Poetic Justice by R.C. Bridgestock #BookReview Q&A #BlogTour

When Detective Jack Dylan heads home to his wife after a residential course, he has no idea that an extraordinary succession of events is about to turn his life upside down. A vicious, unprovoked personal attack is just the start. The discovery of his wife’s death in a road accident also reveals her affair, and his step-daughter is being expelled from university for drug use. Professionally, two teenagers have gone missing and one is soon found dead. 
An ordinary man might break under the strain, but Dylan is no ordinary man. He knows that his survival depends on him carrying-on regardless, burying himself in his work, relieved by the distraction of newcomer to the admin department, Jennifer Jones. 
His determination to pursue the criminal elements behind the events – both personal and professional – is to be his salvation, and his relationship with Jen, his ‘Guardian Angel’, will turn out to be the mainstay of his future, both within the Force and at home. 
Life may have changed, but nothing will stand in the way of Dylan’s determination to seek justice.

I'm thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Poetic Justice by R.C. Bridgestock today. Many thanks to the authors and Emily Glenister from The Dome Press for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel. You can read my review below but first I'm delighted to welcome Carol Bridgestock to Hair Past A Freckle. Carol has very kindly answered a few questions for me.

Q1.  I’m sure this is a question you’ve been asked many times before but for the benefit of those new to your books, please could you explain how you write together and what would your usual writing day entail?

Writing together works well for us because Bob’s strength is in the police procedure, so our framework is pretty much set on the chosen crime for the first draft. In the second draft, which is mine, I develop the storyline and the one-dimensional characters, create the descriptions of scenes, write a second storyline thread if that is necessary, as it was with regards to Dylan’s home life. Writers amongst you will understand that Bob’s background, as well as my experience as a civilian in the police is like gold dust to us both - we tell it as it is. 

Writing has been a steep learning curve for us both - writing a novel was never on our agenda when we left the West Yorkshire Police sixteen years ago and relocated for a more sedentary life on the Isle of Wight. 

Bob was a highly commended career detective of 30 years, retiring at the rank of Detective Superintendent. During his last three years he took charge of 26 murders, 23 major incidents, over 50 suspicious deaths and numerous sexual assaults. He was also a trained hostage negotiator dealing with suicide interventions, kidnap, terrorism and extortion. As a Detective Inspector he spent three years at the internationally acclaimed West Yorkshire Police Force Training School where he taught Detectives from all over the world in the whole spectrum of investigative skills and the law. On promotion to Detective Superintendent Bob was seconded to a protracted enquiry investigating alleged police corruption in another force. He worked on the Yorkshire Ripper and Sarah Harper murder, and received praise from Crown Court Judges and Chief Constables alike for outstanding work at all ranks, including winning the much-coveted Dennis Hoban Trophy. 

Together we write a bit like the proverbial tortoise and hare. Bob gets the storyline down quickly and when he has finished the first draft he gives me, on average, between 40 - 80K words, depending on the police procedural content of the novel. Then he starts another book. This reads like a crime file.

The second draft is a bit like putting flesh on the skeleton’s bones. I don’t read it through first; I read the first chapter and start my own beginning, whether that is to develop a character or a storyline. During the writing we may speak about how it really felt to Bob to be the man in charge of a murder enquiry. Not how it felt as a police officer - I know that he dealt with man’s inhumanity to man by putting on ‘the mask of the detective’ - but how it felt as a human being, a husband, a father and friend of his fellow man. This was the hardest part to get Bob to open up about, and share his true feelings. “If you get pulled into the emotion you’d never do your job,” Bob would say on so many occasions. 

The narrative is reworked several times before we read the whole thing separately, and only when we are both happy, that it is the best it can possibly be, do we send it off to our agent David H Headley and nervously wait for his thoughts.
Q2.  What made you decide to write a prequel to the D.I. Jack Dylan series and how tricky was it to achieve a balance between introducing the characters to new readers and ensuring returning readers recognise how this book links to the storylines they already know?

On many occasions our readers have asked us about Dylan and Jen’s life before they met because, although we know a little about Jen’s past, and that has organically evolved through the telling of the home-life storylines in the series of books, we know very little about Jack Dylan. And, I think that serendipitously says a lot about our writing and Bob’s reluctance to let go of his feelings. Jen is loosely based on myself (I write what I know - it’s easier I find), and Bob is loosely based on Jack - the man behind the ‘detective’s mask’. But, eight books into the series it was our literary agent David Headley who planted the seed, and he’s a very clever man. We loved the idea, and we loved writing the book. Remember we have known these characters for what seems like forever - they are truly part of everyday life. Even Dylan and Jen’s colleagues are loosely based on people we know, some we have worked with, some Bob has dealt with - all are fictional. However, it was a challenge that could be likened to a motorway where all the books would have to join the arterial road we were creating. The story had to link to the already established works and it had to start the reader on an exciting journey. 

My background in administration helped. I am keen on keeping records, our database for the Dylan series is solid but all our characters were of course much younger in years, and service.

Q3. There are some dark themes explored in Poetic Justice which I felt are covered sensitively but authentically. Besides your prior careers in the police force, what other research did you need to do to ensure the book is an exciting, emotional read, which remains realistic?
Bob and I pride ourselves on keeping up to current police procedures and the cutting edge of the continuing development of forensic capabilities; also the influence of the digital world. This book actually took us back in time but we tried very hard with Poetic Justice for it not to be as much about the time as people’s emotions when dealing with certain situations. Nor, sadly do the human situations we find out selves in - love and money are still the root of all evil. Most of all we want our readers to feel the emotional journey as if they are present.  
Q4. Are you plotters or pansters?

We have to admit to doing both. Whilst in the first draft of the Dylan series the police investigation will always follow a tried and tested strategy, as will the SIO’s dealing with difficult and emotional situations he finds himself in, we still seek out the peaks and troughs of the story as a whole. However, with the second in particular there is no planning. This draft is completely led by what’s going on in the investigation and Dylan’s work.

Q5.  How long does it take you to write Poetic Justice and how does that compare with your previous novels?

It took about eight months to write Poetic Justice, which is about average. However, this time we were blessed with the help and guidance of our wonderful literary agent David Headley and the exceptionally talented people at The Dome Press, in particular, Rebecca Lloyd and Emily Glenister who are a dream to work with. 
Q6.  You’ve had several books published now but do you still feel nervous waiting for the early reviews?

Absolutely! It’s very tempting to beg for one more read-through before we part with the manuscript... David’s comments mean so much to us. We want to make him proud. If he doesn’t like the story, or the way we have told it then how could he, as our agent, champion it for us? There is nothing like his approval to give us confidence. The next stage is working with the publisher, and again each time a suggested edit is achieved and returned for it to be approved there is a sense of trepidation. Once the publisher is happy, we are happy. There is nothing like seeing the cover reveal... Then it’s a waiting game... The smell, the sense of satisfaction and achievement as you open the box, and hold the finished product in your hand is a feeling I can’t explain. It brings a smile to the face, and a lump in the throat such is the feeling of achievement. Then you wait for the reviews. The bloggers are unsung heroes; with their help and love of books they can offer the author the best exposure possible to their readers, and open so many doors. As an author you have no control over your story, your baby going out into the world, but know that you have given it the best start possible and hope that all your hard work and commitment and dedication is enjoyed by the wider audience, as much as we have enjoyed writing it. 

Q7.  What advice would you give to authors looking to write police procedurals who haven’t worked in law enforcement?
  • Do your homework. Readers of police procedurals are more aware than ever of how it happens in real time. Thanks to the likes of the real life TV programmes where we are all ‘up close’ with an investigation and real life crime. 
  • Research, research, research. The crime genre readers are unforgiving for letting us, the writers, be lazy. Procedure, the law and advancements in technology make for constant checking and updating our database and we have nearly 50 years of police experience to help us with the basics. No one said it was easy. Police call-signs, the names of departments and even the name of the police helicopter changed whilst we were working as storyline consultants and police advisors for BAFTA winning BBC police drama, Happy Valley. 
  • Don’t be deterred by the fact you might not know a lot about the genre. We have a superb tool in the internet!
  • Top Tips: Understand the basics of the justice system, the rank structure of a police force and the powers the police have. Start by visiting your local police force HQ website. If you get the opportunity. attend an open day at a police station. Depending on availability explain that you are writing a novel and they may even give you a tour of the station. If you don’t ask you won’t know! 
  • Remember that any investigation is simply to uncover the truth.
  • 5WH is something that Bob always used in his police investigations and this covers most things that you need to know…
… What does 5WH stand for? WHO? WHEN? WHERE? WHY? WHAT AND HOW?

Q.8  What authors most influence your own writing?

This is a tough one, as we write from the heart, and about a subject with which we are familiar… Write what you know.

Bob has always typically read factual books! At work, a crime file could fill two transit vans with paperwork and Bob had to sign every page as the SIO. This took away the joy of reading for pleasure. 

I tend to read biographies and autobiographies rather than fiction... As a teenager though the first book I first fell in love with was The Diary of Anne Frank. The second was Kes when I studied it for my English O-Level. However, at the same time I also fell in love with the work of William Shakespeare as we worked on Macbeth - our English teacher, Miss Smith (who reminded me of Miss Brodie) was my true inspiration and it was thrilling to listen to her and her excitement, and that love of the written word just caught on!
When I left school I began a love affair with the classics - being totally transfixed by the work of the Brontë sisters and Howarth being on our doorstep - and last year I was thrilled to take part in the re-writing of Wuthering Heights at the parsonage. The completed manuscript is now bound in a book and displayed at the Brontë museum for prosperity. 

When Gemma, our daughter, was studying for her A-Level English Literature, I read The Handmaids Tale - a book I will never forget. 

But the book that influenced the start of my addiction with fact-to-fiction is the Outlander series - in our case, it is not so much about time and place, but crimes and the experiences of all our senses to tell a fictional tale in surroundings we know well.
Q9.  What’s the best book you’ve read recently and what are you currently reading (if anything?)

Bob has recently read, and thoroughly enjoyed: 
The Puppet Show - Mike Craven 
Sleeper & Sleeper: The Red Storm by J.D. Fennell. 

I have just finished reading the third edit of the first book in a new series we are working on. I find it terribly hard to read anything else at the same time as write. However, the last book I read, and thoroughly enjoyed was The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath. Her grave is in St. Thomas' Churchyard, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire and pens are often left from those who visit.      

Q10. What underrated or lesser-known books would you recommend?
We joined Goldsboro Books’ Book of the Month Club this year, and boy what a fantastic book club it is as, although the books are lesser-known books, they are chosen for us by their brilliant team with their extensive knowledge and provides us with a completely different choice every month! Perfect! A sure good read every time! What more could any reader wish for? ;)

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly, Carol, I really appreciate it. I'm also a member of the Goldsboro Book of the Month Club and agree with you that the books chosen each month are superb!

I've been aware that the DI Jack Dylan series is immensely popular with lovers of police procedurals for some time but must admit that up to now I haven't managed to read one myself. As a newly written prequel to the series, Poetic Justice was a fascinating prospect allowing new readers like myself to be introduced to Dylan while giving existing fans the chance to learn more about some of the moments from his past which have helped shape the man they have grown to know and love. I was also intrigued to see how the authors approached the challenge of ensuring the plot stays true to what has already become canon for the series while still writing crime fiction which has some surprises and moments of tension.
Poetic Justice opens with the aftermath of a fatal car accident; an elderly man who witnesses the crash manages to shakily call the emergency services for help but despite their best efforts, the rescue team are unable to save the female passenger of the car. However, the male driver is taken to hospital albeit suffering from terrible burn injuries which leave him unidentifiable. When the registered owner of the car turns out to be a Mr Jack Dylan, his police colleagues have the unenviable task of investigating whether it was indeed Jack and his wife, Kay in the car. The book then goes back ten days earlier and as events unfold, we eventually learn the terrible truth about what led to the car accident.
Alongside the main narrative which leads us to the point where Kay came to die in the crash and Dylan's response to discovering his wife's infidelity, there is also a rather bleak subplot featuring missing children. The investigation allows readers to learn more about Dylan and his team and to see how they work together. It involves some shocking developments and has obvious parallels with real-life cases; some of the scenes are difficult to read but are a sensitive yet honest reflection of how some of society's most vulnerable members too often suffer at the hands of those with more power.
Poetic Justice is primarily about Jack Dylan, however, and it's fair to say he goes through some traumatic times during the course of the novel. His wife, Kay is a difficult character to sympathise with and although their marital woes are the responsibility of them both, it's clear that she is the one whose actions are the most wilfully destructive. They are unable even to put on a united front for Jack's stepdaughter, Isla who is suffering from severe mental health issues. If anything particularly informs new readers as to the sort of man Dylan is then I would argue that it is the interactions between him and Isla; he is far more empathetic towards her than Kay is and the bond between the pair is truly touching. The book also introduces Jennifer Jones who has only recently moved to Yorkshire from the Isle of Wight. I realised from the blurb that she is a significant person in Dylan's life and enjoyed seeing how they first meet. I'm sure readers who already know the series will also welcome the chance to learn what first brought the pair together. Jack and Jen's blossoming relationship proves to be a distinct contrast to the destructive toxicity both experienced previously and is a welcome ray of happiness in what is otherwise a frequently emotionally difficult time for Jack.
I loved Poetic Justice and am most definitely a new recruit to #TeamDylan but this isn't just a book for newcomers to the series. I'm sure that with such well-crafted, considerate characterisation, a compelling and emotional plot  - I was moved to tears at times - and the vivid sense of place which sees the communities of Yorkshire so beautifully rendered, those who already love the series will also welcome this look at Jack Dylan's dramatic past. Highly recommended.

Poetic Justice is published by The Dome Press and can be purchased from the following;
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository
The Dome Press

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Authors

R.C. Bridgestock is the name that husband and wife co-authors Robert (Bob) and Carol Bridgestock write under. Between them they have nearly 50 years of police experience, offering an authentic edge to their stories. The writing duo created the character DI Jack Dylan, a down-to-earth detective, written with warmth and humour. The ninth book in the series will be published by The Dome Press in 2019, along with their backlist. A further crime series is presently being scripted by the pair, which has a strong Yorkshire female character - Charley Mann - at the helm. 
Bob was a highly commended career detective of 30 years, retiring at the rank of Detective Superintendent. During his last three years, he took charge of 26 murders, 23 major incidents, over 50 suspicious deaths and numerous sexual assaults. He was also a trained hostage negotiator with suicide interventions, kidnap, terrorism and extortion. 
As a Detective Inspector he spent three years at the internationally acclaimed West Yorkshire Police Force Training School where he taught Detectives from all over the world in the whole spectrum of investigative skills and the law. On promotion to Detective Superintendent, Bob was seconded to a protracted enquiry investigating alleged police corruption in another force. He worked on the Yorkshire Ripper and Sarah Harper murder, and received praise from Crown Court Judges and Chief Constables alike for outstanding work at all ranks, including winning the much-coveted Dennis Hoban Trophy. 
As a police civilian supervisor, Carol also received a Chief Constable’s commendation for outstanding work. 
The couple are the storyline consultants/police procedural on BAFTA-winning BBC1 police drama Happy Valley and series 3 of ITV’s Scott and Bailey and are presently working with Scott Free Production scriptwriters on two commissioned TV drama series. 
Carol started and chaired the Wight Fair Writers’ Circle in 2008, along with Bob, where she created an annual charitable community writing competition to inspire others of all ages. This event has raised over £10,000 for Island charities. 
The couple pride themselves on being up-to-date on past and present day UK police procedures, and as a result, Bob is regularly sought by UK television, radio and national and local newspapers for comment on developing major crime incidents etc. They have also taken part in BBC Radio 4 (Steve) PUNT P.I. 
Together they can regularly be seen as speakers at a variety of events in the literary world and work with colleges in schools in providing writing seminars and workshops, and they also work with International TV / Film make-up artist Pamela Clare, to help inspire her students at the White Rose Colleges. 
Eight annual R.C. Bridgestock trophies are annually awarded to students. 
Carol and Bob are also patrons and ambassadors for several charities. 
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