In The Mood For Murder? a Q&A with David McCluskey

In the Mood for Murder by Dave McClusky
In the Mood for Murder by Dave McClusky

In the Mood for Murder is set in Liverpool in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Written by David McCluskey and Tony Bolland it explores the darker side of life in the port city. Highly acclaimed, In the Mood for Murder is set to be turned into a film (Watch this space!)

Liverpool in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Why did you choose this period of time for your novel?

I’m drawn to this era. I love anything to do with my city. It has one of the richest tapestries of all modern English cities. I could just imagine myself as a spiv, wheeling my way through the dark alley ways, making a few bob here and a few bob there… disappearing into the wilds of Wales whenever I needed to, because back then, you could.

Also, my dad grew up in the streets that I mention in this book. He is actually mentioned at the end, Ted McCluskey. Apparently, he was well known by the local bobbies, and lived the life that I sometimes imagine.

Some of the bits in this book are taken directly from stories he told me about life after the war… This book is a homage to him!

How easy was it to research the period? Lots of people were coming and going in 1946, did you have any obstacles to overcome?

For me it was really easy… because I got Tony Bolland (co-author) to do all that for me, LOL!

Seriously, I did the research for the streets and the folklore and the feel for how the people lived, and their attitudes to certain aspects of life that we take for granted nowadays. Reading up on ‘How we used to live’ websites about how the people used to talk, asking my mum about how people used to dress, if they swore.

I did a lot of research into drug use in the period and was so surprised to find that it was rife. It came over with the American GIs, and never went away!

Tony did all the research into The Rialto and the music scene of the time. The music parts and the band were loosely based on the diaries of Brian Bolland, Tony’s uncle who was the drummer in the Upbeat Eight, the resident band during this time period.

The Rialto did exist as a ballroom and cinema, and it was the focal point of the booming ‘swing’ scene that took over right after the war. Unfortunately, the place hit hard times in the 1970’s and closed, opening up as a carpet showroom. It burned down during the Toxteth riots in the 1980’s. Such a shame.

If you walk around that area now, all the houses and flats that have replaced it all have a Rialto theme to them!

Policing in the post war era was quite different to that of today. How did you go about making sure that you were accurate when describing the methodology of the police at the time?

Although this story is based on murder and corruption, the police have a very small part in what happens. I did research on how people could contact the police from the few telephone boxes that were dotted around the city and the town. But, I did play on the fact that anyone smart enough could get away with doing whatever they wanted, due to there being a lack of ‘due process’ within the force… at that time!

In the Mood… For Murder is being transformed into a film. Could you tell us a little about how this came about and when we can expect to see it at the cinema?

Through a friend I was introduced to a BAFTA award winning director. He is also a screenwriter with a number of titles already under his belt.

He had picked up the book, and (I’m not one to blow my own trumpet) but he told me that it blew him away, especially the ending. He was looking around for a new project and wanted to get involved in making this. In his words, he thought it could be ‘the scouse Peaky Blinders’!

Obviously, being a huge fan of that series, I checkout his other works, all of them brilliant. (I am being a little vague on who he is as we are still in the process of writing the screenplay, no contracts have been signed yet). Our mutual friend is an accountant who has experience in funding films, so that was a pure bonus!!!

The history of crime and policing is an area that some schools choose to study on their exam courses. Are there any places or websites that you came across when writing your novel that you think would be good sources of information?

To be honest… I really can’t remember what websites I used, but I did a lot of extensive research in the Liverpool city museum. I’m also a film and TV buff, so I got my hands on anything I could, especially an old series called How We Used to Live that I remembered from school (all those hundreds of thousands of years ago) I got it on YouTube… it was still as good now as it was back then!

How did you get into writing?

All my life I’ve been an avid reader. I picked up my first horror book when I was 11. It was Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew. An anthology of short stories. It scared the life out of me. Seriously, I think I moved into my mum and dads’ bed for the first six months afterwards… but then I was hooked. Next up was The Stand (it’s about 5 million pages long) and I never looked back.

So… a long, long, long time after that, I’m in my mid (to late) 30’s and my daughter is 2. It’s Christmas Eve and I’m lying in bed with her, reading The Night Before Christmas. She is well away, but I continued to read, because I’m a big kid and I wanted to see how it ended (It’s great by the way). When I finished, I thought… I can do that!

So, I stewed on it over the holidays, and a story formed in my head. It was a rhyming story like The Night Before Christmas, but it was different. As I am a horror fan and have a twisted mind… it didn’t end very well for old Charlie who was on Santa’s Naughty List. The tale was called The Good Behaviour Act.

I got the bug once again… and now, 7 – 8 years later I have produced 12 comics, 4 graphic novels and 5 novels… I also have another 8 novels and 2 graphic novels almost finished!!!

How do you go about planning your novels?

This is a loaded question… I really couldn’t tell you. It’s almost a natural thing. I know that sounds like a cop out, but it’s true.

The idea pops into my head.

I flesh the idea out on notes on my computer.

Once I have an acceptable start, middle and end… then I begin to add the bits in-between.

Once the first draft is done, I move on to something else, and then fill the. Plot holes in, in the revisions. I usually end up with at least 10 revisions.

How do you balance the fact and fiction when writing this type of novel?

The lines between fact and fiction are blurred… This will be my defence if I ever go to prison!!!

In truth, I was lucky to have Tony involved in all the twists and turns. Tony Bolland is a local Liverpool musical historian. What he doesn’t know about the Liverpool music scene through the ages, really isn’t worth knowing.

He was there to keep the reality of the age in check as I was off writing my flights of fancy.

Also, Google was my friend!!!

One of the areas that my website is looking at currently is the way that history is interpreted and presented to the general public. How do you go about deciding how to portray your characters and the events in which they become involved?

In In The Mood, the main character George Hogg is almost a pantomime villain. He is just bad through and through, but there is a vulnerability in him. It’s based in the 1940’s, there is no political correctness, there is no tact. If you were different then, then you were labelled different.

George had polio when he was a child and it left him with a club foot. George can never see past that disability. He is extremely talented, but the talent alone can’t get him what he wants, and the disability has made him what he is…

The peripheral characters are all products of their environments too. It’s it eerily similar to some of today’s thoughts, especially in this emerging right-wing culture we have with Brexit and Trump.

Which authors have been most influential to your own writing to date?

Stephen King was an early influence. I love his narrative, his voice when he spins a yarn. I also love Dean Koontz. His mixture of thriller with horror overtones is superb.

But, now, the two writers I would say who influence me the most would be James Herbert and Neil Gaiman. Herbert for the gritty horror, and for the eye for detail, the devil really is in the details, and Gaiman for his flights of fancy.

Have you got any plans for future books that are in a historical setting?

Oh, yes… I am already planning a sequel to In The Mood. This will be called Sing, Sing, Sing for Murder (Benny Goodman reference). It is sent a year or so after the events of In The Mood.

I will also be releasing a Jack the Ripper book next year. It is all written, it just needs a few more edits. This is a sci-fi (time travel) novel and it puts a new twist on the legend.

Jack the Ripper and Victorian England have always been high up there in my interests. The way a person could just up and change their lives by moving away fascinates me. This tale starts 300 years in the future and jumps back and forth to the events of 1888. I have been methodical in my historical accuracy for the Jack murders and some of the events around them, but, as an author, I have also had to take some dramatic licence too. I researched the murders thoroughly, I even went on the Jack the Ripper tours around London about 20 times to get a feel for the city and the locations…

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

I don’t know if this advice is copyrighted to a famous brand of running shoes… but my advice is JUST DO IT…

I might, in another interview, have thrown a swear word in there too…

There is a saying. ‘If I write my book, hardly anyone will read it. But if you don’t write your book its guaranteed that NOBODY will read it!’

Sitting around with a great idea in your head is all very well and good, getting it out on the pages is liberty. The enormous feeling of self-fulfilment when you have hold of a copy of YOUR book in your hands is a great feeling. Sure, highs and lows, but that is a rush!!!

Get off your backside, stop over thinking, and get your first draft out… its done then, all you are doing then is chiselling away at the stone to make it as perfect as you can get it…

Please don’t tell me your idea though, I have enough mad, crazy, implausible, wrong idead floating around my haunted head, I don’t need yours… LOL

Find out more about Dave McCluskey and his other novels.

Dave McCluskey author of In the Mood for Murder
Dead and Talking, a novel by Des Burkinshaw

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In The Mood for Murder is available on Amazon (.co.uk and .com) on Kindle for 99p (or regional equivalent). Or, it is available from me direct via Facebook. This will be £9.00 in the UK (this includes P&P and a signature).

Book Blurb:

Liverpool in 1946, post war and swinging…
The Rialto theatre is a hotbed of the Big Band Swing scene, with bands playing most nights to full crowds of youngsters looking to forget the drudgery of everyday life, rations and the ruins of the blitz.
The Downswing Seven are The Rialto’s house band who are in the need of a new singer, much to the annoyance of George Hogg, the drummer. His disability had prevented him from seeing active service during the war, and now it’s preventing him from fulfilling his dream of fronting the band as the lead male vocal.
Are somethings worth killing for? George certainly thinks so…

Historical Fiction – our collection of reviews and author interviews

Isabella Muir: Forgotten Children and the 1960’s – Forgotten Children also looks at the immediate post-war era.

 

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