I’m often asked by readers whether my tough, earthy character, the flawed and rugged Inspector Horton in my marine mysteries, is based on anyone I know. Well the inspiration for Andy Horton comes from my lifelong love of heroes both fictional (James Bond for one) and real, in particular my fire fighter husband and the men I have met on his watch and in the Hampshire Fire Service. These fearless men also provided me with the idea for my crime thriller novel, In Cold Daylight which is in fact dedicated to them and to all fire fighters, ‘the true heroes.’ Fire fighters go in to dangerous situations and risk their lives when everyone else is rushing away and my husband has had some very near misses in his career.
Inspector Andy Horton is like this. He fearlessly charges in and gets himself into all sorts of difficulties in order to see that justice is done. He’s fit, brave, and a maverick, but he’s also self-contained and controlled with a disturbing past that has made him reluctant to trust and to reveal more of himself than he needs to sometimes earning him a reputation of being cold and unfeeling.
In Cold Daylight, is not an Inspector Horton novel though but a stand alone crime thriller novel, which was inspired by a conversation I overheard on my husband’s watch one day. The fire fighters were discussing the unusually high number of their colleagues who had contracted cancer and they believed it was from exposure to hazardous chemicals in the line of duty. This was never investigated. In the UK the link between fire fighters and cancer is conveniently ignored whereas in America, Canada and Australia it is finally being researched and acknowledged allbeit slowly and with a fight. I decided to take this idea and blend the facts of this case within a dramatic fictional plot, creating a powerful novel, which I am pleased to say was shortlisted for the World Book Day Prize 2008 in the UK.
Instead of featuring a brave fire-fighter hero though in In Cold Daylight, I chose to tell the story through the eyes of a man who is the opposite. This is marine artist, Adam Greene's journey through overcoming depression, a nervous breakdown and leaning on the prop of his strong-willed, ambitious wife as much as discovering why his best friend, fire fighter, Jack Bartholomew, was killed in the line of duty before he can reveal the cause of his own – and his colleagues’ cancer. In a cryptic message orchestrated before his untimely death, Jack has left a trail of clues that will lead Adam into a labyrinth of lies, secrets and conspiracy.
For fire fighters everywhere, and all those who risk their lives to help others, I salute you, ‘the true heroes.’