Crime reporter who switched to fiction set to appear at St Albans LitFest

David Mark

David Mark - Credit: Archant

Walking the mean streets of Hull as a crime reporter on the Yorkshire Post for seven years has provided author David Mark with a rich seam of inspiration for his novels.

Dead Pretty by David Mark

Dead Pretty by David Mark - Credit: Archant

Now a full-time novelist, David has written five novels featuring his protagonist Aector McAvoy, including Dark Winter, Original Sin, Sorrow Bound, Taking Pity and now Dead Pretty.

He is due to appear alongside fellow crime writer Peter Robinson at next month’s St Albans Literary Festival, taking part in the Making the Detectives panel, which looks at how writers devise and develop their lead characters.

Without wanting to give away too much of what he will be talking about, the Herts Ad caught up with David to discuss the background behind his novels.

“I haven’t been a jobbing crime reporter for 10 years, but those stories never leave you. In terms of the research, a lot of it has changed since I was a journalist, and certainly I’m in no rush to go through that stuff again, but human drama remains constant. As long as I keep coming up with interesting characters and plots people will have to forgive me the occasional slip in the research and procedural aspects!”

So does he draw on the stories he wrote for the Post when it comes to his fictional work?

“I just constantly live in my own imagination. No end of newsdesks have had to put up with the fact that I just used to go missing. I happened to be a seventies journalist working in the nineties, I was much happier just being left alone to go out and find stories and meet people, but unfortunately the invention of the mobile phone spoiled all that as newsdesks could then ask me questions like ‘Where are you? What are you doing?’ That’s when journalism died for me!

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“But it was a case of always having a story in my head, always thinking ‘What if?’”

Did he base McAvoy on any of the police officers he worked with?

“His stature is based on one particular detective, a huge guy who used to block out the light in every room but was extraordinarily shy. I’ve always found that type of personality quite endearing. If you’re 6ft 6ins with muscles on your muscles that must be a strange dichotomy. Physically there was a lot of that, but he sort of wrote himself, he was a composite of a few different archetypes but he just became McAvoy quite quickly. Suddenly I just knew him.

“All the books I’d written previously that weren’t published were well-written but they were so bleak, there was no redemptive aspect at all, and when you think of people’s modern reading habits nobody is rushing upstairs to get in one more chapter of something that makes them want to cry about the state of the world!

“I kind of needed this lighthouse in the middle of it all, and that’s where McAvoy came from. I thought he could be people’s guide through the darkness, and there is a sort of unspoken agreement that it will all be OK in the end. That seemed to be the difference between not being published and being on the Richard and Judy Book Club list.”

This success relied on a variety of different elements coming together: “Getting things in place to have a book on the shelves and for that to be a success requires a lot of things to be lined up in the right way - it’s like Tetris level 73! People always have these debates about character vs plot, but I think one informs the other, you can have this really fascinating character but if he’s not doing anything then what’s fascinating about him?

“I know massively more about my characters than will ever turn up in books. I don’t know it all off by heart, but I have folders brimming over... I know you can’t please everyone, but it’s more for my sense of authenticity. I’m aware that my characters aren’t real, but I want to make them as realistic as possible, and that means having a fully-formed back story and being able to draw on that. Sometimes people’s experiences are all that they’ve got, so I’m a bit obsessive about things like that.”

You can find out more about David Mark’s novels on Saturday July 9 at St Peter’s Church, St Albans. To book tickets for this any any other event, visit the website.