Sadly enough, I’ve found I can re-create the opening beat to Dirty Harry by repeatedly tapping my gym locker door…
Cop movies/books are great cat and mouse dramas. Characters can be pushed to their mental and physical limits and beyond.
For an author, it’s a tempting backdrop. It’s also a brave one, since it’s been done so many times. What could I come up with that’s new?
Never one to back away from a challenge, I gave it a go. My first attempt was swiftly aborted. I thought it would be kind of original to have a senior cop mentoring a trainee cop, with each chapter alternating from one to the other, so the reader would have an insight into both states of mind.
I got really bored with that idea, and felt restricted. Also, the trainee cop was coming out with all the newbie clichés and fears we’ve heard a million times before. One thing I didn’t want to do was run over old ground. Anyone who’s read my other novels will know I like to offer readers something different.
So I had the senior cop run the whole show. Once I settled with this, the novel started to flow. I had a lot of ideas to fit in, but the storyline was not easy to bring to life, as it contains several subplots.
Cuffed features Razors, a PC half way into his career, who is the ultimate crime fighter. He’s always one step ahead of the bad guys, seeming to have some kind of clairvoyant advantage. But his 100% clear up rate is at threat when he comes across ‘The Poet’, a ruthless child-killer who mocks crime investigators by leaving a personalised poem at the scenes of death. Razors happens to be the first cop at scene at the first of these killings, and believes the message is meant for him. He takes it upon himself to find the killer, a difficult task given that the case belongs to the murder squad.
Breaking the rules is by no means a new thing for Razors, so he cracks on in his own time to prevent the next death and nail the killer.
Set against this ticking clock is Razor’s nagging uncertainty about his own existence. This is what, I think, sets him apart from other cops, and is the main theme. Strange things are starting to happen. People are seemingly in two places at the same time; his friends are swapping accents and mannerisms; and a line of cars at a red light all have busted radios.
So he starts to question his place in the universe. Why is he so gifted and what is his destiny? He wonders if he created all this. Maybe he’s overloaded with information and everything’s breaking down like corrupted software; he can’t maintain harmony any longer.
The great thing about this idea is how it links in with his role as a cop. Because he never fails and always comes out on top, Razors believes he can investigate this in the same manner he does a criminal. It’s simply a matter of proving the truth with brute force and innovation.
If he did create everything, then he could learn how to end it all. He’s convinced that people are trying to distract him for proving his theory, that they’re keeping him ‘sweet’ so the world keeps turning and their lives go on. In turn this nurtures paranoia and a great deal of people to be interrogated; the people who are seemingly obstructing his quest for answers.
Writing this, although very exciting, was very difficult. I do much prefer exploring character’s thoughts and reactions in first person as opposed to third, but there were a lot of sub-plots running alongside the main one that I had to keep fresh and relevant. It’s certainly my favourite novel and the most mentally demanding to write. I had a folder with me that I constantly referred to; it listed all the subplots with the ideas I had for each. Some were cross-referenced and good organisation was essential! It did take a long time to write, mainly because I felt that before I wrote more, I had to re-read what I’d written before to ensure my writing was smooth-flowing (well, hopefully it is!).
I really wanted this to be an involving, thinking person’s novel. There are two main interpretations for what happens, and I worked hard to ensure that the plot fits in with both views. I hope it generates some interesting discussions!
I kind of see Cuffed as a cop’s fantasy novel. I remember reading an interview with Michael Chiklis, who plays the main cop in the fantastic series The Shield. His character will achieve his objectives by any means necessary, and Chiklis said that real-life cops had contacted him and said how much they loved the show and wished they could do some of the stuff he did. Razors is similarly driven to win at any cost, and although he will prove to be more extreme than Vic (pretty surprising, considering Vic murdered a colleague in the first series of The Shield!), I can see people concurring with some of his controversial opinions.
The Wire is another awesome cop drama. Again I read with interest an interview with one of the creators, in which he explained how his research revealed that some cops don’t so much care about justice when investigating criminals; instead their ‘intellectual vanity’ drives them – the need to win the battle of minds.
Razors refuses to be outwitted too; he has to win and this makes him a very effective officer.
I draw further parallels between Cuffed and the BBC series Life on Mars. The uncertainty about realty is a key similarity, and I like the way they drew that out in the show, although it was a little predictable.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Please leave a comment – I actively read through responses. When you’ve read Cuffed, re-visit this post and let me know if I succeeded in making it original and entertaining. I won’t settle for anything less! And how did it stand up against other cop dramas? My bold claim is that it can hold it’s own.
‘Marc Horn scares me. His talent for writing beautifully brilliant characters that are truly disturbed is terrifying. Razors may be the best example of his work yet.’ (RABID READERS)
CUFFED is available here at a special introductory price.