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Author of the Month

Name: Neil White

First Novel: Fallen Idols

Most Recent Book: Next To Die

'...‘Next to Die’ is a thundering rollercoaster ride...'

Synopsis:
Joe Parker is Manchester's most ingenious criminal defence lawyer. Sam Parker is Manchester's most tenacious homicide detective. Both bear the burden of the unsolved murder of their sister fifteen years earlier, and both have a stake in a new series of murders that has shaken their city to its core.

Ronnie Bagley is locked up and facing trial for the murder of his girlfriend and baby and there's only one lawyer he wants to defend him: Joe Parker. As Joe takes to the courtroom to represent Ronnie, little does he know that Bagley is smarter than anyone has given him credit for, and soon Joe will find himself pitched against his own brother, Sam, in a race to outwit the most terrifying serial killer the city has ever seen.

It isn't long before Joe and Sam's shared past comes crashing into the present in a pulse-pounding race to find out who is NEXT TO DIE...

Review:
Neil White’s previous book ‘Beyond Evil’ had me purring about his fantastic characterisation and in ‘Next to Die’ he outdoes himself. Both Joe and Sam are strong enough characters to carry a book themselves. Together they combine to elevate this novel above its many contemporaries. Each has strengths and weaknesses and their differing careers keep them in a state of never-ending conflict. Supplementary characters such as Monica, Ronnie, Gina and Kim are all created with an artisan’s eye for detail, but it is the brothers who dominate the skyline.

The plot is so engaging, readers will lose many hours of their lives playing the ‘just one more chapter’ card. It wends and weaves its way through your psyche as you are drawn into the Parker brother’s worlds. Very little is as it seems initially and as the pages turn, the suspense dial gets twisted right up to eleven.

White’s penmanship is another of his strengths and his narratives breathe life into any situation with his vivid descriptions and perfect settings. All in all ‘Next to Die’ is a thundering rollercoaster ride which would enhance anyone’s bookshelf.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) Why did you choose to write crime fiction?
My goal was only ever to write a book I would want to read, and I read mostly crime fiction. I’ve always been drawn to crime. As a boy, I wanted to be a policeman, and when I was training to be a lawyer it was only ever criminal law I was interested in. I suppose it is something to do with seeing the darker side to human nature that is so fascinating, that people have seen and done things but from the outside they seem so normal. It fascinates me as to what is going on inside their heads.
2) ‘Next to Die’ could be compared to the Harlan Coben style of novels where a person’s past comes back to them. Was this something you set out to achieve?
That’s a flattering comparison, although I don’t think I set out to achieve a goal like that. Thinking up new characters and a story is just a case of trying to work out what would be interesting (hopefully) and then setting it down. A person’s past is all part of that person and so I did think it important to have a past, as it explains motivations, but I didn’t try and model it on any particular type of author.
3) Love and loss are the emotional drivers of the novel. How difficult was it to keep these threads to the forefront with everything else that was going on?
Sometimes it does feel spinning plates, and it was only really during the editing process did I think that I had got a handle on it. It was overstated at first, and then understated, and it is only when someone else sees it and comments that the balance starts to feel right.
4) Why did you choose to have two central characters instead of one?
I had two central characters in my first five books, although it was partly accidental, and I liked the conflict, the push and the pull between them both. In my first five books, the central characters were a crime journalist and a detective who were in a relationship, and so naturally the journalist would want to know about the crimes the detective was investigating and she would want to keep him out of them. It builds in a tension that is not destructive but allows the story to be told.

In ‘Next To Die’, the two central characters are brothers, one of whom is a criminal defence lawyer and the other is a detective. Their jobs are in direct conflict, but there is still the brotherly bond, and so there is conflict but not destructively so.
5) Once again your characterisation shines out from your novel. How do you set about creating your characters?
Thank you for saying that, but it is very hard to describe because I don’t consciously follow a process. I just try to make them interesting but realistic, often using people I know as models.
6) Will we see more of the Parker brothers or is ‘Next to Die’ a standalone? (feel free to say what you’re currently working on.)
No, there will be more Parker brother novels, and the one I am working on now is the second in the series. I have planned to do at least three, and then I will see how I feel after the third.
7) What is your writing routine?
I aim to do a thousand words a day but often don’t manage it. I work as a criminal lawyer but only part-time, but that does limit how much time I can spend writing. It is a mood thing really. Some days it just flows. Some days it doesn’t. I find that I struggle the most when I don’t know where the story is going, and so I will take time out and go back to the beginning. Rewriting helps me get back on track and by the time I get to where I had got stuck I have usually worked out where to go.
8) Do you use an eReader or do you prefer traditional print books?
I have a Kindle but I don’t use it much. I prefer print books, although I do think eReaders are a very useful addition to the readers’ choices. A lot of people love them, and anything that adds to the ease and enjoyment of reading cannot be a bad thing. It is also very useful as a writer to know that readers can obtain your whole back catalogue with ease.
9) Who would you cite as influences on your writing style and why?
The first writer I tried to emulate was WP Kinsella, who wrote ‘Shoeless Joe’, which became the film ‘Field of Dreams’. I liked his dreamy whimsical style. Lee Child was probably the next big influence, as I liked the way his first book just gripped me straight away and never let go. I decided that was how I wanted to write. No long build-ups, no slow tighten of the screw. Just hit the ground running and keep going as fast as I can.
10) Which three books have made a lasting impression on you?
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, because it is the only book I have read that I wanted to read again straight away.

‘Salems Lot’ by Stephen King, just because it was very scary and that enjoyment of terror did a lot to propel my interest of reading as a teenager.

‘I Am Legend’ by Richard Matheson. This is because it was a milestone book. I had spent my childhood reading the Famous Five and Doctor Who novels, along with Jennings and other stuff. My father was very into horror and science fiction, and so when I was around twelve I told him that I wanted to read a “grown up” book and asked him to choose one for me. He went to the bookcase and produced that one.