Colin Campbell’s Resurrection Man returns in SNAKE PASS, a new thriller that looks back on the protagonist’s deadly standoff during his police career in Yorkshire.
Readers know Jim Grant, The Resurrection Man, as a special operative who stayed in the United States after a British case brought him to American shores.
In Jamaica Plain, Montecito Heights, and Adobe Flats he’s been troubleshooting dangerous situations for an unnamed U.S. security agency. In the first novel in the series, Jamaica Plain, a press photo of Grant with his hands extended during a standoff with a gunman earned his nickname, and his adventures have earned praise from outlets such as Library Journal, which noted of SNAKE PASS: “Campbell’s gritty noir style and hard-hitting action scenes mix well with Grant’s dry wit, making this fourth series installment a rollicking good time.”
Campbell recently answered a few questions for The Big Thrill.
Your hero, Jim Grant, The Resurrection Man, has hopped around America for several books now. What prompted a look back at his UK days and how long had you planned to go back to his home?
SNAKE PASS was actually going to be the first book, long before it was even called SNAKE PASS or had anything to do with Jim Grant. When my agent, Donna Bagdasarian, suggested writing a series set in America I was already outlining a story about a disillusioned UK cop who’s always telling the newbies not to get involved off duty but ends up helping a waitress being attacked after work. I changed it to be this UK cop who gets sent to America at the end to set up the US series. (Since I was halfway through the plotting stage.) Then I thought it made more sense to jump straight in with Jamaica Plain and Grant’s first adventure in the US, using Snake Pass as backstory for why he was sent there. I always intended to revisit it and tell the whole story. I actually wrote it before Adobe Flats, but working on the rule of threes I decided that having three US adventures gave him time to get established before going back to that snowy night in Yorkshire.
Grant is thrown into the situation at the heart of his novel by disciplinary proceedings. Was that spurred by any real-life overzealousness from Discipline and Complaints officers?
D&C has always been a red flag issue with police officers. In America they’re called something else, Internal Affairs Bureau or IAB, and often referred to as the rat squad because they’re seen as preying on cops just trying to do their job. I don’t think that’s strictly true. Bad cops need weeding out to protect the integrity of the good police. Even so, back in my day, you kind of dreaded being called in for an interview with D&C. I remember this seasoned veteran when I’d only just joined, a real thief-taker, in-your-face, kind of cop. He used to say if you don’t get any complaints you’re not doing your job properly. Since most complaints come from people not liking how they were arrested. His view was, they should be pissed off. We’re not here to make the crooks happy. I had a few complaints over the years but my approach was more low key, keep ‘em happy then they’ll talk to you, rather than building barriers. I think his way was better.
Were there other issues in the back of your mind as you worked on this book? Domestic violence? Everyday crime in neighborhoods?
I suppose the theme of the book is protecting those who can’t look after themselves. Pretty much what being a police officer is all about anyway. Every cop has been to numerous domestic disputes where the wife has been beaten up. They can be difficult to prosecute because the offense usually takes place behind closed doors with no witnesses apart from the victim. Back then, statistics showed that male on female murders often started as domestic assaults that weren’t nipped in the bud early enough. They take a harder line now than when I joined.
Thieving shitbags running amok on housing estates was also something I had to deal with on a regular basis. It was very frustrating trying to get them locked up when the court system wanted to give them a second chance to reform. Half the time they’d just reform back to burgling some poor old lady or stealing cars until the weight of offenses forced the court’s hands. The Jim Grant approach would have definitely been helpful. I have no comment about whether that ever happened.
A contained thriller, where most of the action takes place in one setting has been called a Houdini-like challenge for a writer. What hurdles did you find in placing Grant into a stand off in a diner and keeping things tense and exciting?
It’s definitely more punchy and fast paced than the previous books, mainly because there’s no additional scene setting or transitions from one place to the next. I suppose it can be difficult to come up with enough incidents and reversals to keep the story interesting. Mainly though I just do what I always do, follow Grant and see what he’d do next. First I had to get him to the diner in the middle of the night. Answer, get him suspended. So, how do I get him suspended? Answer, have him bend the rules once too often. Having got him to the diner at Snake Pass it was an easy build. Witness a robbery where his favorite waitress is threatened, then it’s back to protecting the innocent. From there it’s one step at a time. Room to room. One setback after another. From low life thugs to bigger thugs to the mother of all thugs, with machine guns and helicopters. But it still all comes down to protecting those who can’t protect themselves. And trying not to seem too much like Jack Reacher. Jim Grant is a different animal.
What real life cases did you draw on in crafting the criminals in this situation? Were there incidents that helped you make the desperation and intensity real?
I didn’t come across too many international drug cartels walking my beat in Bradford. I did go on a few house searches and address checks. That’s where I learned about the bath panel storage. Among other things. The initial assault at the rugby club actually happened, including the reception mysteriously emptying at the relevant times, so no witnesses. As for the desperation and intensity, try having someone hit you around the head with a baseball bat, that sharpens your senses. Happened to me but with a cider bottle. Oh, and a kitchen knife once. Somebody did threaten me with a butter knife. Not the worst thing ever happened to me. Thankfully no firearms.
Was it interesting to have Grant face dangerous but more street level criminals again after clashes with larger villains like a Texas tyrant and L.A. drug cartels?
For me it’s less about the level of the villain so much as the interaction with Grant. I love writing dialogue scenes, and confrontation provides Grant with a chance to throw a few dry observations. The higher up the criminal ladder you get, the longer the conversations become. Talking to a jumped up punch bag isn’t as challenging. When I was on the beat it was always interesting changing how you talked to people depending on their intellectual baggage. Some people, words of one syllable got the point home quicker.
How was it getting back to your old territory, and dealing with Grant in a more traditional procedural setting vs. his U.S. adventures where he has more of a free hand? Was this kind of the flip side of his other adventures?
It’s not so much that he gets more of a free hand back home as that the procedures are different. The rules and regulations give a cop different hoops to jump through but the bottom line always comes down to arresting the criminals. You need to know the rules to make sure you don’t fall foul of them. Grant in America, he’s got more of an excuse if he messes up. Over here, he’d better be able to explain his actions. As for the writing, my books tend to be less about official procedures and more about practical policing. Grant gets the job done and worries about writing it up for the bosses later. Maybe with some creative licence for the dodgy bits.
Is the location based on a favorite diner or a place you liked to hang out?
No. Snake Pass exists, and is always the first road in Yorkshire to closes when it snows, but the diner is fictional. When I was in uniform there was a saying that a good policeman never gets wet. Referring to being able to find somewhere to shelter if it rained. On night shift that was usually security guard offices and industrial premises. I’ve had many a grotty coffee leafing through men’s magazines at the guard hut. There was this fit bird at an all night petrol station once, but I’d better not mention that.
Speaking of hanging out, did you revisit your former professional settings to get refreshed on the police surroundings? Any chats with friends still on the force for inspiration, anything like that? How closely do you stay in contact with active officers these days?
Once a cop always a cop. It’s a saying Grant has used more than once and I think it’s true. You never forget what it’s like going through doors or visiting crime scenes. You just don’t. So, getting in the mood for Grant doing police stuff isn’t a problem. And since he doesn’t follow procedures too much I don’t include them in the books, apart from the bare minimum. I did find out when writing SNAKE PASS though, that police powers for an arrestable offence have completely changed. Thankfully since this is set before the other books I can rely on the old rules.
I am still in touch via Facebook with a few old mates. They keep sticking it to me now and again when a new book comes out or I comment on something they’ve posted. More nostalgia than police procedures though. I follow Grant on that one, and ignore them.
Given the tight setting and filmmakers love contained settings in everything from Wait Until Dark to Panic Room, do you think this title would make an interesting Resurrection Man film?
Both great films. I remember seeing Wait Until Dark when I was a kid and being on the edge of my seat when Audrey Hepburn smashed all the bulbs to make the intruder as blind as her. And then Alan Arkin opens the fridge door. Wow. The confined setting for SNAKE PASS is more akin to Die Hard, or Where Eagles Dare with the snow. I think this one and Adobe Flats are both fairly cinematic. When I write I see this little movie in my head so I’m creating visual scenes all the time. In the action movie genre I suppose the confined setting helps build tension. As much as I liked Die Hard With A Vengeance, I think it lost a little from being spread all over New York. I could definitely see helicopters and explosions closing SNAKE PASS. It would be change from shutting it for snow.
What’s the next stop for The Resurrection Man?
I’ve written another two and almost finished a third. Plus a few short stories. Next up Jim Grant is working the night shift in Boston when he gets involved in a drive-by shooting at a wealthy resident’s house that turns into something bigger. Then he’s off to a small town on the west coast near San Francisco on a UK related crime inquiry. An ex-cop suspected of stealing a fortune from the evidence locker and disappearing. The new one was inspired from my flight home being diverted to Charlotte NC then cancelled. I had to stay overnight in a remote motel. Grant has a busier time of it than I did though.
Ex Army, retired cop and former Scenes Of Crime Officer, Colin Campbell is the author of British crime novels, Blue Knight White Cross, and Northern Ex, and US thrillers Jamaica Plain, Montecito Heights, Adobe Flats and Snake Pass. His Jim Grant thrillers bring a rogue Yorkshire cop to America where culture clash and violence ensue.
To learn more about Colin, please visit his website.