special forces or Texas Rangers.

3. Where does "London Large: Blood on the Streets" take place and what inspired you to choose that setting?

Most of the action takes place in south east London and London’s West End. We are Londoners and know the city well, so we decided to write about what we know: places, people and culture. We wanted to get into the details of experience and expression south of the river, and keep this atmosphere in play wherever the action takes place. One of our coming books, Lockdown, takes our hero out of his natural habitat. You can take Harry Hawkins out of London, but you cannot take the London out of Harry Hawkins -it’s with him wherever he goes. We think of him as the embodiment of the working-class London world that made us, and him.

Another reason to focus on the area was that we find quite a lot of the representations of south east London in books, films and television to be somewhat inadequate and off-the-mark; we go for what might be considered an authentic flavour, warts and all. This extends to language - H swears a lot, and very colourfully. Some critics have seen the use of expletives in our books as gratuitous. We understand their concerns but would argue that it is a defensible, and indeed necessary thing to include swearing if we are to fulfil our ambition to be true to H and characters like him. And we sometimes swear like them ourselves, when amongst friends in certain informal settings.

4. What is your writing process?

As co-authors, our writing process is highly specific and probably a bit unusual. Stage one of a new book involves us locking ourselves in a room for three or four days to work out central themes and plotting, while the people circulating outside and passing the room speculate on whether or not we have yet come to blows. In short, things can get a bit lively and voices are often raised, but we think that by testing one another’s ideas to destruction we end up with things that are solid and useable. We’ll plot about half the book in some detail in this first session, and produce chapter outlines. We then go away and write up our allocated chapters. We’ll repeat this process once or perhaps twice more in the course of writing a book.

A common question about our method concerns how on earth we arrive at an agreed final edit. The devil is in the detail here: talking through everything up front before writing, and reaching agreements on all essentials of the narrative saves potential problems later on. If we’ve both agreed to something, it’s in.

5. Why should I read "London Large: Blood on the Streets"?

The book should be read by people who like thrill-a-minute, non-stop crime action of the grittiest kind, laced with humour and human seriousness beneath the surface. It is by turns tragic, intense, appalling, excitingly fast-moving and funny, with plenty of twists and turns. We believe that we deliver this combination of elements in an original and captivating manner - and the 250 or so five-star reviews the book has so far received on Amazon would seem to indicate that plenty of people agree with us.

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