Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.
Today we have Paul Harrison talking about his time in the criminal justice system and how it’s influenced his writing.
I had a career within the criminal justice that spanned four decades. With over twenty years being spent as a police officer. Needless to say, I’ve seen a lot. Things that no living person deserves to see. I’ve been told things I wish I’d never heard. I joined the police to make a difference, to put the bad guys in prison to keep people safe. Little did I know, then, the route my career path would take.
Interviewing the darker side of humanity, and getting inside the heads of incarcerated criminals like serial killers, sounds terribly exciting, because fundamentally, it is. However, when those connections are made, and the killers believe you are their friend, it get’s a bit scary. That’s when they begin to open up, to tell you their innermost secrets. They make demands on your time, and you. They try their best to mess with your head, to intrigue you, to give them some control over your life. It’s fascinating stuff, and not at all for the faint hearted.
After a time, you begin to notice similar traits in the criminal interviewees, they are demanding, full of their own self importance, and most have a need to be liked. When they realise the friendship is nothing but a professional one, they retaliate with threats, violence and abuse. Hopefully, by that point, you’ve extracted all the required information because there’s no going back.
Those kind of experiences, and there’s been plenty of them, taught me how to interview and to read people. To give out very little information about myself, but to maximise what I collected. Every interview is different, so you have to be adaptable to each individual. Not every killer is like Hannibal Lecter, in fact, there’s only I’ve met, who I’d put in the same intellectual plain. I wont mention his name here, but he’s in an English prison and he’s the master of psychological games.
With all that experience behind me, it’s natural that I should use it in my crime fiction writing. When I wrote: Revenge of the Malakim (Williams & Whiting), I wanted to create a believable serial killer, someone that walked among us, unnoticed. The killer is a psychological mix of a couple of real life murderers, with their own agenda for murder. It creates for confusion among the detectives investigating the crimes, which again, is realistic.
Most murder investigation are painstakingly laborious, it takes the skill and tenacity of a good team of investigators and solid scientific support, to help snare a killer. Then comes the all important offender interviews. The mind games to catch the killer out, or the overwhelming evidence that proves guilt.
My career in the criminal justice system may be over, however, my crime novel writing one is just beginning, and I’m about to unleash some pretty horrific killers on the reading public.