A man sits in his study. There is no noise except the sound of tapping as his fingers move across the keyboard. There is an uneven flow to the rhythm – a hesitation here, a burst there.
It is here, after his day job is finished, after dinner with his family, that David Jackson, author of MARKED, does what he dreamed about: writing the kind of novels that fascinated him as a youth.
In talking about what books left the greatest impression on him and influenced his writing career, he said, “It would have to be one of Ed McBain’s books probably COP HATER – the first of the 87th Precinct mysteries which isn’t necessarily the best of the bunch but it was such a huge influence on me in terms of the type of crime story I wanted to read and later the type I wanted to write.”
And that’s exactly what this British born writer has done with his series that features first generation Irish-American New York City cop Callum Doyle.
In PARIAH, Doyle’s first appearance, the plot appears to have no ending without terrible repercussions for him and those he knows. Why? Because somewhere out there is a sick mind who is willing to murder anyone Doyle knows or has contact with.
This first novel was met with rave reviews from readers who loved the thrills and action. And fans were not disappointed with the second Callum Doyle novel THE HELPER. Once again Doyle is at the center of a sinister plot. To solve an especially grisly murder, Doyle is offered a choice: prevent more murders by “accepting help” from an anonymous caller and telling no one or solve the murders on his own. As more murders take place, he is pushed to the brink to bring the killer to justice.
And that brings us to MARKED, the third tale in the Doyle series. Fans will find the familiar action, unexpected twists, and more thrills as Doyle finds himself with two missions. One is to solve the brutal murder of a young girl; a seemingly easy task as Doyle believes he knows who the killer is – all he has to do is prove it. The second is a perilous assignment he was blackmailed into taking by an old adversary. For both, the stakes are high and Doyle finds everything he holds dear is at risk.
Callum Doyle is a carefully crafted character. Jackson was very specific in that he wanted his hero to be a New York City policeman of Irish descent but he deliberately made him first generation so that the life he is living is not the life he would have chosen for himself.
“I also wanted to make him a really normal guy. I was becoming a bit bored of all the protagonists who were either superhuman or alcoholics with failed family relationships. Doyle has a wife, a child, a sense of humor, and a strong moral compass.”
Jackson says he follows the advice of Raymond Chandler in that when the pace is “flagging a bit, toss in something unexpected.” He goes on to say, “This can be a sudden flare-up of violence, or it can be a previously unrevealed piece of information that comes as a complete shock. If I’m feeling really clever, it will be a twist that turns everything on its head. Some of these I plan ahead, but often they come to me as I’m writing. It’s a great feeling when you devise something that you know is bound to throw the readers and make them take a mental step back in surprise.”
For MARKED, Jackson used parallel storylines and by constantly switching from one storyline to the other was “able to ensure there is always something tense and exciting going on in Doyle’s life.”
In crafting his novels, Jackson uses a rough outline that essentially gives him the beginning, middle, and end, but says, “I often make a start on the actual writing with several important plot issues still unresolved.”
And he can be surprised by what his characters say and do. In MARKED for example, he says, “Early on in MARKED, Doyle acts toward a suspect in a way that most of us would regard as over-the-top. It’s only when you keep reading that you understand the reasons for his seemingly irrational behavior.”
Jackson then goes on to note: “More generally, I think Doyle often surprises himself by his actions. The dilemmas he finds himself in make him do things he wouldn’t normally consider, just as any of us could do given the right circumstances.”
Meanwhile Jackson is hard at work on the fourth installment in the Callum Doyle series. He finds that in certain respects writing a series is easier. His central characters and setting are already established, but more importantly he says,
I found my literary ‘voice’. The writing style I developed for PARIAH had matured for the subsequent books, and so I found I could write more quickly and more confidently.”
For the future of his hero he says, “I’ve got plenty of things in store for Cal, some of them arcing over several novels. In MARKED, I pick up some of the threads that were left dangling in PARIAH and I bring back some of the characters who were introduced there.” The only hint he gave concerning the fourth book is that “the character of the killer is just as important as Doyle himself – perhaps more so.”
Jackson freely acknowledges influences to his writing career. Besides Ed McBain, he includes Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, and Harlan Coban to name but a very few. Currently he is reading Stephen King (“Boy, that guy can write.”)
His attention to pacing is based on movie thrillers for as he says, “you can’t have long, unbroken scenes in which nothing very much happens.” He continues, “I love a good film, and I find it enormously beneficial in my novels to attempt to incorporate some of the techniques used by the great screenwriters and directors to keep an audience engaged. For example, my novels are written in the present tense, just as screenplays are, as I think this adds a terrific sense of immediacy to the events being described.”
David Jackson fans, old and new, have a lot to look forward to, not the least of which is the publication of MARKED. “All I want to do is entertain my readers,” he says. “I just want to write gripping stories that make readers want to come back for more.”
David Jackson is the author of a series of crime thrillers featuring New York Detective Callum Doyle. His debut novel, PARIAH, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Awards. Two further novels in the series – THE HELPER and MARKED – have been produced, and he is currently working on a fourth.
You can find out more about David and his books, PARIAH, THE HELPER, and MARKED at his website.
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