"To live outside the law, you must be honest.“
It’s all about who you steal from. Here, I’m stealing from Barry Eisler. The plots of my books are pure fiction, but they’re set in real places, and I aim for them to feel like the ‘real’ world. Readers will forgive a lot, but each small mistake can add up. Especially to the people who live in the towns and cities that I write about. They see when I get a street name wrong, or when take liberties with a local accent. Part of the challenge of writing crime fiction is in finding the correct blend of when to tell the truth and when to tell a lie. Sometimes I get things wrong, and sometimes I choose to get them wrong, but I think it’s important that readers can trust me. They need to know I’m being honest about those choices. If you spot something in one of my books or short stories feel free to contact me. I’ll add any errors, mistakes or nit-picks onto this page, as well as a brief comment on whether it was a genuine error or an act of dramatic licence. Along the way I may be able to shed a little light on my writing process.
In OLD GOLD you have a scene in which the police drag a dead body from the canal. You describe them using poles and nets, and then placing the dead body on the side of the canal. I work with the police, and in that situation they would scoop up the body in a large plastic bag and lift it out of the water, draining the bag, before removing the body.
Status; Mistake. Chalk this one up to bad research on my part. There were so many elements of this book that I fact-checked and looked into, but this is one that slipped through. It never occurred to me during writing to ask how the police would deal with this situation.
RUNAWAY TOWN has key chapters set in ‘Thorn Lane’ in Wednesbury. You describe the flats there as being two-stories high. I know the real location, which is actually called 'Thorn Close,’ and the buildings in the Close are taller, they’re actually three-stories.
Status; Deliberate. This is a good example of where I choose to blend fact and fiction. If you look at Thorn Close on google maps you will see a junior school two blocks north. I went to that school. I know the area well, and my parents still live in a house that is also on that screen. I also used to know people who lived in the real buildings in Thorn Close and, while it was the perfect location for the scenes I wanted to write, I felt it was fairer to fictionalise the setting and to create a world where there was a 'Thorn Lane,’ instead. From a writing point of view, if I’m honest, I also found that making the buildings smaller made it easier for me to write the scenes. I needed the geography of those flats to be simple and clear, and for readers to be able to follow the action. The scenes were simply easier to handle with the smaller buildings.
There’s a cockup in WAYS TO DIE IN GLASGOW. Sam keep saying she can’t drive, but part one ends with her driving Lambert’s car back to her flat.
Status; both. This is what happens when I take something for granted and don’t clarify. See, I know vaguely how to drive. I was behind the wheel of a few cars when I was a teenager. It’s been two decades, but I remember some of the basics. I don’t have a license, however, so to all intents and purposes, “I can’t drive.” I have friends who know full well how to drive -and have provisional licenses so can legally drive as long as accompanied by someone with a license- but they haven’t passed their tests, so again, legally they “can’t drive.” That’s where Sam is. She knows how to drive, but she’s failed her test a couple times, so her brother does the driving. But readers are right to pick up on it as an error, because I took that part of her character for granted and never explained it. Fortunately, it looks like there will be a sequel and I can fix it…
Anything you want me to own up to? Let me know.