Every now and again a certain series of books comes along, which you just have to read one after the other. Only the Dead, Flesh Evidence, Hell’s Gate, and a new release called, Game Point. They all go together to form one of these fascinating series featuring DCI Bennett. Today I feel very honoured indeed to have the creator behind them. He is a best selling author of great acclaim, and he’s called Malcolm Hollingdrake; and this is what he has to say.
So Malcolm, your latest book is out now called, Game Point. It’s also the fourth in the DI Cyril Bennett series, and follows on from Hell’s Gate, which I loved by the way. So come on Malcolm tell me all about Game Point and the three preceding novels in the series.
Thank you very much Peter for that lovely, warm welcome. I think the best way to begin would be for me to give an overall impression of the series and then explain a little about each book if that’s OK. The series is set in Harrogate, North Yorkshire in the present day. The main character is DCI Cyril Bennett, a smart, well-mannered officer; possibly he can be labelled as old fashioned. He’s a man of strong principles, a man who supports his team. We know something of his past but in each book a little more is revealed. He’s certainly a one off! DS David Owen is the exact opposite to his superior, youthful, well built and extremely untidy. Often he gives the impression of being a little naïve but don’t be fooled. DS Liz Graydon, joined the team early in the series proving a vital link.
‘Game Point’ is the end to Series One, there is no dénouement, I wanted to leave a number of strands open, more a… what will Cyril do now? This book brings together Cyril and a villain he first encountered in ‘Only the Dead’. It has become a game of revenge, one where there can be no true winner or loser.
‘Hell’s Gate’ revolves around a forgotten railway tunnel that runs beneath Harrogate’s Stray. It was used as an air raid shelter in World War 2 and was often the haunt of many a child, so the scary place soon became known locally as ‘The Darkie’. In this book, cruel and sinister deeds are carried out there.
That leaves ‘Flesh Evidence’, all I shall say about this book is that if you enjoy honey and have the odd tattoo, leave it alone! No, it’s an intricate plot but it will make you question whether you’ll put honey on your toast again!
The series is obviously very popular, that you can tell by the many five star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. How long do you think you will carry on writing about DCI Bennett?
I had already completed three Bennett books when I was offered a contract with Bloodhound Books, the first two were self-published and so these were re-titled and released. It afforded me the opportunity to publish three books in quick succession. Book 4 was the close of Series One. I’ve completed book 5 and am at present working on book 6. I’d love to be able to write two further books to complete the second series and then reflect, step back and review.
Apart from this series you have also written other books too. So my question is; out of all the books you have written, which one is your favourite and why?
Yes, I have two self-published books on Amazon, ‘Engulfed’, a novel set in Cyprus and the UK. It deals with Gulf War Syndrome and its effects, following one man’s quest to get justice in the only way he knows, using the skills he was taught. Also there is, ‘Shadows from the Past’, a collection of short stories for short journeys. My favourite book at present has to be ‘Hell’s Gate’. I thought it was a brave book as it involved dog fighting… a subject difficult to cover sensitively. However, although not as popular as the other publications it has been nominated for the CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger so I’m delighted. So yes, Hell’s Gate. May I be cheeky? I am also very proud of, ‘The Penultimate Man’, a short story set at the end of WW1. It’s included in ‘Shadows from the Past’.
One thing I’ve noticed about your books, are the fantastic characters inside. Are any of theses characters based on your own personal character?
I think it is inevitable that a part of me must be within one or more of the characters. I like to think I am polite, and mannerly, so maybe I’m with Cyril there. It’s a difficult question, Peter, maybe my wife would be better answering that.
Have any of your personal experiences been written into any of your novels?
Yes, places I know well have all been included, areas of France, Ripon and Harrogate. I have also enjoyed collecting northern art and I have invested that in Cyril and so writing the auction house scenes and describing the specific art works, yes. I’ve never committed any of the crimes mentioned of that you can be assured! However, I’m rather partial to a pint of Theakstone’s Black Sheep Ale and Cyril kills a few of those within the series, so that has to be included too!
Now then, for everyone that hasn’t read any of your books. What would they gain from reading them?
If I may quote a wonderful review I received:
‘Hollingdrake is to Harrogate what Rankin (Rebus) is to Edinburgh - able to build a realistic landscape to portray his characters against - which is even better if you are familiar with the landscape’.
Considering this, I hope people get to experience some of the beautiful areas in and around Harrogate. I hope too that my crime novels are different from the norm. I try to make the characters real and relevant in the hope that the readers relate to them and their experiences. I also hope my story lines are vital and original.
Now I know this is a common question for writers, and I do tend to ask this quite a lot, but tell me, why do you write and what made you start writing in the first place.
As a teacher for many, many years I have always read or told stories to the children. I started to write my own tales for assemblies and the end of day story and one thing led to another. Writing a novel didn’t prove as easy as I first thought and then marketing proved even more difficult. However, there’s no better feeling, to sit and create a fictitious world set in the real one. I just love it.
What do you think is the most frustrating thing about being a writer?
When I was self-published I would say getting the books known. Now, with having Bloodhound Books behind me as well as finding the support of the many fantastic bloggers and readers who generously support my writing, things are so much more positive. I have ultimate respect for the bloggers who do a fantastic job. I’d also say the rejection slips can be so frustrating. At one stage last year I was so close to throwing in the towel. The generous encouragement from other writers kept me in the game.
I think also some of the reviews can be frustrating when they include spoilers or references that are beyond the author’s control. I know that when you put your head above the parapet you expect the occasional bullet but it can be so annoying.
What would you say was the most satisfying or perhaps proudest moment of your writing career?
It has to be receiving the offer of a publishing contract from Bloodhound Books; my wife’s face on hearing the news… she’s never lost faith. I shall never forget her expression. As I’ve said many times, without her I’d be nothing!
Malcolm, I just now want to say many thanks for joining me at this time. I must say you have given me some great and interesting answers to my questions. That just leaves me to say that I wish you all the very best of luck with not only Game Point, but also all of you other works too. Many Thanks.
Thank you very much for the invitation to join you.
I’m grateful to Tony Bithell for the author photographs
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