This is the working title of my new novel and so far I am about half way through the first draft. Some how the summer has not been conducive to writing – who wants to be stuck in front of a computer when the sun is shining outside. I think too, I am rather daunted by the task I have set myself. I didn’t think about it with Crucial Evidence. I’d started that as part of my dissertation for my MA and I just kept going until I’d finished. Then I drafted and redrafted without thinking, each time telling myself that this time it would work and when I sent it to agents someone would love. They didn’t and I began to realize that it wasn’t my writing that was the real problem but the type of book I wanted to write. Also talking to agents at places like Winchester Writers’ Conference and at The London Book Fair I knew any publisher would want a series of novels and I didn’t want to be tied to writing a book a year. In the end I decided to publish the book myself. In the process I’ve learnt at lot about writing and publishing, but that makes the mountain I have to climb much higher and harder than the first. I know how long it takes and how difficult it can be.
But you have to begin somewhere so this is the first page of my second novel. It follows the career of barrister Cassie Hardman as she gets her first leading brief in a murder case.
‘As Cassie hurried along the driveway from Snaresbrook Crown Court towards the tube station, she turned on her mobile phone. Amongst the emails from fashion houses, department stores and restaurants, there was a message showing the subject matter as Paul Sadler. He had been the defendant in a rape trial, who she had successfully defended at the Old Bailey the week before last. She didn’t recognise the name of the sender, Malcolm Delaney. Normally she was very careful about opening emails from unknown people but it was from someone who knew about her involvement in the Sadler case. She clicked the message open and read, ‘Miss Hardman, I wanted to congratulate you on your representation of Mr Sadler. Your cross examination was very effective and your closing remarks were obviously persuasive. Clearly they carried the jury along, as you know from the verdict. I would like the opportunity of congratulating you in person, and would like to invite you to have lunch or dinner with me. We can arrange a time and place later. I look forward to hearing from you. Malcolm’
The email gave no clue as to how Malcolm Delaney, knew she had represented Paul Sadler or what Delaney’s connection to the case was. Was he a police officer, a member of the court staff or just a spectator from the public gallery? She knew there were a number who came regularly to watch the proceedings at the Bailey; the staff described them as ‘groupies’ and she had been told by one of the ushers that some of them would ask which barristers were appearing in which court and make a point of watching their favourites’ cases. The wording of the message was a little old fashioned so perhaps it was one of them. The thought that one of the men from the gallery wanted to invite her to dinner amused her, but nothing more.
Back in Chambers, the senior clerk, Jack, summoned her into his room and closed the door behind her. On his desk were four lever arch files, tied with pink tape, the front sheet bore the title R v David Winston Montgomery. Jack beamed at her. ‘I’ve managed to get you a leading brief in a murder at the Bailey. I assume you’ll want to apply for silk in a couple of years. This is a good one; you’re ready for it, even though it’s a murder. None of the silks want this. Scared they’ll get tarred with a racist brush, I dare say. A woman won’t of course. Judge Crabtree is in a bit of a panic thinking the defendant might want to represent himself. I said, to Colin in the list office, my Miss Hardman can handle it. Spoke to Tim. Didn’t take long to persuade him you could do it. So there you are a leading brief in a murder.’
Any comments to make about that so important first page.
I was asked to do this by Catherine Lumb. I think it’s an interesting excercise to make you think about your writing.
What is the title of the book/WIP?
The book is called Crucial Evidence. Apart from WIP it’s had about five titles including ‘Defending the Innocent.’ and ‘Missing Alibi’
Where did the idea come from?
I know that defending an innocent man is the hardest thing a barrister can do. I expanded on that theme so that my main character goes to unusal lengths to ensure her client gets a fair trial.
What Genre is your WIP.
It’s a crime novel, legal drama.
Which actors would you chose to play your characters in a movie rendition.
I am tempted to say Maxine Peake as she plays a very similar character in Silk, but prehaps she should play my police officer, Alexis Seymour, and Anne Marie Duff could play Cassie Hardman, my barrister, but perhaps she’s too attractive for Cassie.
What is your one sentence synopsis of your WIP
Female barrister Cassie Hardman, sure her client is innocent of murder, searches for a crucial witness, and with Police woman, Alexis Seymour, finds the witness and then identifies the real killer.
Is your WIP published or represented?
I have sent the book to a number of Literary Agents without any sucess, but this year the consulting editor of a major publishing house asked to read the whole book. She didn’t want to take it any further after reading the novel, but she made some suggestions about the book and I am now redrafting it with those in mind with the intention of resubmitting it again.
How long did it take to write it?
About three years so far. I keep on rewriting it when I see flaws or I’ve had comments about it from Literary Agents, which make sense to me.
What other books within your genre would you compare it with.
‘Presumed Innocent’ by Scott Turow, the outstanding example of a legal thriller, and John Grisham’s ‘A Time to Kill.’
Which authors inspired you to write this WIP
Charles Dickens. ‘Bleak House’ is a great legal drama with strong identifiable characters. You can find the same types in the legal profession today.
Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in this project?
If you have ever asked yourself how can a barrister represent a person they believe is guilty, you will find the answer.