By Terry DiDemenico
First Boston in JAMAICA PLAIN, then Los Angeles in MONTECITO HEIGHTS, and now Texas in ADOBE FLATS. Jim Grant finds himself an unwelcomed visitor as the novel opens. Unwelcomed is putting it mildly, it resembles outright hostility. But why?
Grant knew why he was in Absolution, Texas. It was the starting point of a simple enough mission. He wanted to return an heirloom to the father of his lover and former colleague. Buying a train ticket to Absolution didn’t cause concern, but the conductor’s reaction to where he wanted to disembark and the wizen man who turned up at the nearly abandoned station did. It is only a short time later that Grant is on the run for his life. Then his simple mission turns to trouble as he works to bring justice to the small town being terrorized by a tyrant. Outgunned and outmanned, Grant relies on his razor-sharp instincts to outsmart and outfight an army of Texans led by a kingpin who has everything to lose.
The brainchild of author Colin Campbell, Jim Grant, AKA Resurrection Man, is an ex-West Yorkshire cop who relocates to the United States and is attached to the Boston Police Department. The nickname came in JAMAICA PLAIN after an image of him, wearing a bright orange jacket and arms outstretched, hit the media.
Grant is an interesting character who brings to mind elements of Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch with his own British twist. That twist comes directly from Campbell. “They say that most authors include parts of themselves in their characters. Ian Fleming liked fine food so James Bond likes fine food. Lee Child favored the head-butt at school so Jack Reacher favors the head-butt. I’m six foot four and wear an orange windcheater. And I’m left-handed. Partly that’s just a creative shortcut. If I don’t have to think about how Grant looks or thinks I can concentrate on the story and the action.”
Campbell continues, “Jim Grant has a similar mindset to me, but he’s better at everything than I ever was. That’s the other thing authors do. James Bond was a better secret agent than Ian Fleming. I’ve never been head-butted by Lee Child.”
Once Grant was in the United States, Campbell relies on contrast for his settings. Once he decides on a location, he uses Google Maps until he finds a neighborhood with a name he likes for a title, hence the titles for the first two books in the Resurrection Man series. “Adobe Flats is the fictional place that Spencer Tracy visits in Bad Day at Black Rock, one of my favorite movies.” Campbell says, “I’d already done Boston and Los Angeles and wanted a contrast for book three. And I love westerns. So I thought I would pay homage to Bad Day at Black Rock and A Fistful of Dollars, you know, the stranger wanders into town kind of thing. With a dollop of Blackhawk Down flashbacks. I’d have made Grant a lizard but Rango beat me to it. Best iguana western ever made.”
To get the authenticity needed, Campbell uses the street view found in Google Maps for Marathon, Texas to transport readers to the world of ADOBE FLATS. Two more movies, Paris Texas and The Last Picture Show helped him with the dusty, sunbaked dryness.
“I like to set my stories in a real place for the same reason Grant is basically me. If I’m looking at a location I can make the story fit the surroundings and if I get lost it’s back to the map and there I am. I can concentrate on the story and action. I’ll change things to fit but otherwise I remain relatively faithful. Locals don’t always agree.”
Noting the movie references:
“Stephen King references popular songs, George Pelecanos uses vintage cars. My passion is the movies, so I use movies. Any given situation throws up a movie reference for me. My problem is keeping them out. I had to cut back in MONTECITO HEIGHTS because I was referencing them in the narrative for no good reason.”
After picking the setting he wants to use, Campbell plots the entire story in a notebook with just a few lines per chapter. This he confesses is the hardest part of the process. “It’s when I flesh out the initial idea and add bumps in the road and even find things catching me by surprise. Mostly I know the ending but only vaguely until the outline is complete. Then I have my skeleton.
“The writing comes easy because I’ve sketched the roadmap. Sometimes fresh ideas come up that change everything but having the safety net helps keep me happy. I’m a happy writer, because I love reading. This is just the reading in reverse.”
The next Resurrection Man book “is bubbling” with the fourth, SNAKE PASS scheduled for publication in April. There is also a collection of Jim Grant stories that has just been released as an e-book for interested readers.
“I’m currently bringing ex-cop Vince McNulty from one of my earlier UK books, NORTHERN EX, to America. He’s working as technical advisor for a tinpot movie company while trying to find his missing sister from the orphanage they grew up in. Theft of film stock leads to something else and McNulty can’t keep the cop in him down.”
If you like independent souls who can’t seem to keep out of trouble with a British twist be sure to give ADOBE FLATS and the Resurrection Man series a try.
Visit Colin Campbell’s website to learn more about him, ADOBE FLATS, the Resurrection Series, and his other works on his website.
Ex-policeman. Ex-soldier. International tennis player. And full-time crime novelist. Colin Campbell is a retired police officer in West Yorkshire, having tackled crime in one of the UK’s busiest cities for 30 years. He is the author of UK crime novels, BLUE KNIGHT WHITE CROSS and NORTHERN EX, and US thrillers JAMAICA PLAIN and MONTECITO HEIGHTS featuring rogue Yorkshire cop Jim Grant. He counts Lee Child and Matt Hilton among his fans.