“Kernick is a
master of the well paced plot and his observant depictions of recognisable
character types in unexpected or dangerous circumstances are a vital part of his
story telling technique.”
You get your inspiration
from plenty of different sources: a conversation in a pub, an article in a
magazine, an interview with a cop or a crook… Only once have I ever got mine
from a nightmare. That’s what happened with my new paperback, Relentless,
and I was at a crime convention, which I suppose has a perverse irony about it.
It was Toronto, in early
October 2004, at Bouchercon, the US crimewriting fraternity’s annual shindig.
I’d been out for a few drinks the evening before with a number of fellow
authors, and after a very late night, I’d staggered back to my hotel room and
fallen into a near coma. Like a lot of drunken sleeps, it was disturbed and
shallow, and I remember waking up about six am with a roaring hangover. I tossed
and turned for a few minutes before slipping under again.
And then it began.
It was so vivid that
I’ll never forget it until the day I die. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. I
was at home, playing with my two young kids in the garden when the phone rang
from inside the house. Leaving them there, I went back inside and picked it up.
It was an old friend of mine, but a guy I hadn’t heard from in years, and
straight away I could tell something was wrong. He was gasping, and it sounded
like he was running. ‘You’ve got to help me,’ he was saying, desperation in his
voice. ‘Please.’ I kept asking him what was wrong, but all he did was repeat
that I had to help him. Then he screamed, and I heard a violent commotion at the
other end of the line. There was a pause. It seemed to last a long time. And
when he finally spoke, his voice little more than a gasp, it was clear he was
addressing someone else. And what he was saying filled me with dread, because it
was the first two lines of my address.
There was a choking
sound and then the line went dead.
For a long moment, I
simply didn’t know what to do. Was it a hoax? Had I misheard him? But then the
fear began to kick in as I realized that, unless I was very much mistaken- and I
was damn sure I wasn’t- what I’d just heard was my friend being murdered, and
that for some bizarre reason his last act on this earth was to tell his killers
where I lived. I had no idea what they could possibly want from me, but there
was no way I was hanging round to find out. Telling myself I was being
ridiculously paranoid, I grabbed my kids, put them in the car, and took them to
my mother’s house. Making an excuse to her as to why I had to leave them there,
I immediately drove back home, hoping to confirm to myself that I was just being
But as I turned the
corner into my estate, I saw a car with tinted windows pull up and three men I
didn’t recognize jump out and walk purposefully up my drive.
I wasn’t being paranoid.
Not at all. For some reason I simply couldn’t comprehend, I was being hunted.
That was the end of the
dream. I woke up in a cold sweat, absolutely petrified, and it took me a good
few minutes to realize that what I’d just been witnessing wasn’t reality, and I
was so relieved I almost laughed out loud.
Two hours later,
refreshed and still relieved, I was at the convention having coffee with two
fellow authors. I told them about my dream, and as I spoke, both their eyes lit
up. Amazingly, up to this point, I’d not even thought about using it as a book,
but now I suddenly realized that I had a really good idea here.
I looked both authors
firmly in the eye, and told them simply that if they pinched my plot, I’d kill
them. They both assured me they would. I told them I could write faster. And I
The result was
Relentless. And I’ve been waiting in vain for another nightmare ever since.
Luckily, with my new
hardback, Severed, released in the UK in June, it’s somebody else’s
nightmare as ex-soldier, Dan Tyler, wakes up in a strange room next to the
headless body of his new lover with no idea how he, or indeed she, got there.
Unfortunately for him, other people do, and what’s worse is they have film
footage which appears to show Tyler killing her. Unless he does exactly what
they say, the footage is going straight into the hands of the police.
Tyler’s task is to take
a briefcase containing a hundred and fifty thousand pounds to an address in East
London and exchange it for another briefcase. Tyler doesn’t know what this new
briefcase contains, and no one wants to tell him either. All he knows is that
it’s booby trapped and will explode if anyone attempts to open it without the
But things go wrong at
the exchange. The man Tyler’s collecting the case from dies before revealing the
code and Tyler himself only just gets out alive. Now he’s on the run with the
police after him on suspicion of murder, and his unseen tormentors desperate to
get their hands on the case.
And Tyler knows that if
he continues to comply with their demands, then there’s no way they’re going to
let him live. So, calling on the services of an old army friend, he decides to
turn the tables. He’s not going to deliver the case to them. If they want it,
they’re going to have to come to him.
But it’s a high risk
strategy and for Tyler time’s running out. In the next twelve hours, he’s got to
avoid the police, stay alive in the face of unseen and deadly assassins,
including a mysterious killer known only as The Vampire, and find out who’s
pulling the strings, and why they’ve targeted him.
And the clock’s ticking
Murder, mayhem, headless
bodies of pretty women lying next to you in bed…
I’m not even going to
begin to tell you how I got the inspiration for that particular story…
(Mass Market Paperback) Corgi £6.99
(Hardback) Bantam Press £16.99 June 2007