Felixstowe thriller writer gets TV deal from Shameless producers
- Credit: Archant
Author Iain Maitland looks set to provide TV audiences with the next big TV crime drama. As his new book comes out, he talks about his love of setting his thrillers in East Anglia and getting under the skin of his heroes and villains
Suffolk author Iain Maitland loves a mystery – which is just as well as he has four currently whizzing round in his brain, all at different stages of completion. Four projects each, precariously balanced, demanding his attention and deadlines are looming.
The fact that Coronavirus lockdown has messed with everyone’s schedules and recalibrated priorities hasn’t helped. But, Iain maintains that the best way to proceed is to just shut out the noise and confusion and carry on as normal – or at least as close to normal as the world will allow.
Iain, a Felixstowe-based professional writer since 1987, has just published his third psychological thriller The Scribbler which follows on from previous dark page-turners Sweet William and Mr Todd’s Reckoning.
These were a new departure following on from two non-fiction books – Dear Michael, Love Dad and Out of the Madhouse – which were about mental health issues and were written in collaboration with his son Michael, who suffered from anxiety and depression.
Just as The Scribbler hits the streets, comes the news that TV company AbbottVision, the producers of Cracker with Robbie Coltrane and Channel Four’s cult black comedy Shameless, have optioned Iain’s previous novel Mr Todd’s Reckoning and are looking to turn it into a mini-series rather like Killing Eve or Liar and have indicated that if more novels are forthcoming then, if audiences are enthusiastic, there may well be further seasons of the series.
This is music to Iain’s ears who had all ready been discussing with his publisher, Saraband, the possibility of writing other books featuring characters who are in Mr Todd’s Reckoning.
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As exciting as this news is, Iain is quite cagey about revealing too much (as he doesn’t want to jinx anything) and as a lot of the fine detail, such as casting, has yet to be decided – and because he has several other projects to finish before he can sit down and write the sequel to Mr Todd.
“Scripts are being written at the moment and we hope to be filming next year and it should come out at the end of next year or beginning of the year after. At the moment with the virus about, everything’s a bit up in the air.
“As far as the sequel to the book is concerned, all I am saying is that the follow-ups will contain characters from the original book and not say who. I am trying to fudge the issue of identities so as not to spoil it for the readers who have yet to come to the books because not everyone makes it to the end of the story.”
He illustrates the point with a revealing anecdote: “I sent the story to one famous actor, who I can’t name, who was potentially interested in playing a role. He came back and said that he was really enjoying it and was very interested but then he discovered he was killed off halfway through and wasn’t quite as enthusiastic after that.”
All of this is going on just as Iain is also promoting the release of his latest psychological thriller The Scribbler, which he hopes may also make it onto the small screen. It follows the careers of two mis-matched detectives DI Gayther and his rookie colleague DC Carrie have been assigned to investigate seemingly cold murder cases of members of the LGBTQ+ community.
DC Georgia Carrie wasn’t born when The Scribbler was conducting his reign of terror but then he disappeared as quickly as he arrived. But, it appears that The Scribbler, so called because of the signature he leaves on his victim’s torsos, is emerged out of retirement. DI Roger Gayther was a young detective, part of the team that failed to catch the killer first time around.
For Iain, it is relationships between the characters and the dynamic between pursuer and pursued that drives his books forward. They build up a tremendous sense of energy and towards the end have the thrust of a speeding locomotive.
So do you write with everything mapped out in advance? “The story tends to evolve as I write. I have a broad idea of what I want it to be and what the story is but, the characters and the situation do evolve as I write.
“In The Scribbler, for example, I knew I wanted an old tired man, a detective teamed up with a young, enthusiastic female officer and they were looking at LGBTQ cold cases and they stumbled across this case from Norfolk where this killer was targeting gay men in Norwich. The fact he appears to be back gives their case greater urgency. His modus operandi appears to be unmistakable.
“So, that was the basic idea and everything evolved from that. Before I started writing, I would read interviews with authors who would say that their characters took over them during the writing and I’d go: ‘Oh, yeah,’ in a very cynical tone but it is absolutely true, the characters do take over.”
The fact that all Iain’s novels are set in East Anglia is important to him. His knowledge of the landscape and the towns makes the locations an important feature in the stories.
“I like to set my novels in East Anglia because it’s a marvellous part of the world, very atmospheric, very picturesque and, of course, I know it very well. I am hoping that when they come to film Mr Todd’s Reckoning that they will shoot, at least some of it, here. The area around Leiston and Sizewell up towards Dunwich is very evocative. It almost has that Scandi-drama feel to it.”
But, before that, there is plenty more work to be completed and removed from his already overcrowded brain. He is currently half-way through a new novel 3, Bluebell Lane, which is due to hit the shelves in March next year, during the summer he wants to work on a TV script of his non-fiction book Dear Michael, Love Dad (which he adds may or may not become a stage play depending the reaction of TV executives) and then in the autumn he is looking to start a new book The Key Man which he has to finish before he can start work on the long awaited sequel to Mr Todd’s Reckoning, by which time the TV series should be on our screens.
“I’m not short of things to do,” he laughs. But, he is happy that TV companies are starting to take an interest in his work because it raises his profile. There is a kudos in the publishing world if you have been adapted for television.
“TV is the big thing because (although) crime books are great, you only get about a quid a book. The money is obviously better from TV.
“There’s always this horrible clash between art and business but I have always been clear that if I want to carry on as a writer then I have to sell a certain number of books and TV undoubtedly helps you to do that.
“I am quite a visual writer, I see images in my head as I write, so it comes out quite televisual. I also cast the characters in my head and I tend to write them with those actors in mind.”
The Scribbler is more of a police procedural story which marks it out as being different in style to Iain’s previous two novels. He said he was lucky to get some expert advice from Neil Boast MBE, former LGBT Liaison Officer with Suffolk Constabulary, who guided him through the way that the police handle crimes of this sort.
“When I was still at the draft stage, I put out a Twitter appeal, saying I was writing this crime novel about LGBTQ+ crimes and police procedures and was honest that I was winging it somewhat and asked: ‘Does anyone know a copper who would be willing to read it and provide some advice.’ Jules from Woodbridge Emporium got back to me and said: ‘Try Neil Boast, so I contacted him, he agreed to read it and he was brilliant. He put me right on several points. He said: ‘That wouldn’t happen. That would but would be much quicker, that aspect would take more time, so thanks to Neil I think that the police aspect is now spot on.
“I also had help from a guy called Tony Conroy who has worked with some heavy duty individuals and he read the book through from the perspective of The Scribbler to make sure what I had him doing and thinking was believable and would fit the profile of a serial killer. So I have been really lucky with the help and support I have received.”
The Scribbler by Iain Maitland is now available and is published by Saraband.