Friday, 26 October 2012

Chris Simms talks about Scratching Deeper!

Today’s guest blog is from author Chris SimmsChris is the author of eight Manchester based crime novels his most recent (and ninth) Scratch Deeper is released today.  He is also the editor of the CWA’s sister site the Crime Readers AssociationHe has written six books in the DI Jon Spicer series.  His second book in the DI Spicer series Shifting Skin was nominated for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year.

The action in Scratch Deeper begins after the Unit receives a tip-off about a planned attack on the city. It’s tense, it’s fast moving and it takes you into the dark and forgotten tunnels that run beneath the streets of Manchester.

I watched the TV with fear in my eyes. On screen, the conference in Manchester played itself out. I didn’t care about what was being said. I just stared apprehensively at the politicians on stage thinking, if a bomb goes off beneath them, how long before the Counter Terrorism Unit arrive at my house?

I got up and anxiously paced the room, pausing to check the street outside. No anonymous van parked opposite, its dirty windows concealing an observation team. No engineer appearing to fix a streetlight while really rigging up a camera.

Of course, that was the obvious surveillance stuff. I knew they also sent people into suspect’s homes. Ten minutes. That’s all a CTU operative needed to attach listening devices in plug sockets, miniscule cameras behind skirting boards.

I thought I was being followed the other day. A blue car that seemed to be mirroring my route through the city. So when I reached a roundabout, I didn’t come off: I just kept circling the central island and glancing back, knowing no vehicle could do the same without me spotting it.

What if something did happen and they came storming up the drive? Should I shout through the letterbox, ‘It was only a book! I write crime novels! How could I have known?’

Or should I keep my silence and wait for a solicitor? Trouble was, I knew that under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, they could spirit me away for several weeks before accusing me of anything.

During which time, they’d break into the garden shed I use for an office. They’d find the files on my computer; the information I’d gleaned from the internet on how to make a bomb. Christ! I squeezed my eyes shut: they’d come across my interviews with police officers who preferred to remain anonymous. Interviews containing snippets about security operations. Things, which no member of the public should know.

Even worse was the stuff on the mysterious network of tunnels that run beneath the city – including a particular one located directly below the centre where the Labour party conference was taking place. They’d want to know how I knew so much about it. After all, if ordinary civilians were denied access, how come I was able to describe it in such precise detail? I wanted to groan. They’d find the answers for themselves pretty fast. As soon as they stumbled on the emails from the secretive group who like to break into the tunnel network and explore it during the dead of night, in fact. They’d even have the dates of when we’d agreed to meet...

So I sat through the conference with sweaty hands. And, after three days, was able to slump back on the sofa with relief. The conference had passed off without incident. And copies of my book – Scratch Deeper – which describes a terror attack on an event attended by a Prime Minister-in-waiting weren’t seized, shredded and incinerated. In fact, the book’s out this Friday...

Chris Simms’ latest novel, Scratch Deeper, is out on Friday, 26 October. Published by Severn House.  

More information about Chris Simms and his work can be found on his website.

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