So a few weeks ago, I was cruising the posts of several Facebook friends when I came across the announcement of a new book release entitled “Craddock” by Paul Finch. The book cover definitely caught my eye, so I started reading up on it and immediately became excited about the premise of this book. I knew a couple of things at that moment: 1) I wanted to get to know the author, Paul Finch and 2) I DEFINITELY wanted to read this book. It just sounded too amazing not too.
You see, you might not be aware of this (I don’t really talk about it a lot here on this blog), but I’m a HUGE fan of Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. To be honest, Holmes is the reason I went into forensic death investigation as a career (CSI was not even a twinkle in its creator’s eye when I started doing it! lol). What’s more, I honestly love any fiction from that period…the darker the better. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is another favorite of mine. I even loved the combination novel a few years back called “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes”…it was a sort of Sherlock Holmes vs. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of thing…but so much fun!
Anyway, Craddock sounded right up my alley with all it’s gaslightey goodness!
Here’s what Smashwords says about Craddock:
Award-winning author, Paul Finch, introduces a new kind of detective…Major Jim Craddock – a veteran of Queen Victoria’s army in India, now working as police detective among the coal tips, cotton mills and filthy, teeming slums that covered the raped landscape of nineteenth century northern England, and specialising, of course, in the odd, the uncanny and the downright nightmarish.
But there’s so much more to it than this. Paul does an excellent job explaining the setup for Craddock (a book for four novellas featuring the Victorian detective of the unusual) on his blog. Here’s what he said:
Some of you may have met Craddock before. He’s a police detective in Victorian England, who, thanks to his military service in India, now specialises in weird, bizarre and occult-related cases. I first started writing his adventures back in the 1990s. His debut story was THE MAGIC LANTERN SHOW, which puts him on the trail of a serial strangler with supernatural powers. That tale made its first appearance in a chapbook of mine, THE DARK SATANIC (Enigmatic Novellas) in 1999, and was the obvious one with which to kick off this collection.
Craddock’s follow-up tale to this was SHADOWS IN THE RAFTERS, in which the abductions of several street-children leads him to something more loathsome than even he could ever have imagined. This story was first published in BY THE GAS FLAME FLICKERING (BJM Press) in 2000, and is also reprinted here.
His third outing was THE WEEPING IN THE WITCH HOURS, in which Craddock is taken out of his familiar coal-blackened Lancashire, and plunged into the remoteness of the fen country, where the deaths of two clergymen are linked to a spectre from the distant past. Those who enjoy their terror tales with a Jamesian flavour should enjoy this one. It first appeared in DARKNESS RISING (Prime Books) in 2003, and is here reprinted for the first time.
Last but not least is an all-new Craddock adventure, never published until now. THE COILS UNSEEN sends our laconic hero after a dangerous fugitive, who hides out in the beached wreck of a haunted prison ship, where he assumes that no-one will have the guts to look for him. What a mistake that turns out to be.
These are Victorian police mysteries, but they are horror stories as well, filled with demons, ghosts and the dementedly murderous. I massively enjoyed writing them – Gothic nineteenth century literature still underpins this genre to which we’re all addicted, and I had no difficulty at all making a mental leap back into that era of top-hats, Hansom cabs and gas-lit backstreets.
If that’s not enough for you, then check out the book trailerfor Craddock!
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Right now, it’s only available in ebook (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/35056
), but a print version is in the works I believe. Plus, Paul has a ton of other books you should check out (including a way cool Medieval zombie book that sounds like a blast!!! (I’m a huge Army of Darkness fan…so it should be right up my alley!).
Anyway, recently, Paul was good enough to talk to me about his writing, his career, and what he has in store for the future. Here’s what he had to say:
1) Your latest book is collection of four novellas featuring 19th century detective Jim Craddock. What can you tell us about him and his particular brand of investigations?
Jim Craddock is an ex-soldier, who, during his service years saw action in various corners of the British Empire, but primarily in India, where he was exposed to all kinds of exotic intrigues and mysteries. He finally returned to civilian life at the rank of major, and took a job as senior officer within the Wigan Borough Police. This wouldn’t happen in modern times of course. No-one joins the police force at a senior rank now, but the Craddock stories are set in the 1860s, only thirty years after Britain’s first official police force was formed. This was a time of social and political unrest, particularly in Lancashire, in the north of England, where Craddock is based. Heavy, dirty industry had all but destroyed the landscape in that era. Soot and coal dust covered everything, and towns built quickly and cheaply to accommodate the new, massive workforce had degenerated into filthy, teeming slums, where there was much crime, poverty and disorder.
Up to this point, the story is basically true. My home town of Wigan, an industrial Lancashire borough, which embodied all the problems I’ve so far mentioned, was very poorly policed in the early days of law and order. The local force, which was put together hurriedly and without much thought, was inept, corrupt and, more often than not, drunk on duty. In the 1850s, the local authorities sacked every constable, and appointed an ex-military man to form and head up a completely new police service. He did this very efficiently, mainly by recruiting former soldiers of his acquaintance, men of good character and even temperament. This brought a speedy end to the lawlessness, and ushered in a new age of tough but fair policing (in many ways, a blueprint for the kind of policing that we still find desirable today). He also introduced the town’s first ‘detective officers’, whose job it was to investigate crime while their uniformed colleagues patrolled the streets.
So far, all this really happened, though of course the original Craddock was not called Craddock, and he didn’t specialise in occult-related crimes. However, when I first encountered these historical facts I was inspired to write something a little different from the norm. There were clearly stories to be told here, but they would predate Sherlock Holmes by about three decades. This wasn’t Edwardian England; it was early Victorian England – an age of curiosities and grotesques, much closer in spirit to the world of Dickens and Poe than Conan Doyle. Despite that, it still seemed a little strange writing about the supernatural from inside the rational world of police investigation, particularly against the background of the Age of Reason. But these factors never stopped actual Victorian writers from writing ghost stories – in fact quite the opposite. And that was something else that influenced me. I’d long been ensnared by the romance of nineteenth century scare fare; everything from the great Gothic writings of that age to the movies of the Hammer studios. Tophats, Hansom cabs, foggy backstreets – when I was growing up, these all were redolent to me of the golden age of British horror. Craddock, whose first appearance in THE MAGIC LANTERN SHOW could have been his last if there’d been no further interest in him, seemed an easy way to re-visit that age again and again, so long as I always had appropriate ideas for him.
2) One of my most common questions I ask writers deals with influences in their lives that effect their own stories (whether book, other authors, movies, or TV)…I ask you the same question now, but also am curious as to the biggest influences surrounding Craddock as well.
I think I’ve partly answered that question already with my references to the tenuous truth behind Craddock. But of course, there were other factors. I’m an ex-cop. There’s no getting away from that. The experience of working as a cop has coloured all my fiction. Law enforcement is a complex world, but it’s one I understand very well. Subsequently, many of my heroes, both men and women, have been police officers or ex-police officers. This has enabled me to tackle the strange and bizarre from a slightly different angle. It’s often given my characters an air of authority when it comes to prosaic day-to-day events, and yet, ironically, they too are often equally hapless in the face of the uncanny, which in many ways denudes them even more than it would the average man on the street. With regard to other authors, films, TV and so forth … I could reel off lists of movies I’ve seen and books I’ve read that I’ve been massively impressed by. I don’t think it would be true to say that the work of any one particular author has made me go away, sit down and start writing. Thanks to my late father, who was very widely read and who loved fantasy, horror, science fiction and such, I was exposed to some of the genre’s best wordsmiths at a very early age. I was always envious of the creeping chill that M.R. James could instill in his readers, and in awe of Lovecraft’s descriptive powers, particularly when it came to the indescribable. What else? … the exotic opulence of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the violent action of Robert E. Howard, the slick economy of Robert Bloch, the living, breathing worlds of Stephen King, the strangeness of the mundane in Ramsey Campbell. I really could go on all day. As for movies and TV … at heart, I prefer to be frightened rather than repulsed. Violence is often integral to horror, but I’d always rather watch a film like THE HAUNTING (the original, obviously), or THE EXORCIST, or Nigel Kneale’s masterly TV adaptation of THE WOMAN IN BLACK, where the emphasis is on mystery, menace and terror of the unknown rather than gross-out gore.
3) Paranormal mysteries seem to be gaining great popularity of late. What do you believe is the greatest appeal for readers when it comes to these types of stories? What do you think draws readers to them?
First of all, I think the proliferation of this kind of specialist fiction has been caused by publishers wanting to repackage horror in more respectable ways. For some reason, at some point in the late 80s / early 90s – I’m not exactly sure when or why – ‘horror’, in purely literary terms, became a dirty word. There was still an appetite for it among readers, but suddenly it couldn’t be called ‘horror ‘any more. Hence the manufacture of various sub-genres like ‘dark fantasy’, ‘vampire romance’ and, as you say, the ‘supernatural thriller’.
With regard to the latter, I can’t say what the overall attraction to readers is, except that we still want to believe there’s an afterlife, and many of us – even those who don’t profess any particular religion – are open-minded enough to consider that supernatural powers may exist. But these days, perhaps because faith has been eroded, suspecting that there may be something beyond just isn’t enough. These days we are so bombarded by rationalist viewpoints and scientific arguments that we want to see the paranormal angle investigated, and, if possible, provide us with conclusive answers. For example, in non-fiction terms, ghost-watching TV has recently become popular, particularly when it’s done in a serious investigative vein. People don’t want to hear standard ghost stories any more. They have a need to know what ghosts are, if they exist, why they exist and so on, and more importantly, what this may mean for them personally. In terms of fiction, it’s easy enough to satisfy that need when a thorough and objective investigator is applied to the case. If our readers no longer take the unknown at face value, then their heroes must reflect this. Thus, even when faced with overwhelming evidence of the paranormal, my two main detective characters – Jim Craddock, who is a Victorian, and Nick Brooker, who is contemporary – will always consider every other possibility first. I’m not talking about paying lip-service to skepticism. It’s a bit more than that, it’s almost a catharsis. The modern world is an enquiring world. We want answers to mysteries, and if – as usually happens in my work – the eventual answer is something beyond our understanding, then all well and good so long as we arrived at that answer by logical and recognisable means. Once you’ve reached that point, and your investigative characters start edging towards a supernatural explanation, I find that you can take the reader with you quite easily.
4) You are a rather prolific writer with several titles from just as many genres under your belt. What particular genre is your favorite to write? For readers just getting to know you, besides Craddock, which books would you recommend they read of yours and why? Tell us a bit about your own personal favorites.
Those are actually difficult questions to answer. I have a horror profile, but as you say, I’ve written quite widely, mainly because I’ve been self-employed as an author for a long time, and I’ve needed to put bread on the table. I cut my literary teeth penning episodes of the British crime series, THE BILL. I’ve also written for children’s television, and these last two years have been gainfully employed in the world of DOCTOR WHO, writing novels and audio dramas. I’ve also written straight historical material. The first drama of mine that was ever produced was a stage-play called CROSS AND FIRE (1990), which detailed the events around the execution of Joan of Arc. I’m currently working on and off on a novel set at the time of the Norman conquest of England. However, probably the most ambitious thing I’ve embarked on is a new series of contemporary, non-supernatural police novels, which I’m currently in the process of writing. This will be a darker and grittier series than most, however – possibly reflecting my horror interests, though these books will be set firmly in the world of crime and criminal investigation, and will be classified as thrillers, not horrors. I can’t say too much more about this at present, as negotiations are currently under way.
But, it’s undeniable that … to date at least, horror is the genre within which I’ve gained most popularity, and in which I have most of my professional credits. Quite simply, I love the weird, the wonderful and the scary. My recent novel, STRONGHOLD (Abaddon Books) is set during the thirteenth century, and tells the tale of a castle besieged by hordes of the undead. It’s a brutal fantasy adventure, which readers seem to be finding a lot of fun. Less blood-soaked, and perhaps more representative of my mystery-oriented horror, are my recent collections of stories and novellas: WALKERS IN THE DARK (Ash-Tree Press), and ONE MONSTER IS NOT ENOUGH (Gray Friar Press). These contain what I consider to be some of my best writing to date, though I suppose it’s all subjective. My festive novella – SPARROWHAWK (Pendragon Press) – was released over Christmas, and this has also been given the thumbs-up in a number of quarters. I like this one in particular because it combines supernatural mystery with war, history, fantasy, romance and, maybe, here and there, a dollop of social commentary – and all flavoured by the traditional Victorian Christmas.
The best thing for those really interested in finding out more is to check my regularly updated blog and webpage: http://paulfinch-writer.blogspot.com/. Most of my horror credits are listed on there, along with synopses, publication dates, awards, where to purchase, availability, etc
5) Besides writing, what are some of your favorite things to do? Hobbies? Interests?
I don’t have too many hobbies that are separated from what I do for a living. I’m a sports fan, and write sports reports for the local press. I also go to the gym and enjoy outdoor-type holidays, though in all these things my desire to write is never far away. I don’t go anywhere on vacation without a pen and pad – you never know when, where or by what you’re suddenly going to be inspired.
6) What other books/stories can we look foward to reading from you in the future? Any works in progress you’d like to share with us? Any books coming out soon we should be keeping an eye out for? Tell us about them.
THE DEVIL’S ROCK, my World War Two era horror movie, is one to look out for this year. It should be on release by late spring, though I’m not totally sure about the date. Likewise, two other movies – THE FREEZE (to be shot in Canada) and DARK HOLLOW (an adaptation of Brian Keene’s best-selling novel) are in development. It’s possible that we’ll have at least one of those in preproduction by summer. There is also a movie adaptation of STRONGHOLD in the works, though I’m not writing the script for that one. There are also books in the pipeline. I don’t want to mention any titles just yet, but these include new novels and new collections of stories. For those interested in DOCTOR WHO, I have two more audio dramas out later this year, and one novel, HUNTER’S MOON, due in April.
7) If you could offer only one piece of advice to aspiring writers out there, what would it be?
Keep writing, keep submitting and always take note of the responses you get from editors, publishers, agents and so on, particularly if they’re rejecting you. They won’t always be right, but absorbing feedback is the only way we can improve. We’re all on a learning curve, and we need to acknowledge that. I don’t read material and offer advice on a one-to-one basis anymore, because too often in the past I’ve met aspiring writers who will not take constructive criticism, and who think they can’t sell their work simply because they’re unlucky. Luck is always a factor in making a sale, but if you’re consistently failing to sell, there must be a reason. Always be big enough to admit that you might not have got it right just yet, and always be ready to make necessary adjustments to your style and your material.
Thank you, Paul…for the friendship and for the great interview! I truly wish you the best of luck on not only Craddock, but all your other pursuits as well.
And friends, if you’d like to pick up copies of Craddock or any of the other Paul Finch books, here you go.
For STRONGHOLD, go here:
Or check out his website for more info! http://paulfinch-writer.blogspot.com/.