So with the Nightingale book done, it's time to start the new Spider Shepherd book. It'll be the seventh in the series, following HARD LANDING, SOFT TARGET, COLD KILL, HOT BLOOD, DEAD MEN and LIVE FIRE. I think the new book should be called BIG BOYS. It comes from the SAS expression in Northern Ireland – Big Boys’ Games, Big Boys’ Rules. But when I suggested this to my editor she thought it sounded a bit like a porn title so it could well change!
I have a few good ideas (I think!) for plot threads. The bad guys as always are grey.... a group of policemen (two former army) who are in the Territorial Support Group, what used to be the SPG, the heavy guys who go in with shields and batons and body armour. Like a lot of cops these days, they are fed up with all the paperwork and the fact that the system is geared to helping the criminals rather than the victims. They start to operate as vigilantes, planting forensic evidence to frame known criminals but quickly moving to more drastic methods, beating up foreign criminals and forcing them to leave the country, targeting paedophiles, getting more and more aggressive.
Shepherd is far from happy about investigating cops again (as he did in Soft Target) especially when his boss, Charlie Button, tells him that the crime rate in the areas that these guys operate in has dropped markedly.
I am thinking of tying this in with a British National Party investigation. Remember the recent furore over the BNP membership list which was posted on-line and found to include several police officers? I love the idea of Jimmy Sharpe having to go undercover to infiltrate some sort of racist organisation and having to face his own prejudices. I think I can tie the two investigations together.
At the same I want to put Shepherd under pressure at home. Liam has a mobile phone and on it Shepherd finds a ‘happy slapping’ video, a group of older kids beating up a young boy. Shepherd takes the video to the local police who investigate. The parents of one of the boys doing the beating is foreign, maybe an asylum seeker, and he is furious that Shepherd has gone to the police. He threatens Shepherd, and Liam, and when Shepherd reports these threats to the police, he is told that until the father actually does something, there is nothing the police can do. The aggression mounts (car set on fire, brick through the window etc) and Shepherd realises that he is going to have to take matters into his own hands to deal with the angry father – but in doing so, he’s becoming exactly like the cops that he’s investigating.
Those are the bare bones, and from there I have to put together a plot. It's actually the fun part of writing a book, compared with the boring drudgery of writing a thousand words a day! I've a fair bit of research to do, especially with the way that the TSG operates.
Writing books with a continuing character is in some ways easier than starting from scratch. I know there have to be scenes with Shepherd and his son, with Shepherd and his boss, and with his psychiatrist. But there are also constraints in that I have to stick with the sort of investigations that woud be performed by a SOCA operative. And I have to be careful that I don't repeat myself - the more Shepherd books I write, the harder that becomes!