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John Harvey

May 2009

Award-winning crime writer John Harvey returns to Nottingham next week to read from his latest novel, Far Cry inspired by the Soham murders and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann...

IT is the story of a woman who loses a daughter in, what appears to be, a tragic accident while on holiday.
Years later, with a new husband and a new daughter, it happens again.
Missing or murdered children? One assumes the Madeleine McCann case was an inspiration.
"Well, yes it was," says John Harvey of his latest crime novel, Far Cry.
"Before I started writing the book, it was around the time the whole Madeleine McCann thing was kicking off. But I'd already had a long conversation with a novelist called Jill Dawson, who actually was a student at university in Nottingham. She lived in a small village in Cambridgeshire near Soham and had written a book that was triggered off by the Soham murders called Watch Me Disappear. Most of that conversation was trying to put yourself imaginatively in to the place of the parents in that kind of situation. That was the trigger for the book."
In Far Cry, the connection between the two disappearances and the truth behind each is only revealed in the very last few pages. Harvey keeps you guessing up to then, guessing for nearly 500 pages – longer than his usual novels.
"I didn't want to do an obvious child abuse paedophile story. To some degree that comes in to it but it's not the main thrust of the book."
Did he have to spend a lot of time getting in to the mindset of a grieving parent or one whose child is missing?
"I think once you've got a child those things are always in your mind," says Harvey, who has two adult children with his first wife and a ten-year-old daughter with his partner.
"That sense of danger, that sense of the possibility of loss. Once you've got a child that is always on your mind – their mortality and yours."
If the McCanns read Far Cry would they feel it was too close to their story?
"No, because the incidents in the book are very different. I hope that anybody who has been in this situation reading the book would recognise some of the emotional responses."
Saying that, I was surprised when the mother of the missing child had rushed sex in a caravan with the father of her daughter's friend who also goes missing but is found safe and well. Is that something you researched and found to be a by-product of grief?
"Yes, I came across quite a lot of references to that. Death is a great aphrodisiac. If you've lost a life you want to make a life. You read it again and again that, after funerals, there's a real urge to make love."
Cambridgeshire is where his two detectives, Will Grayson and Helen Walker are based, as they were in Gone To Ground.
But Harvey is most famous locally for his Nottingham-based novels featuring DI Resnick. There have been 11 Resnick novels over the years. So when's the next?
"The question is when's my next novel?," laughs the 70-year-old.
"It does get harder, I'll be honest. To think of a different story and a different angle. I think it's one of the things about writing crime fiction.
"This year I'm taking a sabbatical. I have done a book a year since the first Resnick. And I'd like to slow down to the point where I'm doing a book every two years."
He adds: "There are other things I want to do.
"In September I started a history of art course at the University of London. It's quite interesting to be studying again for the first time in 30 years after I did my MA at Nottingham."
That was in American Studies. Harvey first came here to teach in the mid-sixties. He now lives in North London but remains a Notts County fan.
Far Cry is his 100th book.
"The first 60 or so are what we'd call pulp fiction. They were 120-page paperbacks, mostly Westerns, written at the rate of one a month. It was me learning to write.
"It wasn't until I wrote the first Resnick book nearly 20 years ago that I slowed down and was able to do one a year instead of 12."
That was Lonely Hearts, named by The Times as one of the 100 best crime novels of the century.
So will there be another Resnick novel?
"I just don't know. He's more or less at the retiring stage. It's not impossible.
"Actually, Five Leaves Press based in Nottingham are doing a book of mine in June called Minor Key. It's got five short stories, four of which are Resnick stories. And an essay by me about writing about Nottingham and Resnick."

John Harvey will be reading from and signing copies of Far Cry at Waterstone's in Bridlesmith Gate on Tuesday, 6.30pm-8pm. Tickets are £3 (redeemable against the price of the book).

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