Throughout history, crime buffs have savoured the talents of great fictional detectives from Sherlock Holmes to Hercule Poirot, Maigret to Morse, Wexford to Wallander.
Now, award-winning writer Tony Parsons, famed for his romantic, heart-rending tales of love, loss, parenthood and personal relationships, in novels including Man and Boy, Man and Wife and One For My Baby, is hoping to join the ranks of the great and the good in crime writing with The Murder Bag, his first thriller in a new series.
“I'm taking on the biggest thriller writers in the world,“ says the writer who grew up in Romford.
“I want John Grisham fans to pick up The Murder Bag and say, ‘This is better‘. A lot of thrillers don‘t have emotional clout, but a lot of books that do have emotional clout don‘t have excitement. I wanted to do both.“
The new series introduces detective and single dad Max Wolfe, recently arrived in the homicide division of London‘s West End Central, 27 Savile Row. He‘s a man who likes boxing, loves his work but equally dotes on his five-year-old daughter Scout and their Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Stan.
The first instalment sees DC Wolfe on the trail of a serial killer who brutally cuts his victims‘ throats. Wolfe finds a link from a picture of seven schoolboys taken 20 years previously, who are now being systematically bumped off. They were all pupils at the same posh private school years before. Think of stereotypical public school bullies and the worst behaviour of the privileged and you get the picture.
The idea for a crime series came about in 2010 when the author attended a film screening organised by the director Sam Mendes, who told Parsons he was going to make the next James Bond film and was reading all the Ian Fleming books again.
“I started reading them myself and thought, what an incredible achievement it is for any writer to create a character that lives long after they die and can be endlessly rebooted, whether it‘s James Bond, Sherlock Holmes or Dr Watson. I thought, ‘I want a crack at it, I want to create my own character‘.
“Although I‘m a new crime writer, I‘m steeped in crime fiction. My favourites include Robert B Parker, John D MacDonald, Lee Childs, PD James and Ian Rankin. There are so many of them. But the trick is to find your voice.
“I wanted my guy rooted in some kind of family life, in loved ones, but at the same time, I wanted him free to have the romantic and sexual adventures of James Bond or Jack Reacher. So a single parent was perfect. And I wanted the book to be recognisable to my old readers.“
Parsons, 60, says he‘s already turned down one offer for the rights to a TV adaptation, but can see his police hero coming to the screen.
“The book is good. People have responded with incredible enthusiasm. I would love for something to be made that‘s as good as the great American TV shows, like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad.
“I want the lead actor to be an unknown. I want him to be some good-looking, hot young hunk that knows how to look after his dog!“
The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons is published by Century and is now available.