I was just about to fly out to the Wild West and hit the trail with the veteran rodeo riders when I got a call from my agent. Would I be interested in writing the usual ‘three-chapters-plus-a-synopsis’ for a former North Yorkshire policeman who wanted to record his memoirs? When you’re floating a new idea, that’s what a publisher will generally ask to see: some sample chapters plus a brief outline. I’ve done it several times. I have to admit that, although I welcomed the work and know North Yorkshire pretty well, I was initially half-hearted about the
project. However, camping in a lonely canyon in Utah with the coyotes howling and my fire crackling, I was captivated by the broad Yorkshire voice emanating from my tape recorder. Five years later, we have just published book 7 of the Mike Pannett series that began with Now Then, Lad.
The latest, and last, is the story of Mike Pannett's childhood, A Likely Tale, Lad.
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This is, I suspect, a unique collaboration. I do what I do best - the writing - while Mike plays to his enormous strengths as ... well, I call him a hustler. He goes out and makes sure the books are in the shops; he cultivates bookshop managers, signs copies, gives talks and readings, gets himself on the TV and radio, and makes sure that our agent never sleeps.

When I say I write the books, I should qualify that. We start with a planning session. What’s going to happen in Mike’s life in this book, and what kind of cases are we going to put in? These are non-fiction books. The police work is absolutely authentic;
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all the crimes and incidents actually took place - although we change locations, names, and one or two other minor details so that nobody is embarrassed. A lot of the fun and games with minor characters, however, is woven around the country folk we have both known. Once we know what we’re doing, Mike (with the help of his wife Ann, also a police officer) records an outline of each of the dozen or so cases that are going to make the backbone of the action. I then compose a chapter at a time.

I choose settings that I know intimately, decide what time of year this is happening, and add the corresponding details about the countryside, the weather, the plants and wildlife. I also weave in interaction with minor characters. Each chapter, upon completion of a first draft, goes back to Mike. He and Ann then go through it and make sure that every relevant part of the police procedure is correctly described; they add or suggest additional material and query things that they aren’t happy about. I then re-write.
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The artistic and creative freedom I have is, I believe, crucial to the books’ good reputation. I am writing about places I know and love. Through the minor characters I can recreate events and anecdotes, language and dialect that I have picked up over many years of country life. And in allowing Mike to reflect while he’s out on patrol, I can pass on to the reader a little education in rural matters.

It’s a great working relationship - and may well be, as I suggested earlier - unique.