Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as an incompetent colleague intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.
Ray Britain’s debut novel ‘The Last Thread’ was published 17th September 2017. Following a highly successful career in policing it should be no surprise that it is a complex crime investigation story.
As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) Ray led many investigations, some of which engaged specialist, national capabilities. For fifteen years he was also a Hostage & Suicide Intervention Negotiator responding to hostage situations, many firearms incidents and numerous suicide interventions, not all of which ended happily.
In ‘The Last Thread’ Ray’s real-world experience puts the reader in the driving seat of a complex investigation with all the uncertainties and realities of modern crime investigation.
Ray’s interests include mountain walking, rugby, skiing, Dad dancing, reading, and sailing.
Interview with Ray Britain
- What book first ignited your love of reading?
Honestly? It was too long ago to remember accurately but I always had my head in a book and could become so absorbed in a story that I was utterly deaf to whatever was going on around me. I read the usual boy’s fare of Desert Island, Black Beauty of course, and much more besides, and I was completely fascinated with Greek myths and fables. I can still recall some of the dust jackets as I would study them, and they gave life to a story.
- If your current book had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Frank Sinatra’s “One for my baby and one for the road”. I’m sure there could be many other suitable songs but this one comes to mind. Why? I love Sinatra’s later music as it’s so reflective and yes, melancholy too in looking back over the years of life and loves lost. There are in its lyrics too, aspects of my lead protagonist, Doug Stirling – complex with an untold back story that shapes his nature and intrigues the observer.
- Which book have you read more than once?
Not many. Once I’ve read a book, or have watched a film, I rarely revisit it. But, as you’ll see below, I’m currently re-reading a Sebastian Faulks novel.
- Do you plan your writing or go with the flow?
After many years of doing project management I’m reasonably well organised and get irritated with myself if I slip and slide. So I use mind mapping software to collect and organise my thinking around themes, characters, plotlines and procedural requirements etc. so that I don’t overlook anything, or create contradictions. I respect the reader’s intelligence and that they’ll be quick to spot any sloppiness on my part. Above all else, I want to make the storyline a challenge too.
- Do you enjoy the editing process?
Not greatly. It’s a long, tedious process but the upside is that it allows you to critique your own work and make improvements. So, a necessary but beneficial evil.
- If you could what advice would you give your sixteen-year-old self?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. What can you tell a sixteen-year-old who isn’t listening? Having already experienced two acrimonious divorces, I was very immature and deeply cynical about the notion of love. I think I would try to tell him that perseverance in love brings its own rewards. In my dedication to The Last Thread, becoming a Father made me a better person, wishing to give my children the security that I did not experience and gave purpose to my life and career.
I might also tell him to work harder at school and, actually, you’re Dad does know what he’s talking about! I once read a saying: “By the time I realised my Dad was right, I had a son telling me I was wrong!”
- Do you read your book reviews?
Yes. As an Indie Author how else could I improve my writing if I don’t understand a reader’s experience? I’m very open to comment about aspects of characters or about storyline structure. So, fire away!
- What is your opinion on social media and it’s unique gift of connecting writer and reader instantly?
Harnessed responsibly, and used respectfully, social media is an incredibly powerful tool for engaging with people cross-culturally, across race and gender and in introducing people to literature. Sadly, though, too often it’s used to give oxygen to narrow-minded bile. An important medium but with some dangers, particularly to the vulnerable in our communities.
- If you could give one literary villain a happier ending, who would you pick and why?
That’s a tough question, and I can’t readily think of one for the moment, But, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I would have preferred for the villain in my story, The Last Thread, to have been delivered to justice and spent a long time in captivity reflecting on his wrongdoing. Although he meets with a somewhat, satisfyingly gruesome death, the law and due judicial process should always prevail. Without a respect for the law we all descend into anarchy and, ultimately, only injustice prevails.
- If your book could come with a preemptive message for the reader, what would yours say?
The reader should be prepared for, and enjoy the realism of gritty, professionally informed investigation: from the tragic, gruesome death in the opening prologue and subsequent post mortem, then a murder and crime scene examination, all of which is informed by many years of real world, professional experience as Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) and as a Hostage and Crisis Intervention Negotiator.
- What are you currently reading?
I’m re-reading Sebastian Faulks’ ‘On Green Dolphin Street’. I like Faulkes’ writing very much and thought I’d revisit this story as it was calling to me from the shelf above where I write each day. I’m a hundred pages in and enjoying it all over again. Faulkes always gives a wonderful insight into the nature and motivations of his characters.
- Where did you get the inspiration for your current novel?
I wanted to write a story grounded in the reality of working in a cash-strapped police service, where the most modern technology and techniques are not immediately and infinitely available. I am always frustrated with the many crime novels and TV dramas which depict crime investigation with little understanding of what is truly involved in investigating crime within a robust criminal justice system. Too often, reality seems to be sacrificed on the altar of so-called artistic licence.
As for the inspiration for the storyline of ‘The Last Thread’ it’s a work of fiction, informed by my professional experiences. My lead protagonist, DCI Doug Stirling is modelled on memories of my Father but that is a far as any similarities extend.
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