Back in 2006 it was my absolute pleasure to be asked to help judge the Long Barn Books First Novel Award. It was all a very new and exciting experience and I felt quite grown-up travelling up to London for a posh lunch and a judge's conflab.
The worthy winner out of an exceptionally strong shortlist was The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan and I had to do that really exciting thing that book prize judges do and keep it all secret for a while. Chris has subsequently followed up that success with the equally ingenious The Good Thief's Guide to Paris. Chris blogs here and it's good to read that Vegas is nearly in the bag.
Reading such a high calibre short list was a complete delight because every book had merits aplenty, none more so than The Cleansing by Bill Rogers.
Set in Manchester and, as Christmas approaches, a killer dressed as a clown stalks the streets of the city, Albert Stephen is clever, very clever and always just a few steps ahead of the police. It's a great book for the plot twists and turns, brilliant on police procedure.
I read it on A4 manuscript sheets which I seem to recall ended up in one big heap of a mess on the floor because I couldn't read it fast enough and I've had a look back at the notes I made for the judge's meeting.
I loved Bill's cultured DCI Tom Caton and was completely engrossed by Operation Bojangles set up to catch the killer with the aid of psychological profiling, so I was delighted when Bill (who comments here regularly and is currently straining elderflowers through a stocking following Erika's sage advice on Sunday) contacted me recently to let me know that The Cleansing is finally in print.
I'd often wondered what might have happened to those books which didn't snaffle the prize but deserved to be read. One, God's Behaving Badly by Marie Philips, was hilarious, we all loved it and though it wasn't right for Long Barn, of course it proved very right for Jonathan Cape.
Having read The Cleansing it was a done deal, Bill had to have been a career police officer, probably Chief Inspector Rogers of the Yard because his insider information just oozed the confidence of someone who had walked, talked and stalked the side of the righteous along those corridors of crime.
I was convinced Bill had regularly spread-eagled the criminal fraternity across the polished bonnets of their ill-gotten gains, rattled off that 'anything you say may be garble garble evidence garble garble anything you do not say garble garble harm your defence' stuff (which I never quite grasp the meaning of so would need explaining carefully if it was ever rattled off to me). Yes Bill had surely led the baton charge beneath the tortoise of riot shields, slammed the cell door on that chummy banged to rights.
Three years I've had him down as Bill of The Bill so imagine my surprise, when the book arrived, to discover in his biography that in fact Bill was Principal Inspector of Schools for the City of Manchester, with a background in education.
Now I'm saying nothing about any corridor similarities, not a word, thereby avoiding the risk of being slaughtered for maligning the schools of that fair city which I'm sure are all marvellous, but I was even more impressed at Bill's expertise because I'd written 'great insider detail' at time of reading.
Bill it transpires did much of the liaison between local police and education so I was almost right, I just knew he'd imbibed a few cups of police coffee, sat within range of the blue lamp and the damp serge somewhere along the way.
If you love a to curl up with a good juicy crime read, a page-turner leading to a nail-biting cliff-hanger ending then this book won't disappoint and Bill has kindly offered three prize-draw copies of The Cleansing to three lucky winners here and they can go worldwide.
Names in comments and Rocky will answer to Dixon of Dock Green, say 'evening all' and then choose the winners and don't miss this which bears no relevance to Bill's excellent novel but might make you smile.