It is my sincere pleasure to welcome the multi-talented Kevin Robinson, (West Yorkshire Police Inspector, Retired) as my guest. Kevin’s good advice about British Police procedure in Malice & Murder was so very much appreciated (as was his patience with my continuous questions).
Would you like to tell the readers how we came to meet?
Certainly. I work under the name of Crime Writing Solutions. I aim to help writers make crime fiction real. I had just started to publicise the support I was offering writers particularly of crime fiction in making their stories more realistic and you had a need to ascertain certain aspects of policing in England. You also happened to be a member of the group I wrote to. The rest as they say is history.
Why did you decide to offer your support to writers?
I have never really been a big fan of crime fiction. Dealing with crimes and their victims as part of my role as a police officer encouraged me to seek escape through other genres. It was only as I neared retirement that I dipped my toes into this particular genre as a reader.
I was lucky enough to meet Peter Robinson (author of the Inspector Banks series of novels) and later provided him with some guidance about police procedures, which he incorporated into his novel Bad Boy. We’re not related by the way.
From there I picked up crime novels by a variety of authors and noticed a lot of crime drama on TV. Sadly, I became frustrated as I saw more and more glaring errors in their depiction of the police, the way they worked and the opportunities missed to enhance the product on offer.
I realised how hard it was for someone outside of the police to gain reliable information about them, without seeming to be like a geek or criminal in training. Putting the two together, I decide that I would use my knowledge and experience to help others not having the same advantage.
Tell us about you.
Books were not commonplace in my childhood home and I wasn’t encouraged by my parents to read either so I was and still am a bit of a slow reader. Whilst at high school I enjoyed writing. I often sat at the back of the class penning my latest science fiction creation (along the lines of Star Trek). How I managed to get any qualifications still escapes me for I was often more immersed in my ledger than the teacher’s words of wisdom.
I always wanted to be a history teacher but bombed out, unable to grasp academic concepts in the subjects I was most interested in. Maybe the writing instead of listening was to blame. I thought my fate was sealed and I would never get to teach. My parents weren’t the sort to support me in a writing career so I went out and got a “proper job” for the next 35 years.
I joined the Police and it’s true that in police work there is a mountain of paperwork and reports to complete, which kept the wrist muscles well honed. The introduction of computers allowed me the opportunity to generate more words per minute and to swap their order around much more easily.
Working in the police isn’t about always being on the front-line and fortunately I managed to achieve my childhood ambitions. I eventually became a qualified police trainer, a writer of training materials, able to inject elements of history into the subjects I taught.
I am now a retired police officer. Having served just over 30 years, I felt the time was right to try something new, which was going to be writing. It wasn’t especially new as throughout most of my life I have written in some form or another. I’m now trying to juggle supporting other writers with getting on with my own works of fiction
Tell us about your book.
Sadly I’m a “gonna” writer. I have lots of ideas about what to write. I even have plenty of motivation to start the various projects. It the momentum and discipline I seem to lack as another idea pops into my head and off I go in another direction “gonna” write the best thing ever to spring to mind. Consequently, other than the training material I wrote for the police, I haven’t managed to complete a novel let alone get to the publishing end.
My latest project is to ditch the fiction writing for a moment and to put into text, the work I’ve done delivering a weekend workshop for writer on how to make crime fiction more realistic.
How did that go?
Fantastic. I had 16 delegates ranging from aspiring to published (through both self and traditional routes). The hardest thing for me was deciding what of the 10 to 15 weeks worth of training material I could have used and reducing that to just a weekend. From the feedback it seems that I succeeded. Have a look at – http://crimewritingsolutions.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/well-the-verdicts-out/
Will you run more workshops like this one?
Yes I will providing there’s the interest. At the moment I have enough to fill half of the places and so will probably go ahead with another in about 6 months.
What can delegates expect from attending the workshop?
First of all, it’s not just for writers of crime fiction. One of my recent delegates was a playwright penning a tragic comedy and she wanted to get the police right in her play. Other delegates wanted to know how the police in the UK are structured, how they operate and how they interact with criminals. They (by their own accounts) got more than that. They all went away with additional ideas for their stories. A few used the opportunity to run their latest stories by me seeking additional material and they got that too. They got to network with like minded people and I also provided a very comprehensive DVD full of research material relevant particularly but not exclusively to crime writers.
What makes you unique and why should writers come to you?
I am aware of a few homicide detectives in the US who hold seminars for crime writers and that they seem to be very popular. There is, as far as I have been able to ascertain, nothing similar in the UK. There are workshops for crime writers but they tend to be delivered by crime writers and feature the nuts and bolts of how to write crime fiction.
There are a plethora of TV programs about murder but not many feature the details that support policing as a whole. Some writers happen to have found a contact either still working in the police or recently retired but most have no-one to turn to. There are a few books available both in the US and in the UK but now they are a bit out of date and policing in Britain is changing fast lately.
I have been involved in some of those changes and have a good idea of what’s about to come and what effect it will have. I also have very wide and varied experience of policing both in the UK and internationally. I have worked in much of South Eastern Europe, Lithuania, the US, South Africa and I have supported various UN drug and crime projects.
I am also able to listen to a writers aspirations and rationalise how they can make the policing aspect work for them without sounding contrite or fictitious.
If you’re not an avid crime fiction reader – whose books do you like to read?
My favourite author is John Irving and my most precious book would have to be one of his – A Prayer for Owen Meaney. My other favourite authors are Lee Child, Dean Koontz, Nicholas Sparks and Martin Cruz Smith. I also enjoy Carlos Ruis Zafon and I’m currently working my way through the Ian Fleming series of James Bond books. I do tend to read a lot of non-fiction, particularly historical stuff but I’ll try anything at least once.
Are you currently working on a project?
Yes I am. I am developing a distance learning course for law enforcement analysts (worldwide) to help them assist senior investigating officers with serious and serial crime investigation. I’m also putting together the book for crime writers on how they can make their police investigations more realistic.
I have a play that I’m waiting to be staged early next year and I want to finally get beyond the “gonna” stage of writing.
Have you any final words?
If yourself or any of your readers need any support to get their fictitious British cops right, just get in touch with me either through my website at – http://crimewritingsolutions.wordpress.com or via e-mail at email@example.com
And many thanks for having me on your blog.