Today is publication day for Lord Of The Dead by Richard Rippon, and I have a guest post from him for you all to read! First though, here’s the all-important bookish information you need to know!
On the 3rd November 2017, a thrilling new voice in contemporary British crime-fiction will emerge.
A woman’s body has been found on the moors of Northumberland, brutally murdered and grotesquely dismembered. Northumbria police enlist the help of unconventional university psychologist Jon Atherton, a decision complicated by his personal history with lead investigator Detective Sergeant Kate Prejean.
As Christmas approaches and pressure mounts on the force, Prejean and Atherton’s personal lives begin to unravel as they find themselves the focus of media attention, and that of the killer known only as Son Of Geb.
Lord Of The Dead is a gripping, electrifying piece of modern noir fiction.
“A stunning novel. If Thomas Harris was to write a British take on the Nordic-Noir genre, this would be it. Rippon is an exciting new voice in British crime fiction.”
Nathan O’Hagan, author of ‘The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place’
Why My Main Character Has Cerebral Palsy
Before I started writing it, I had some ideas of the things I wanted to achieve with my novel. I wanted it to be firmly set in the North East, but I didn’t want it to feel small-town. I wanted to create a pacy thriller, but have an interesting and unique premise. I wanted it to have a gritty noir feel, but have almost cinematic moments, which would make the most of the Northumberland setting. Most importantly, I wanted the characters, and particularly my protagonist, to be as realistic – but as different and engaging – as possible.
I hit upon the idea of creating a younger version of my Uncle Jim, a retired accountant who happens to have a razor-sharp intellect, a great sense of humour and a wicked turn of phrase, which I thought would work well on the page. He also happens to be affected by cerebral palsy.
Although I initially planned to simply transplant parts of his personality into an able-bodied person, it didn’t feel right to airbrush his disability away, to just cherry-pick certain aspects of his personality for the convenience of the book. Disabled people are still woefully under-represented on TV and in literature. For example, around 5% of TV characters have a disability, compared to 16% in the UK. When they are represented, they’re rarely given substantial storylines. I wanted my character to be front and centre – the lead, the hero – not the quirky sidekick behind the scenes.
And so, Jon Atherton was born. While I wanted to include his disability, I didn’t want this to be the sole focus, I wanted it to be more incidental. Yes, it’s part of him, but just one part. I went on to add some significant embellishments, until Jon stopped being a version of Jim, and took a life of his own.
Of course the fictional Jon’s disability is something that has shaped him in part. He has memories of being bullied, and a complicated relationship with his parents that stems from this, but it isn’t his defining characteristic. He’s a bit of a lad – a sexual being, with a fondness for female company – and has an interesting psychological makeup, which makes him well-suited to hunt down killers. He’s also not without his flaws. He’s witty, but sometimes his sarcasm can be hurtful and inappropriate. He’s been unfaithful to a wife who is still suffering from post-partum depression, and their relationship is still in recovery.
Atherton having CP presented a few practical problems. He probably couldn’t be the cop I first envisaged. Instead, he’d be a university professor who specialises in serial killers. There’d be no chase scenes, or sliding over car bonnets in the pursuit of criminals. Instead, his input would be rely on his intellect, aided by a female partner, and police team who’d step in when things got physical.
Another problem was that I didn’t know enough about the day-to-day implications of living with cerebral palsy. I felt like a bit of a charlatan. What right did I have to write with any kind of authenticity about what it would be like to have a lifelong condition such as CP? I turned to Twitter for help, and found someone who helped me better understand how CP feels, and the frustrations that can come with it.
In the end, I think my decision to introduce Jon Atherton was the right one. I’ll never be the best-qualified to write with absolute authority about life with CP, but I can at least try to contribute a believable and compelling hero who happens to live with a disability.
Many thanks to Richard Rippon for this great post, and to Nathan O’Hagan of Obliterati Press!
You can pick up a copy of Lord Of The Dead by clicking the link below: