You’ve never met a copper like Ted Darling
I was recently asked to provide a blog post for a crime mystery magazine. All about the inspiration behind the character of Ted Darling.
I thought I’d share the post here, although some of you will already know a lot of the detail. I hope you will still find it amusing.
It started with a dream
′twas the night before Christmas. And I was in bed with a policeman.
A virtual policeman, I hasten to add.
I was having one of those intense dreams. You know the ones. Where you’re conscious, on some level, that it is a dream. But it’s so good you keep saying to yourself you must remember it because it would make an amazing book.
There was all the detail there for a gripping crime thriller. Plot, characters, sub-plots. One character in particular was most persistent in making himself known and he came with a full back-story. His name was Ted Darling, a former Specialist Firearms Officer, now a Detective Inspector in the Great Manchester Police, stationed at Stockport. The town where I grew up and, occasionally, went to school. That was useful, as it meant less research for me in writing about it.
Crime series based in Stockport
Stockport has some great architectural features for book covers, like this wonderfully spooky tunnel – Photo: Neil Smith
Even though I was sleeping, I was still analysing thought processes. I knew where this dream was coming from, deep in my subconscious. Probably only accessible as I slept.
Crime fiction has always been my preferred genre, both to read and to watch on television. I grew up on Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. I had never contemplated writing it, although I was, at this time, an author of travel memoirs.
I’d been growing increasingly disillusioned of late at the lack of originality in the crime fiction I read. The days of the heavy-drinking copper had been done well, but done to death, by the likes of Ian Rankin’s Rebus character. The growing new breed of women detectives was already merging into one stereotype. Ballsy, bolshie, always at odds with their bosses. Going off like lone she-wolves on dangerous solo crusades. I know it’s fiction, but I like a note of reality in it. And characters like that these days would be on a disciplinary in no time.
Ted Darling was different
Ted Darling was different. He was also, as I was soon to discover, very persistent. Pecking away at the inside of my head to make himself noticed. He was shorter than average and slightly built. Didn’t drink, smoke or gamble. Certainly never played away. He’d been in a steady relationship for eleven years. He and his partner had cats, not kids.
And so the dream unfolded. By some miracle, when I woke up, it was all still fresh in my mind. I live alone with my dog (dogs now) so I had no festive commitments. I took Fleur, my rescued border collie, for a quick walk. Then I sat down at my computer and start to write.