An interview given by ‘Fully Booked’ and ‘Books Chatter’
 with James Durose-Rayner

Photograph: Mark Jarvis reading S5 UNCOVERED
I used the character "Jarv" in S63 and am using it again in the Queen of Cups.

Buy a copy of S5 UNCOVERED

The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover - why you chose that concept and who the artist is?

JDR: The cover is just a stock photograph. The reason why I chose it, is that it is exactly what a person would look like coming out of the dark and wanting to put a bullet in you in a city like Sheffield. Has that happened to me? No, they missed; however, I do know a few that it has happened to.


Can you tell us about S5 Uncovered and why you wanted to write it?

JDR: I said that I would write something for a former friend to keep his spirits up. He had just been remanded in HMP Doncaster and was facing a trial for malicious wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm – a Section 18. He ended up getting a sentence of 8 ½ years. Did he deserve it? His story is in the book – although certain parts have been rather embellished, therefore it comes over as part-fiction.

The book never started out as a book – but as a screenplay, which became a book. By that time, I had become good friends with a fairly high ranking police officer in Sheffield’s city centre. Although he was a great person and fantastic company – his personal life was nothing short of a train wreck. He drank heavily and had a semi-psychotic wife with mental health issues. This gave me two sides for my story. The criminal and the police. Do I still have him as a friend? Unfortunately not. He lost everything and had to leave the area.


How difficult has it been writing this book and how did you overcome it?

JDR: I am a journalist and have written well over 200 magazines, so writing the story wasn’t really difficult. The hard part comes afterwards in the editing and proofing.


How important was research in your writing? Did it ever slow down the writing process?

JDR: Research is part of my daily job, and yes, quite a bit went into S5 UNCOVERED, especially surrounding the crimes that I didn’t know too much about. Did it slow the writing down? I see research as an integral part of the writing, and as research interests me as much as me getting things down on paper, I wouldn’t really say it did. Quite a good question that!


What did you do to keep the momentum going when writing such a detailed book?

JDR: I live between the UK and Cyprus on a 60:40 basis; therefore, that is how I split my writing from my day job as a journalist. It works well. I sometimes get up at 3.00 am in the morning and can write until late at night, such is the passion for the subject. I have been up since 4.30 am this morning. It is all part of the process.


What is your writing process?

JDR: Absolutely fantastic question! I generally write from the middle. I put a series of passages together and add them together to form a spine. And I continue going up and down it until I have something to go on. And then I start the story. It’s a great way to do it. I AM SAM, ITV7 and QUEEN OF CUPS were relatively easy in the sense of half the characters were already there; however, the hard bit was the story’s progression. Good fun though


How much of yourself is reflected in this book (for example, professional expertise, personality, or other), and how?

JDR: Life experience is what it is all about. There’s a bit of the author in every bit of any book – the landscape, the characters and the story. If I am being honest I write what I know. S5 UNCOVERED is based on a series of true events, but has had its real timeline shortened from several years to just 12 months and a bit, which has been strung together by elements of fiction.

Does it still appear realistic? Very. On 22/07/2016 about 9.00 pm UK time a family member of a murderer contacted me. On 01/08/2016 I had some idiot phone me at 9.07 pm insisting that I had made him out to be some supergrass. The man is a convicted shoplifter who recently had some feud with some young boys in a Co-op store in north Sheffield and ended up getting stabbed. It may have been interesting to talk to him if he hadn’t been so whiny and pathetic. That is the reality of the book – it brings all manner of twits out of the woodwork.

S63 was the same. “That’s me in it,” one person said. That particular book was pure fiction, yet someone believed it fact. I even got asked the question by two detectives investigating a manufactured “Perverting the Course of Justice” case in 2004. “Is there anything in here that’s true?”

“Yeh I’ve got an Auntie Irene.”

You read a general London gangland book and it rarely rings true. Far too much self indulgence, name-dropping and boasting. I’ve tried to make S5 UNCOVERED as realistic as possible by basing it around a series of events in what is quintessentially a deprived area and telling the story from two separate angles whilst trying to keep it very, very real. 

The police angle was made extremely interesting by how the ex-senior policeman both described it and the pressure that they were under.

Only an idiot would want to be a witness? Only an idiot would want to be a policeman - especially in the inner-city.


Why should we read this book (or series) and what sets you apart from the rest? / What makes your book/series unique?

JDR: My day job is as a journalist / editor. Just the other week I had to knock back some ‘copy’ given to me by someone who is a great kid and who is generally quite a good writer. He thought his piece punchy with character. It wasn’t – he was pontificating. I never pontificate – ever. If you need to say something, say it. Never ever pontificate. You don’t need loads of long pointless words to make a story as it loses its overall visual aspect.


A recent review of ITV 7: As with I Am Sam, ITV 7 has a great tempo, emotional depth and no little humour, which allied with strong plot-lines makes it both engaging and absorbing and subsequently difficult to put down. The author also writes in a very visual style which could easily translate to mediums of television and/or film. It is a winning formula that James Durose-Rayner has established and therefore readers should eagerly anticipate the final part of the trilogy, Queen of Cups.


An example: my father-in-law once bought me a biography of Terry-Thomas. I loved his films and I loved the actor. However, after reading the foreword I slung the book. Pure pontification. You needed a Thesaurus to get through the first two paragraphs.

I told the copywriter that I write like I am going to smack someone in the face. Very visual and very straight to the point, which makes the story very easy reading.

That is not to say that I am an aggressive writer as I can write just the opposite - and I can also write from the viewpoint of a woman, which I have done several times and which I thought was really quite rewarding.

Write what you know? I am married and I know loads of women.


Can you tell us something quirky about this book, its story and characters? (for example, were the characters named after something or someone in particular)?

JDR: Nearly all the characters within this book were based on real people. I always use real people as a base, as if not I as the writer would end up being each and every one of them. I mean, why did the family member of a murderer call me at daft o’clock on a Friday night? Because the characters in the book appear very, very real.

Mr. White in S5 UNCOVERED is basically ‘Sooty’ out of I AM SAM, ITV 7 and QUEEN OF CUPS, which is a trilogy - and Ronnie Poe in S63.

He is based on a real person who is a brilliant kid, but who has major flaws in his personality. If I wrote a book about him nobody would believe it.

I based a Sheffield-based informant after the now deceased Sheffield-based author, Julian Broadhead's alter-ego as a bit of a tribute. Julian and I shared similar friends and he wrote historical gangland stories within the city and is probably best known for Sheffield Gang Wars, telling the story of a city terrorised by the Mooney brothers and other gangs in the 1920’s. The author’s alter ego and convicted shoplifter share a similar name - certainly not the same name, but a similar name - hence why I received the phone call from the star-struck De-Da.

The book itself is a real-life jigsaw and very cryptic.


Who would you recommend this book to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?

JDR: It does have a gritty dialogue, which I have tried my best to calm down, without it losing its edge. In reality the male-to-male Sheffield gangland dialogue contains very F-led and C-led superlatives. I have tried to calm that, although it is still there. In reality it is far worse.

There’s a bit of sex in it, although it’s not mega graphic as it was in S63.

In I AM SAM, ITV7 and QUEEN OF CUPS I have tried to leave the sex to the imagination by using innuendo, and to be honest, it works quite well.

S5 UNCOVERED is somewhere in between.


If you could / wished to turn this book/series into a movie, who would be your dream team? (e.g. director, actors, locations, etc. - dead, alive or mythical!)?

JDR: For S5 UNCOVERED to be based on location is all that I would ever want. ITV currently have it although they have neither the money nor the staff to make it work. It would also be a bit un-PC for British television as the story line is real.


What do you like to write about?  Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones? Is this / Are these the genre(s) that you also like to read about?

JDR: I could write anything for anyone so long as that there is a human element in it. Rather strangely I recently got asked to write a screenplay for TV. Some Roman from 383 AD. That is definitely not my thing.


And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you (this could be absolutely anything!)? 

JDR: In the I AM SAM trilogy there are two ferrets – we had two ferrets when my son was younger… Now this is a strange one. In real life those ferrets were given to the actual person behind the ‘Radiohead’ character in S5 UNCOVERED. The tattooist, as my son had outgrown them. There is an Alsation in S5 UNCOVERED also – called ‘Boot’. My mum and dad had the exact same when I was two or three.


What's next for you in terms of writing?

JDR: I am close to completing the third part of a trilogy – QUEEN OF CUPS and then I will move on to my half-finished MOLES