22 Sept 2017

Author Interview / Ray Britain

Accused of pushing a boy to his death, DCI Doug Stirling watches helplessly as an incompetent officer bent on destroying him investigates. 

A man is found savagely murdered. Short of experienced investigators, ACC Steph Tanner risks her own career by appointing Stirling to lead the investigation. But, haunted by the boy's smile as he let go of his hand, does Stirling still have what it takes?


So, who is Ray Britain?
A fair question. I was a police officer in the United Kingdom with a varied career in both uniform and detective roles and completed my career in a high rank, but the investigation of crime and the camaraderie amongst detectives always remained my preference. As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) I led complex crime investigations, some of which engaged discreet national capabilities and for many years I was also police Negotiator.

Okay, so why the pen name?
For reasons of personal and family security I use a pen name because, over the years, I locked up many criminals, some violent. However, not all of them understood it was their actions that led to their imprisonment! Also, in my senior ranks I was increasingly involved in discreet, national law enforcement capabilities which I can’t discuss as the Official Secrets Act still applies.

You were a police hostage negotiator?
Yes, for fourteen years. The full title is Hostage & Crisis Intervention Negotiator and in the UK it’s a voluntary role, over and above the ‘day job’ - one’s day to day responsibilities - which frequently means being ‘called out’ of a warm bed to go and assist police colleagues faced with a variety of difficult situations.

For example?
That’s one of the attractions of the role, you never know what your next deployment might be. Often, it’s negotiating with someone to surrender peacefully to armed officers and so avoid being killed or harmed themselves. But more often it was to negotiate with people intent on taking their own lives, usually highly distressed and unable to think or act rationally, and bring them back to safety. Sometimes, it was to negotiate the release of hostages being held at gunpoint or other weapons. It should be remembered that in the UK, except for a relatively small number of exceptionally highly trained specialist firearms officers, police officers perform their duties unarmed. One of the few countries in the world still to do so.

How long were you in the police for, and where?
For over thirty years in the Midlands region of the UK - Police services are typically based on traditional county lines. The Last Thread is set in and around the city of Worcester and future books are likely to be set either within the county or in neighbouring areas, as the storyline requires.

Why did you write ‘The Last Thread’?
I’ve always wanted to write a book and the common advice is to stick with what you know. There were other reasons too. As a professional investigator, I’m often frustrated by the inaccurate and improbable representation of crime investigation in the many television dramas that enter our homes each evening. Whatever the complexity of the crime, they are almost always solved within impossible time frames and with the most sophisticated technology immediately available. It provides entertainment, of course, but it’s far from the reality of everyday investigations. Consequently, it raises public expectation beyond what is always achievable. Like all aspects of the public sector, the police service is cash strapped and must operate within tight, and tightening budgets.

How accurate is your story to real investigations?
Very! From the need to work with limited resources, often with dated equipment and in accommodation that’s often cramped, inadequate or well past it’s ‘best by’ date, right down to aspects of internal and external political pressures that any SIO can expect to work with in leading his or her investigation.

What was the best and worst part of writing?
The best part is getting the story out of my head and onto the page, plotting its twists and turns and the red herrings to make it interesting for the reader. The worst bit is editing and proof reading! However, it does lead to a better story and allows me to strip out irrelevant stuff and, I hope, make for a better read.

How did you approach the cover design?
I wanted something that was a bit moody and hinted at the underlying sinister theme of the story line and subsequent investigation. I found a local photographer I could work with and, together, we constructed the image you see. I hope you like it as much as I do.

What do you read for pleasure?
I like good crime fiction that reflects real world and is grounded in reality. Some plots are so fantastical that I don't complete the book. I like biographies too. Other people's lives interest me.

What is your e-reading device of choice?

What's the story behind your latest book?
Everything I've written is drawn from my professional experience, or as observed through the investigations of colleagues. Apart from drawing on memories of my Father, my characters are all fictitious but they are informed by some of the people I've had the privilege to work alongside over the years.

Where can I buy your book?
I plan to publish ‘The Last Thread’ as an eBook on Sunday 1st October on Amazon (ISBN 978-1-9998122-0-1) and, hopefully, there will be a paperback version too. I’m also looking at publishing on Smashwords but there’s a lot to learn about the Indie author process!

What are you working on next?
I have several story lines and plots mind-mapped and will resume writing once I’ve got ‘The Last Thread’ out to market. As an Indie author, I’ve found there’s a lot of work involved in getting your work published to market and then in marketing your brand. Having said that, I’m finding it a fascinating experience.

Describe your desk
An organised mess!

What motivated you to become an indie author?
The ease of getting your work out there, rather than writing off to mainstream publishers. But, there's a hell of a lot of work after that in getting yourself noticed!

If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’m not sure. I admire the work of Sebastian Faulks very much and have read a lot of his work. He has an insightful mind and builds his characters extremely well. 
What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
Having led a very ‘structured’ working life I get fidgety if I’ve nothing to do. Consequently, I treat writing, to a point, as my ‘job’. I start early(ish) in the morning and keep going until I’ve had enough, or my eyes demand a break. Usually to go to the gym where I can ease off cramped muscles, think, and keep mortality at bay!

What am I reading now?
I’m reading a travelogue style book, ‘Why the Dutch are Different’ by Ben Coates. It’s a slightly sideways look at the Dutch, their history and culture and is interesting. I love history.

Website: http://www.raybritain.com/
Twitter: @ray_britain
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