She doesn’t trust the police. She used to be one of them
I am delighted to be joining Nicola Monaghan on tour today with her latest novel Dead Flowers.
Just published with Verve Books, Dead Flowers was shortlisted for the 2019 Little Brown, UEA Crime Writing Award. Nicola Monaghan has also previously won the Betty Trask Award, the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Prize and the Waverton Good Read.
Described as ‘a page turning murder investigation inspired by true stories from two decades in history,’ fans of Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories and British crime dramas like Line of Duty and Unforgotten will love this gripping novel.
Nicola Monaghan has written a fascinating piece entitled ‘City of Crime and Gunns‘ but first let me tell you a little about the book.
[ About the Book ]
Hardened by ten years on the murder squad, DNA analyst Sian Love has seen it all. So when she finds human remains in the basement of her new home, she knows the drill. Except this time it’s different. This time, it’s personal…
Her new home, The Loggerheads, is a pub Sian inherited from her dead uncle. Did he know about the bodies buried in the basement? How could he not have?
Corruption is rife in the police and Sian’s distrust of the local force is immense. She begins to investigate the mystery herself. But when she profiles DNA samples from the remains, she uncovers some shocking family secrets… Can she preserve her uncle’s memory without putting her own life at risk?
[ Guest Post – The City of Crime and Gunns ]
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of the Gunns, the Nottinghamshire crime family who hit the headlines not long after I moved back to Nottingham. Of course, they were famous locally way before they hit the national newspapers, more often than not referred to as the ‘Gunnies’. There were all sorts of reasons their existence hit a note with me. The brothers were from a similar background to me; they grew up first in Eastwood, where my mum’s family originated, and then moved to Bestwood, where I went to primary school and my great-grandparents (also called Gunn!) and my cousins lived. I never met either of them but I so easily could have done and I always wondered, slightly, if we were distant relatives.
In a way, they were part of the inspiration for my first novel, The Killing Jar. That book was an imagining for me of what my life, and my personality, might have been like had I been born into a very different family. The main character Kerrie-Ann’s mother is a junkie, and she never knows her father, brought up by a succession of ‘uncles’, one of whom gets her involved in drug running at an early age. From there, the transition into running her own drug dealing ‘business’ is a straightforward one. I was interested in how lives could be entirely different on pure chance and accident of birth. This is still a big concern of mine in my writing.
For a while, my city was known as Shottingham, or the Crime Capital of the UK, due to the murder rate. Not just the Gunns, of course, but their activities played a part, along with other gangsters and yardies. This is all documented brilliantly in non-fiction books Hoods by Carl Felstrom and Dark Heart by Nick Davies. Alongside the story of criminal families making lots of money and bringing death and chaos in their wake is an equally shocking story of police corruption. Evidence being fabricated, drugs being planted, racism, and bent coppers giving the gangsters information from the inside.
There’s a major storyline in my new book, Dead Flowers, about police corruption that goes so deep in the force that gangsters actually recruit and control their own officers. This might sound far-fetched. But it’s what happened with the Gunns. A young shop assistant who used to sell them clothes decided to join the police and, when the Gunns heard about his new job, they recruited him to help them, too. They had a man on the inside, and had him from the moment he joined the force.
In fact, the Gunns’ influence reached far further than just the police force. They had contacts everywhere, and could find information from this person at the council, that other at social services. It was well known that you didn’t say ‘no’ to Colin or David Gunn. But, more than this, with their own moral code they policed the estate they lived on, and had a ‘Robin Hood’ image with fellow residents. People were often happy to help them because they felt they made the estate safer, and they trusted the Gunns more than they did the police. A new Chief Constable had changed the focus of the force, and the upshot was that the police really weren’t dealing with crime effectively in Nottingham at the time. But, whilst the Gunns might have dealt with wrongdoing on the estate, they also dealt drugs, loaned money, and chased debtors via threats and violence to family members. Their methods and reputation were brutal.
In my book, the main fictional gangster is much older. His criminal activity dates back to the 1970’s timeline of the novel but he is still a big figure in the 2017 criminal underworld. ‘There were two things people said about Big Pat Walsh and the first was that he wasn’t a man you talked about.’ But, of course, you can read about him in Dead Flowers. I reckon he’s one of the best characters I’ve created, and I think you’ll see how some of the real-life stories of Nottingham gangsters have fed into this fictional version.
[ Bio ]
Nicola Monaghan has lived and worked in London, Paris, Chicago and New York but returned to her home town of Nottingham in 2002 to pursue a masters in Creative Writing. She graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2004 with a distinction, and went on to write her first novel, The Killing Jar, set on the council estate where she lived as a child.
This debut novel was highly critically acclaimed, and won a Betty Trask Award, the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Prize and the Waverton Good Read. She has written several other novels, novellas and a collection of short stories.
She also teaches Creative Writing at De Montfort University, and online at YouTube, Udemy and Skillshare.
Follow Nicola on Twitter @nicolanovelist