Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Guest post: Paul Finch; Who is Heck?

Today I am excited to be the last stop on The Killing Club blog tour.
Author Paul Finch has created an incredible guest post for me to share with you all!

About Paul Finch
Paul Finch is a former cop and journalist, now turned full time writer. He first cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British TV crime drama, THE BILL, and has written extensively in the field of children's animation. However, he is probably best known for his work in horrors and thrillers.
He has also written three Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish – Leviathan and Sentinels of the New Dawn, Hexagora and a Doctor Who novel for BBC Books, Hunter’s Moon.
Finch is no stranger to film either, having written scripts for several horror movies. One of these, The
Devil’s Rock, was released in 2011, while his short story The Belfries, is shorty due to be adapted by Hollywood.
Paul lives in Lancashire, UK, with his wife Cathy and his children, Eleanor and Harry.
A debut for 2013, Paul Finch has had a hell of a year. Selling almost 200,000 copies of his first novel Stalkers, and breaking records with his second novel Sacrifice, becoming the most pre-ordered ebook in HarperCollins’ history, he’s entered the crime world with a bang.

Who is Heck?

Well … he’s a relatively new name in crime fiction, but I’d hope he’s already making an impact.

‘Heck’ is of course a nickname. His full title is Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg, and to date he’s featured in three novels of mine, Stalkers, Sacrifice and The Killing Club, the first two of which have officially achieved best-seller status.

Here is a thumbnail sketch of Heck’s career path to date, as lifted from the very first set of notes I made while still developing the character:

Heck was born in Bradburn, South Lancashire. He joined the Greater Manchester Police as a constable at the age of 19, working initially at Swinton and Pendleton in Salford. After two years, he voluntarily transferred to the Metropolitan Police, spending a year at Kentish Town in North London, then joining CID at Bethnal Green as a detective constable. After five years, during which he did stints with the Burglary Squad and the Robbery Squad at Tower Hamlets, he was promoted to sergeant, briefly returning to uniform at Rotherhithe. But he rejoined CID a year later, going north of the river again to take up the post of detective sergeant at Brick Lane. Six months later, Heck was attached to the Murder Investigation Team, Lewisham, and two years after that he transferred permanently to the National Crime Group at New Scotland Yard, to work in the Serial Crimes Unit, where he has now spent the last seven years.

As you’d perhaps expect, we take up with Heck when he is already an experienced officer in his late 30s, serving as part of Scotland Yard’s elite Serial Crimes Unit, which specialises in the pursuit of serial and repeat offenders throughout all the police force areas of England and Wales. SCU is a vital if fictional department of the National Crime Group, which plays a kind of ‘British FBI’ role. NCG is also fictional, though of course it does have a real life counterpart – the National Crime Agency, though I should add that NCG saw life long before NCA was launched (so I had the idea first!!!).

Heck is relatively low in the police strata – a detective sergeant – but he is experienced and successful in that role. In addition, he never looks for promotion. He lacks the political acumen to ascend further up the ladder, he always says; in addition, he would rather be an investigator than an administrator.
On one hand, Heck displays many traits that make him the ideal street detective. He is sharp, imaginative, hard-working (very hard-working) and physically tough, as befits his blue collar origins. But he’s an affable chap too, who prefers the even-handed approach if that’s possible. He’s also resolute, though ‘dogged’ might be a better term. When Heck is on the case, he simply will not give up.
On the other hand, Heck can also be a supervisor’s nightmare. He’s a chancer. He’s very instinctive, and so he takes risks – and these don’t always pay off. He also gets frustrated by rules, so he often circumnavigates protocol, playing every trick in the book to defeat his adversaries (some of whom are fellow police officers). Heck can be a team-player, but at the same time he’s egocentric – he assumes the entire police service will fall apart if he takes a day off. So he needs to be at the sharp end always, and if this conflicts with the wishes of his bosses, so what?

This brings us onto another issue, Heck’s love life – which is not extricable from his average working day. Heck has no problem attracting girls. He’s handsome in a rugged, northern sort of way. But he’s never married – for the simple reason the love of his life was his very first girlfriend, Gemma Piper, a detective who worked with him when they were both new to CID, and yet who is now Detective Superintendent Piper of SCU, in other words Heck’s overall boss.


As you can imagine this leads to some intense drama. Gemma is a straight bat, who doesn’t like controversy. So Heck gives her constant headaches. They clash repeatedly, and yet there is a deep bond of unspoken affection between the two of them (which is the only reason Gemma tolerates Heck’s antics), and no shortage of sexual chemistry (which may explain some of their fights).

Heck’s personal background, meanwhile, is not the happiest. His family disowned him when he joined the police. This stemmed from the suicide of his brother, Tom, who was older than Heck by several years, but also a drug addict and a failure. Tom was sentenced to life in prison, having been framed by the cops for a series of violent burglaries. He was later exonerated, but only after much torture and sexual abuse, and finally suicide. Heck was only a schoolboy at the time, but as a result of this tragedy, he joined the police himself, “determined to show the lazy arsed bastards how the job should be done!”, something he’s been doing ever since in Gemma’s view.

Heck’s mother and father in particular never understood this, and were so hostile to his career choice, that he eventually moved away from the Northwest, transferring from the Greater Manchester Police to the Metropolitan Police in London. The rest, as they say, is history.

But where did Heck come from? Who was the blueprint?

Well … though I’m an ex-policeman myself, I never knew a real-life Heck. I suppose he’s an amalgamation of various influences in my life. I served in the Greater Manchester Police, and I was born and raised in Wigan, the prototype Lancashire mill-town on which I based Bradburn, Heck’s home of origin. There the similarity between him and me ends, though my own police experiences had some bearing on Heck’s broader law-enforcement initiatives. When I was a young bobby, it was pre-PACE, and there were all kinds of crafty manoeuvres the lads could pull on criminals. CID were particularly adept at this. So Heck only does what many detectives used to do effectively and justifiably to clean the streets of the worst criminals. I’m not talking about bent cops by the way; there isn’t a corrupt bone in Heck’s body, as there wasn’t in any of the CID offices where I had colleagues.

But perhaps the most obvious similarity between Heck and the real-life cops I knew is his dogged nature. Policing has never been a nine ’til five job, and some officers take this to an extreme, putting in endless hours. Again, in this regard, Heck only does what so many others did before him to get results, but it rarely makes for a happy or pretty life. In the words of Sacrifice, ‘sharing late-night TV dinners in his poky little Notting Hill flat, with his only companion the next pile of case-files’, isn’t a career outcome you’d wish on anyone – though in Heck’s eyes it’s never been a career, more a vocation.

His life isn’t quite as sad as all that, of course. Gemma is always tantalisingly close. Will they get it together again at some point? They were a perfect fit before, after all, and they could well be again. But we haven’t got there yet. With luck, there’ll be several more books before we contemplate any such happy reunion.

About The Killing Club
DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is used to bloodbaths. But nothing can prepare him for this; his most dangerous case to date is open again.
Two years ago, he put the ringleader of The Nice Guys Club – a vicious rape and murder gang – behind bars. But Heck knows that this depraved organisation stretches far beyond UK shores.
When brutal murders start happening across the country, it’s clear that the Nice Guys are at work again. Their victims are killed in cold blood, in broad daylight, and by any means necessary. And Heck knows it won’t be long before they come for him.
Brace yourself as you turn the pages of a living nightmare. Welcome to The Killing Club.


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