The Breaking of Liam Glass – Charles Harris

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Charles Harris is an international award-winning writer-director and a highly-respected script consultant, writing and directing for cinema, television and theatre. He is also a best-selling non-fiction author with titles including A Complete Screenwriting Course, Police Slang, and Jaws in Space. Several of his short stories have been published, with two shortlisted for awards.
Charles has a black belt in Aikido and teaches police, security personnel and the public, self-defence against street violence, including knife attacks.
He has a wife and two cats who live with him in North London and two sons who don’t.

Today as part of the LifeOfCri.me Theakston’s Crime countdown he’s writing talking to us about the inspiration for his book.

At the start of my new novel, The Breaking of Liam Glass, Jason Crowthorne, a keen young journalist, about to lose his job on a local paper, comes across a teenage footballer, stabbed and hospitalised in a coma.

Believing he’s found a way to save his career, he pitches his story to a tabloid. Unfortunately, the tabloid wants more of a celebrity hook – a hook Jason doesn’t know if he can provide. But maybe he can tweak it a little…

And so he’s led, step by step, into the dark and dangerous world of fake news.

Where does inspiration come from?

When I started Liam Glass, seven years ago, I wasn’t actually looking to write a novel, let alone a crime-satire.

At the time, there was a general election in full swing and the level of political debate was reaching a new low. Politicians repeated slogans until you wanted to tear your ears off. Newspapers either parroted the party line or were confused and ineffectual.

We didn’t yet use the phrase “fake news” but there was definitely a lot of it around.

At the same time, there was serious, real news, not least a spate of tragically fatal stabbings here in North London, almost all involving innocent young men who were in the “wrong” place.

I recalled a time I spent in Portugal, writing the screenplays for two feature films. Portugal endured the longest fascist dictatorship of any European country in the last century – forty-eight years – from 1926 to 1974.

But one of the most important causes of the collapse of democracy in the first place was the fact that nobody could rely on the newspapers to tell them the truth.

The next piece of the jigsaw, unexpectedly, turned out to be a short story I’d written many years before. It told of a teenage boy who was attacked and left in a coma and the effect on his single mother, who contrived more and more desperate plans to get him to wake up. The story, ‘Cash Card’, was short-listed for an award, but I hadn’t thought about it since.

But I needed one more piece to make the novel work – and that fell into place when my comatose teenager was joined by a young local journalist, stuck in his job and desperate to work on Fleet Street, whatever it took.

Into my young, frustrated journalist, who was to become Jason Crowthorne, I poured my own conflicted feelings and frustrations – as writer, certainly, but also as a reader of news.

I’ve always admired British tabloid newspapers, even as I’ve watched their actions with deep suspicion.

It’s easy to hate their easy cynicism and looseness with the truth, but there’s also something attractive about the red-tops’ energy and audacity. On a good day, a tabloid can mount a vibrant campaign to improve public life in a way that the broadsheets simply can’t match.

Near the end of my novel, two otherwise cynical editors on my fictional tabloid (The Post) reminisce about the great campaigns of the past – “obesity and body image, postcode health, MPs for sale, rip-off trains, graduates who couldn’t spell.” They have much to be proud of.

I spent some days at the Daily Mirror researching Liam Glass in their massive open-plan newsroom, and was struck by the sight of enormous blow-up front-pages around the walls, each commemorating a memorable headline. Often these were major campaigns.

Of course, not everything that the tabloids have done has been so admirable – from phone hacking to bribery to doorstepping the innocent.

On the one hand, Jason is a figure of satire – ready to sell his soul, if only he can find a Fleet Street editor to buy. On the other hand, Jason is truly horrified by this apparently unstoppable flow of knife crimes and wants to do something about it.

And if in the process it helps his career, what’s the problem?

Jason’s problem is that he suspects that Liam may well have a celebrity connection, secretly fathered by a major premiership footballer. But he can’t prove it. How far will he go, how much is he prepared to trick, cheat and finagle to get that front page?

I had to write the novel to find out. And as I wrote, part of me was shocked at what he turned out to be capable of doing. Yet part of me loved his breath-taking effrontery, his naive yet beguiling way of crashing through walls that I would have never dared do.

I found myself wanting him to succeed, somehow to overcome each new disaster, despite all the darker, more corrupt, people around him.

When I first spoke to my (then) agent about Liam Glass and how topical it seemed, he warned me that novels don’t chase topicality. However, it seems that some themes stay topical, and will probably remain so for much longer.

And now today, seven years later, we have another fractious election, with probably yet another to come, with newspapers content to peddle fake news and knife crime on the rise. How things change!

 

Teenage footballer Liam Glass is stabbed on an estate next to London’s Regents Park and, with an eye to the main chance, journalist Jason Crowthorne sets out to make the most of the story and build a crusade against teenage knife-crime.

In the following 24 hours, Jason creates his campaign, hiding a scoop from rival journalists and avoiding arrest. But other powerful figures are determined to exploit the boy’s story as much as they can, and they have fewer scruples! 

www.thebreakingofliamglass.com

#BlogTour Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler and the Inspiration Behind It

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As part of her blog tour for her debut novel Don’t Wake up, today on LifeOfCri.me Liz Lawler talks about the inspiration behind the book.

 

 

 

 

Inspiration behind Don’t Wake Up

I wish I could tell you that I heard a particular story or read an article in a newspaper that inspired me to write Don’t Wake Up. But it wouldn’t be true. Something obviously triggered it, but I suspect it was many things that I heard or read or thought or even experienced and my mind accepted and stored a place for all this imagery to settle before becoming fully focused. I use the word imagery, because when I think of a story it is always in full technicolour with people having conversations or crying or running away. I do remember exactly what I was doing when this story came to me, and it came with a bit of a whoosh. The body of the story was inside my head by the time I had vacuumed my house one day. I then needed to give it legs and arms and a head to fully function. I have found that I never think up stories when I’m at rest, it is always when I’m physically busy with my mind at a bit of a wander.

So what triggered it, I now ask it myself? Was it the fact that I have worked in a hospital for so many years and am as familiar with that type of surroundings as I am in my own home? Possibly. It would certainly be a logical conclusion. Or was it witnessing the vulnerability of so many patients as they walk onto a ward and place their trust in you.

Yet as I write that last sentence, my stomach clenches at the thought of how vulnerable we are when we place our trust in people that we are encouraged to trust.

And this thought, I suspect, is the trigger that made me want to write a story like Don’t Wake Up. The horrific story that came to light about Winterbourne care home in recent years, that uncovered acts of abuse being meted out to people with learning difficulties, sadly didn’t shock me. It enraged me that it happened, but I wasn’t shocked. The debase behaviour of humans has always existed and it always will. It pushes me to ask questions and each probe will inevitably begin with – How could someone. How could someone do that, say that, think that. I think everyone is susceptible to carrying out an unkind act, even if it is only in thought, and for most of us it will be only ever amount to that. But for many of us we have met that unkind person, the one that we think or say about, ‘I wouldn’t let her look after my dog, let alone my child, my father, my mother.’

Every form of mental and physical cruelty is abhorrent to me and they take their ugly shapes in so many forms. It is relentless. We are saturated every single day by what we hear in the news of acts of horrendous cruelty being carried out and before we have even processed one shocking story another story has taken precedence. Sometimes a singular story will stay in our minds for ever – the images of the Chinese migrants labourers drowned on Morecambe Bay beach . . . the image of those two innocent babies in the arms of their father having been gassed with sarin. These stories stop us in our tracts, bring tears to our eyes and have us shaking our heads in despair. I am listening to the news as I write this, and in the background Teresa May is speaking of PC Palmer and his colleagues are speaking from the heart about how they felt about this man and my throat is clogged at thought of so many people hurting from this loss.

So in the writing of this blog, I have kind of worked out what inspired me to write Don’t Wake Up – a fictional story of psychological torture – I am not anaesthetized by the atrocities that the human race carry out. I am not numb to that tone of voice I hear when a child is harshly rebuked for crying, or to that heavy sigh of impatience given when that elderly woman or man asks for the toilet again.

Death should never be a cruel act. It should be natural and where possible, surrounded by love. I was very privileged to nurse my father at his home, because I had the ability to carry out this care and if death can be a beautiful thing to witness when someone is ready to face it, I was fortunate to witness it with my own father. He died in the early hours as dawn was breaking at the age of 96 with his wife beside him and me merely there as their interpreter. There is humour even in this memory as in their last conversation to each other neither were wearing their hearing aids and so I had to shout clearly the messages they gave to each other.

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.