Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sorts of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Today I’m welcoming to the tearoom: Jack Steele. Welcome to the clubhouse tearoom, Jack.
Thanks for inviting me to this beautiful tearoom, Paula. Looking at the chalkboard I see that today’s special is a cream tea. So, on this chilly day could I have one of those with a large pot of tea please.
Thank you so much for join me today. I’m just a little sad that it wasn’t a warmer day otherwise we could have sat in the clubhouse garden. Still the view is nice. Let’s start by asking you Is there anything about you that your readers may be surprised to find out?
I used to be a presenter on local radio. It began when I managed a Saturday Sports programme on King’s Lynn Hospital Radio and presented an hour long show on a Wednesday evening. I would visit patients on the wards and have a chat with them. During this time, I would gather their music requests and they would listen in for the hour-long request show which I also co-presented. I gained such a knowledge of different music genres and I became part of a team who presented a similar request programme on the local independent station KLFM, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Another subject I discussed with the patients was their reading material and the majority of genres were romance or crime fiction. They would recommend authors and I would head over to the local library and borrow books based on their recommendations. It was thanks to them that I eventually realised what was my preferred genre.
When you first began your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I watched lots of detective series on television from an early age. Dixon of Dock Green, Juliet Bravo, The Sweeny, Starsky and Hutch and Line of Duty have all been favourites throughout the years. Then there were the movies – especially ‘Along Came A Spider’,based on the bestselling book by James Patterson. I loved the plot twists and cliff hanger endings and so I began to read all of his Alex Cross books.
Each author tackles the premise that a detective investigates a crime with his/her team using all available resources to track down the perpetrator, in a unique way. I discovered the more crime fiction books I read, the more discerning I became. Some were too descriptive with little action, others had too many characters which confused me. So, I decided to write in my own style. A fast-paced page turner with cliff hangers, moral dilemmas and believable characters.
Thanks for the offer of another cuppa Paula? I wouldn’t mind a refill. Thanks. There is definitely a chilled atmosphere here and I love the ceramic Stone Angels looking down at us from the shelves.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
When I reached 40 it was a milestone that I wanted to mark by writing the crime fiction novel that had been in my head for an exceptionally long time.
Research is extremely important to me because my story is set where I grew up in London’s East End. I needed to revisit the pubs, restaurants and places that featured in the book because I wanted the reader to feel they were in those places. It was vital that they felt the atmosphere and emotions of the characters. One of the investigation team lives on the Bannister House Estate with his mother and that is where I was raised by mine.
My wife accompanied me to Canary Wharf, Poplar and Homerton, we had a meal in the ‘Gun’ Pub on the banks of the River Thames. It was here that the lead detectives would discuss the case over a drink. During my research of the pub, I discovered that Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton would meet in a private room upstairs. The barman was kind enough to show me that historic room.
There was a dramatic scene at the Barbican, so we had a good look around there and all the other locations in the books, like Brick Lane for example.
Did you uncover things about yourself while writing your books, whether that be a long-forgotten memory, a positive experience etc.
I realised as the first draft was written that I should learn more about the craft of writing, so I signed up for a creative writing course as well as two workshops with the Nottingham Writer’s Studio. They taught me a lot and I developed my story using the experience gained from them. I sent my manuscript to three editors I knew and the suggestions that came back were extremely helpful with one adamant that these characters should be used in a series. With that in mind I spent another three years researching locations, character traits and gangland villains.
We went on the East End Gangster Tour, being shown around the haunts of the Krays as well as others. It was extremely informative and useful research.
The tour guide was the movie actor Stephen Marcus who appeared in many films including ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’.
I eventually had the confidence to publish my first book in the series ‘Loose Cannon’ and it was an extremely nervous time waiting for the reviews. I was so thankful when the readers and reviewers awarded it four and five stars. They loved the characters, locations and the short gripping chapters. Many were crying out for the sequel so that’s when I knuckled down to write ‘Long Shot’ the second in the series.
The idea came from a visit to Richmond Park which has a poets corner and King Henry’s Mound on which there is a telescope with a clear unrestricted view of St Paul’s Cathedral. This would form the front cover for Long Shot. The characters were already established, and I found writing the second book a delight. Even though it can be read as a standalone book there were references to the first book too. The dilemma of writing a stand-alone versus a series of books was an interesting one and I researched other authors who had been through the same experience. I even contacted them and used some of their material with their permission in an essay that I posted on my website.
The third and final book in the trilogy was ‘Dark Secrets’ which stemmed from a visit to Barcelona and the Capuchin Crypt. Seeing the Crypt of the Skulls of Capuchin monks that had died there was a haunting image Paula. Throughout the book I wanted the reader to feel the threat of danger to the investigation team concluding with a dramatic finale.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Yes, all the characters are based on people I have met in real life. I have mixed with quite a few unsavoury characters that have provided me with a rich mix of menace and a darkness needed for the villains and psychopaths that appear in my trilogy. During the 70s-80s I started boxing training and loved going to the fight nights to cheer on our best boxers. I remember meeting Professional British Champions like Alan Minter who held the European Middleweight title and Heavyweight boxer Joe Bugner. Some of the other faces in the crowd had the look of gangsters and we were advised not to get in their way. I read Lennie McClean’s biography. He took up boxing and was known as The Guvnor because of his need to be the top gangster in town. All these characters are to be found within my books.
The investigation team are based on work colleagues that I have got to know during my 40 plus years in the printing industry. I still work full-time which can make writing difficult, but I have a routine to enable me to carry on writing which I love to do.
I would like to finish by thanking all my readers, editors, bloggers and Crime book club friends who have been so supportive through this process. Their encouragement drives me on to write more.
I’ve loved our chat Paula and thanks for inviting me into your beautiful tearoom. The cream tea is definitely one of the best I have tasted in a while.
My pleasure, Jack you must come and join me again for another chat. Check out the link below to find out more about Jack’s books.
Website : www.jacksteeleauthor.com
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.