Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Ray Britain to the book review café. Ray has just published his first crime book The Last Thread, unfortunately I’m unable to review this book at the moment due to work commitments and a humongous TBR pile, but I really hope it’s a book I will get to at some point as it certainly sounds my type of read. Ray himself is a very intriguing author so I invited him along to tell us more about himself and The Last Thread.
Welcome to the Book Review Café Ray, I understand The Last Thread is your debut novel. Tell me a little about yourself first please?
Thank you for inviting me in Lorraine. As a ‘newbie’ author, it’s very much appreciated. My professional background is in policing. When I decided, finally, to write my book, the received wisdom seemed to be to stick with what you know so it should be no surprise that my novel is in the genre of crime fiction, police procedural.
Why have you adopted Ray Britain as your pen name?
Over the years I’ve locked up some very unpleasant people and as a hostage and suicide intervention negotiator I met some dangerous and disturbed people, so it’s sensible to shield my family.
That’s interesting. Tell us about your career?
I served in the Midlands region of the UK for some 30 years, gaining promotion to a high rank. I served in a range of uniform and detective roles, but the investigation of crime and the camaraderie of investigators remained my first love. As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) I led many investigations, some of which engaged sensitive, national capabilities but as the Official Secrets Act still applies, I can’t discuss that side of things. Overall, I had a fantastically interesting and enjoyable career, travelled abroad as a representative of UK policing and got involved in things I could not have imagined as a young Constable walking the beat.
It can’t have been all plain sailing, though. As a detective you must have seen some terrible things?
Sadly, yes. That’s the nature of policing, particularly as a detective. But it’s the same for each of the ‘blue light’ services, responding to society’s many and diverse problems so that the public can sleep easily in their beds at night. The UK remains an incredibly safe place to live and I hope we can keep an unarmed police service for many years to come yet, despite the serious challenges society now faces.
You mentioned you were a hostage negotiator as well?
Yes, for some fifteen years. In the UK, it’s a voluntary role in additional to one’s ‘day job’ which can place very heavy demands, both physically and emotionally on the very small number of specialists who are willing to carry it out. The training is incredibly intense with a pass or fail result and was the most challenging training programme I ever undertook. But it’s an endlessly fascinating role and when you have a successful outcome, hugely satisfying too.
What sort of things do police negotiators respond to?
At the upper end of the scale, being part of national counter-terrorism contingency arrangements. But, more locally, it’s possible to find yourself attending hostage scenarios which usually involve people who are known to each other. But there are always complex factors in play such as psychological disorders, or drugs and other dependencies and fraught domestic circumstances. Frequently a cocktail of each, so with frightened hostages and high tension, you can never be complacent. Most deployments are to firearms incidents where armed officers have someone contained and require someone to surrender peaceably in a controlled manner to avoid being hurt. And then, the bulk of negotiator’s work is an incredibly varied range of suicide interventions. Although most end successfully, sadly, not all do.
Does all that experience form your book, ‘The Last Thread’?
My experiences give an authenticity to the technical and procedural aspects of the storyline but beyond that, as you would hope and expect, all the characters and events are completely fictional.
What makes this detective story different from the rest?
It’s authentic in describing the investigative processes with a professional’s experience and I’ve worked hard to create a story that’s interesting, immersing the reader in the welter of information available and keeping them guessing right to the end. It’s authentically grisly too in describing the murder, the crime scene and a post mortem. And, if that’s still not enough, there’s a complicated love interest too.
So, without spoiling it for our readers, what’s it about?
Perhaps the easiest way to do that is to give you the synopsis:
“Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s enigmatic smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must watch as the incompetent CI Ballard who is intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald. Weeks later, an anonymous call leads the police to a remote location where they discover a burnt-out car containing the body of an unidentified man who has been savagely murdered. With a shortage of experienced senior investigators available, ACC Steph Tanner risks her own career and appoints Stirling as the SIO, throwing him the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation.
But, with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling has far too many “loose threads” as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Was the victim connected to the crime scene? Is the murder as complex as it appears? Or is there a simpler explanation? Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Doug Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?
Things were already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman who seems intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, connected to the murder somehow?”
Is Doug Stirling yet another life worn, flawed detective like we see on TV so often?
I don’t believe readers will interpret him that way. Doug Stirling is a thoughtful, reflective character and a consummate professional. He expects his team to work hard but works harder himself. He’s a good-looking man, physically strong, highly principled and takes a pride in his appearance, but he’s impatient of vanity. But he has an intriguing, untold back story, is notoriously private and discreet in his relationships. Stirling is drawn to intelligent, interesting women and if they’re attractive, then even more so, which causes difficulties when his private and professional lives collide.
And the female characters in the story?
I’ve worked with many fantastic female colleagues over the years and The Last Thread’ has several strong female characters, on both sides of the law! My test readers were all women and it was fascinating how each of them interpreted the characters subtly differently, adding value in making suggestions. Hopefully, I’ve succeeded in making them interesting to your readers.
The story is marketed as having adult content. How adult are we talking?
That’s more to do with Amazon’s marketing guidance which I’m happy to observe. There are some sex scenes but much tamer than first drafted! People in relationships have sex, so why would Stirling be any different? A significant element of the plot has an adult theme but nothing too offensive, I hope. In short, it reflects real life and crime, and how complex relationships can have devastating effects on people’s lives.
The cover picture looks quite sinister?
I wanted something that looked sinister, moody, and intriguing enough to pick it up and learn more. It reflects an element of the storyline.
Do you have any other interests?
I’m a longstanding Francophile and gained a degree in French in my spare time. I like to keep fit and active and enjoy mountain walking -the Lake District is my favourite destination in the UK – supporting rugby, skiing, Dad dancing, reading and sailing.
What is your inspiration to write?
Like many people, I’ve always wanted to write a book. After completing my career, I messed around with it for a while then put it away and tried to forget about it. Then, two winters ago, I sat down to write, and wrote, and wrote. Two winters later and after a lot of painful proof reading and editing, here it is, warts and all!
What do your family think of your writing?
To begin with, as I disappeared repeatedly into the study, it was a case of watch and see, shaking their heads at my erratic hours when the story would not let me sleep and I hammered away at the keyboard in the middle of the night! Now, they’re excited for me – and I’m anxious that it’s not a complete flop! Pride, of course.
Are you able to tell me anything about your next book?
Only that the Prologue is drafted and the storyline is almost fully mind mapped out on some software I use. Working through the devious twists and turns and red herrings is time consuming.
Final question then. Where can we get the book?
The Last Thread is available on Amazon
It is also available on all other main e-reader providers such as KOBO, iBook etc.
If you visit my website – below – you can download a free sample and click through to Amazon.
Thanks for dropping in Ray. I wish you every success with your book and look forward to the next one.
Thank you, Lorraine. I look forward to your readers’ views with great interest.