Steven Dunne was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire. He went to the University of Kent after A levels and studied as little as possible, yet somehow emerged with a second class honours degree. He began writing articles for quality newspapers on dull subjects before writing the book for the Latchmere Theatre’s award-winning fringe production of Hansel and Gretel in 1989. He co-also co-wrote the revue, It’s Mad Mad World, We’re Plastered performed at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre in Woking the previous year and played the role of Teddy in the same theatre’s production of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming the same year.
In the 1996 he moved up to his adopted home town of Derby. In 2007, he self-published Reaper, a thriller set in the city, featuring the hyper-intelligent but mentally troubled detective, DI Damen Brook. The rights were optioned by Harper Collins and four more critically-acclaimed books followed. He is currently writing the 6th book in the DI Brook series, entitled Death Do Us Part and the 5th in the series, A Killing Moon, won the coveted literary prize the East Midlands Book Award in 2016.
Firstly can I just say how much I love your Damen Brook series of books and as you know I am always recommending them to readers and spreading the love.
Q1. Where did the idea for the books come from and for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure yet – can you tell us a bit about each book?
Well, like most writers creating their first full length novel, I never imagined that the casebook of Detective Inspector Damen Brook would be turned into a series. If I had I would have made him younger than the mid-to-late forties policeman that he became in the first novel, The Reaper. And if I’d known the books would be translated, I might also have given him a different Christian name as Damen translates to “Ladies” in German. D’oh.
All my books are conceived because of a simple question that has occurred to me watching TV, reading a newspaper or even another writer’s book. With Reaper it was, “How can I create a serial killer who murders families, including children, and make him the anti-hero and maybe even sympathetic?” With that The Reaper, a charismatic and ruthless serial killer who sees himself as a crusader, was born. And he was certainly a delicious creation to write and I think readers love him too, if I say so myself. He’s part Hannibal Lektor and part James Moriarty and his reasons for killing are, I believe, startlingly original even eight years on.
And to take on such a killer, I needed a superstar detective – Damen Brook – a former high-flying genius whose star has fallen and who is now winding down his once-stellar career in the relative peace of Derby. Brook is damaged goods, having had a mental breakdown caused by his unsuccessful pursuit of a serial killer in London, twenty years before. That killer was The Reaper and when another family dies in Derby, Brook knows he must risk his new-found mental stability to revisit his past and go after his old adversary.
In The Disciple, The Reaper appears to have struck again and Brook must suppress knowledge that only he has to find the killers of another Derby family. Working on Coppola’s mantra that Godfather 2 had to be a superior film to the original, I set about creating an even more compelling mystery for Brook to investigate. I hope I succeeded.
Moving away from the Reaper killings, Deity is a tale about bright young college students being lured into a suicide cult by a clever master manipulator, my first book for Headline.
The Unquiet Grave was my favourite book to write. Brook is in disgrace and, after suspension, cast down to the bowels of the station to sift through the coldest cases on the books and is even more isolated from his only friend in the division, DS John Noble. But being the tenacious seeker of justice that he is, Brook makes a fist of it and unearths a connection between two decades-old unsolved murders then sets out to find a serial killer that no-one knows exists.
A Killing Moon came out two years ago and in 2016 it won the East Midlands Book Award which is a literary prize open to all genres. In it, Brook is persuaded by Noble that the disappearances of several young female migrants is worth investigating and gradually he uncovers a horrific series of crime that stretch even his skills.
In Death Do Us Part, Brook is taken to the brink by two cases – a horrific home invasion/murder that was apparently solved by a retired colleague and a series of double murders of happily married couples. Worse, his estranged daughter becomes caught up in a web of intrigue that threatens her safety and Brook’s sanity. It has a 4.9 star review average on Amazon and I’m immensely proud of it.
Q2. We met “virtually” over 2 years ago when I tracked you down and gently nagged you into join THE Book Club (TBC) and at the time you weren’t (*coughs politely) very computer or social marketing savvy and I persuaded you to set up an Author Page on Facebook . As a writer how important are online book groups to you?
In these days of all-pervasive social media, Tracy, the online presence of so many bloggers and book groups is vital for authors making their mark. There are only so many national newspapers that can make your work known to a mass audience (or not, in my case) and even then, it’s almost impossible to get reviewed without the right contacts in the industry, unless of course your publisher has chosen to promote your book as one of only a handful it throws its weight behind each year. So online and social media readers and reviewers are gold to up and coming authors. It can be a distraction sometimes but let’s face it, writing alone in a room for eight hours a day or more, is a lonely business, and the chance to connect with potential new fans without leaving the house is a resource that I couldn’t do without.
Q3. You were involved in lots of book signings last year (2016) for the latest DI Brook book Death Do Us Part – as a mature author (ahem old bloke) – are your groupies normally the blue rinse brigade or do you get younger readers who are surprised to see that you are so old?
Younger readers are more likely to be surprised when they hear my age, especially when they have the evidence of my youthful vigour right in front of them. Of course, when meeting my fans of all ages and gender, it helps that I’m smart, charming and unfailingly modest. And, of course, I have a world class product to promote as well. Did I mention my charm?
Q4. You’ve had the pleasure of meeting me several times over the years (Harrogate twice, both the TBC birthday parties) should I be worried that you are stalking me and also what’s the strangest message/request you’ve received from a fan?
Indeed, I have had the pleasure of your company on many occasions, Tracy. In fact, I’m surprised it’s only four – it feels like so many more. And, naturally, each encounter is an unalloyed joy for me. You’re smart, talented and although in the upper age range for my tastes, you’re my kinda gal. So, yes, you should be worried about stalking as I imagine you’re the kind of comely wench that a mature gentleman with lead in his pencil, hankers after. Strange requests? Some mad old biddy once asked me to pose half-naked for a calendar. 😉
Q5. Can you please tell me what you have planned for 2017 and are you working on a new book?
At the moment, I’m – what’s euphemistically-called – between contracts. My last publisher, Headline, and I parted company last autumn and I must say it is a relief to step off the treadmill for a while to develop other projects. I’m actually working on two new DI Brook thrillers. Book 7 is a continuation of the series and the other is the final part of the Reaper trilogy which was never completed after I left Harper Collins, though whether either will find favour with a publisher is another matter.
Q6. You were once a stand-up comedian – can you tell us any amusing or embarrassing stories about your short-lived career as a comic?
I can remember a gig that had a bong for when the compere thought that you weren’t being funny enough and when I was introduced, I stepped on the stage and my head accidentally hit it. Naturally this produced howls from the audience that I had to leave. In the end I didn’t, but I think the die was cast on that performance.
Q7. Do you read much yourself and if so, who are your favourite authors?
I am not what you’d call a fanatical reader like TBC members are but I always have a book to read in bed. Most of my favourite authors stem from discovering them in my university days as well as my career as an English teacher. American literature features highly. Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller, Jonathan Franzen. I find Bill Bryson an enjoyable companion. When I read crime, I’ll read anything though I have a bit of an aversion to domestic noir which, unless done really well, can just be a barely more sinister retread of relationship dramas and I’ve never been very interested in other people’s marriages. But Gone Girl was very good. I thought it really captured the acidity of a couple that have little in common except mutual loathing. Personally, what I like best about crime is the hunt and the puzzle – searching for a killer and putting together the clues to find him or her. The Silence of the Lambs would be my idea of the perfect crime thriller.
Q8. In your “real life” you are a teacher – have many of your pupils read your books and what do they think of their teacher being a critically acclaimed author?
Being an author has been a real boon in the classroom. Not because pupils buy or read my books – though some have threatened to – but because kids are obsessed by celebrity. To see their teacher on Amazon and in the newspapers, confers a status that I wouldn’t otherwise have and makes my job that bit easier. Not sure I should be reading them out in class though. Might have to rethink that bit.
Q9. As you can see from the photo above (me kissing you at TBC party) you are a complete babe magnet – who is your ideal fantasy women?
I am indeed and it’s a burden I’ve carried all my life. For my ideal woman, I know I’m forbidden, under the terms of the restraining order, to mention you, Tracy. And as a perfectionist I won’t accept second best so I’ll have to leave that one to your imagination. But it’s Angelina Jolie really.
Q10. If I could grant you 3 wishes – what would they be?
Obviously, I’d like to be more successful in terms of having larger numbers of people read my work. If people read my reviews on Amazon they’ll see that very few people who discover my books, regret it and I rarely get a bad one (my last book has a 4.9-star average). I’d like to turn that critical acclaim into the kind of sales that will allow me to concentrate on writing more permanently. The only other wishes are pretty mundane and typical of someone in my age group. Continued good health would be top of my list and, as a storyteller and communicator, if someone could magically enable me to speak all languages I’d think that was a pretty amazing gift.