Derbyshire Noir #1: Q&A with Tony R Cox, author of A Fatal Drug 5*
I was born in Lancashire but I went to secondary school in Derby and residential college in Buxton. So Derbyshire is a setting I know and love in novels. Derbyshire varies, from the beautiful peak district to the urban inner city that I know and love!
I have met very few authors in person. But one I have met and certainly won’t forget is Tony R Cox aka Richard Cox.
I met Richard just over a year ago at the signing of All Through The Night by M.P Wright in London. He is such a fantastic bloke and what Richard don’t know about Derby, ain’t worth knowing! I knew as soon as I started my blog, He would be brilliant for a Q&A. Very intelligent, a cracking sense of humour and rather dashing in ‘that shirt’ pic above. here is Richard’s Q&A………..
A Fatal Drug by Tony R Cox 5*
England. 1971. Reporter Simon Jardine is on the hunt for the story that will kick start his career and when a tortured, mutilated body turns up on his patch he can’t help thinking his luck is finally in. At first glance the provincial town of Derby is about as far away from the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll of London and California as it’s possible to imagine but as Jardine begins to scratch below the surface he finds that all is not well in England’s green and pleasant land. Along with fellow reporter Dave Green and local DJ Tom Freeman, Jardine is soon drawn into a spiral of gangland drug dealing and violence that stretches from the north of England to the south of Spain.
Q) Please can you give the readers a summary of your background, main character Simon Jardine & novel A Fatal Drug?
A) My father was a railway signalling engineer and mother a nurse. I was born in Barking, London, and lived in Glasgow, Lancaster, Crewe, Lahore in Pakistan, and then back to Cheshire before secondary school in Buxton, Derbyshire. I have a long family history in Derby, going back to the early 1800s. My great, grandfather worked alongside Sir Robert Peel, MP for Tamworth; my great grandfather and his brother were in the wine and beer business in Derby. My maternal grandmother was the last private nurse to Richard, the last of the Arkwright family – ‘Father of the Industrial Revolution’ and creator of the factory system.
My first proper job was as a cub reporter at the Derby Evening Telegraph in 1970 where my love of rock music and jazz was allowed full rein as a reviewer, as well as learning the ropes of regional journalism. It is from this era I chose my central characters. Simon Jardine is an amalgam of some great young journalists, with the naivety we all showed in our early 20s; Dave Green and Tom Freeman are loosely based on major influencers – both of whom have died.
For A Fatal Drug local reporter Simon Jardine’s romantic hotel room assignation is rudely interrupted by a grey, lifeless body staring through the skylight.
Simon, with crime reporter Dave Green and DJ-cum part time private investigator Tom Freeman, become enmeshed in the mystery of who the dead man was and how he ended up on the hotel roof.
The story travels to Spain and North Africa as the search for answers and a front page lead draws the three friends deeper into a growing drugs trade. Murder and prostitution are rife, but they’re no nearer getting the answers to their questions.
What links the hotel body to the drugs trade? Why does a would-be music reviewer go missing? Who is a bigger ‘godfather’ than Derby’s Mr Big? Is the threat of violence and death really worth it for a front page lead?
Q) I went to secondary school in Derby in the 1990’s. I absolutely loved the setting of Derby, I think Derby is such an intriguing City and its demographic changes street to street. It is also home to some of the most beautiful countryside. A Fatal Drug is set in 1971 Derby, what made you pick this era & this city?
A) The early 1970s were a time of sexual freedom, the drugs trade reached deeply and openly into the music scene, and society was undergoing some big changes society. For newspaper reporters, there were no mobile phones or the internet, and there was a culture, accepted by editors, that they could drink as much as they liked as long as they got the story.
Derby was transitioning slowly from being a heavily engineering-based employer to a more diverse economy. At the same time it was preserving some great architecture; building a new series of bridges over the River Derwent and a new ring road; and feeling the effects of some disastrous planning approvals, like any large urban area trying to build a strong future.
I like to think of Derby as ‘manageable’. It is possible to segment it historically and a short walk will take the visitor into wildly differing, architecturally emotional sectors: the new shopping centre; the Cathedral Quarter (Britain’s Best High Street); the riverside; the railway cottages conservation area; the miles of redbrick terraces, built to house workers at Rolls-Royce and the other engineering companies; and the wonderful parks.
Q) How much change have you seen in Derby from the 1970’s to 2017? Do you think it still makes for a brilliant location in 2017?
A) The city is a great ‘town’. It was given city status in 1997, but cannot shake off the ‘town’ tag. This, I believe is brilliant. I occasionally take people to Derby (200+ real ale pubs is a pretty good ‘draw’) and delight in showing them history that is still happening!
I am very surprised that some Derby locations have not been used for filmed period dramas, and by ‘period’ that could be Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and right through to the 70s. In a literary sense, an author I much admire, Steven Dunne, has set his enthralling Reaper series in 21st century Derby to great effect.
Q) I love that in your novel you are not afraid to shy away from themes of drug dealing, brothels & organised crime. It’s also hard to imagine such goings on in Derby. Did you base the novel on any real crimes? Or did they influence the writing in any way?
A) I don’t remember the town being so violent, but drug dealing was rife. I interviewed prostitutes and worked with an Irish newspaper to gain affidavits in a legal case, which meant entering a pub in the area of terraced housing by one door, meeting a prostitute at the bar, and running out of the other door – followed by a horde of irate men! Scratch the surface of any urban area and I think the criminal element will float up.
Q) The novel is set between two locations Derby & southern Spain, which is very good in terms of reflective locations. What drove the story this way?
A) There were two key drivers: the first is that I know Derby and its history well; secondly, drug smuggling involved people tapping into the burgeoning holiday destinations of southern Spain. While development in the Costas has covered vast areas in concrete, the geography remains largely the same.
Q) What are your favourite novels from childhood, teenage years to adulthood?
A) There were four phases I remember, apart from the early years of comics and Billy Bunter. My first ‘big’ author was W. E Johns and the Biggles series; then came Dennis Wheatley and Rider Haggard; later secondary school was the time of JRR Tolkien, James Joyce (and I was one of the only kids to actually enjoy Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and The Dubliners), and the First World War poets.
Now, depending on what I’m doing, I immerse myself in the works redolent of ‘my era’, such as Alan Sillitoe and John Braine. For pure enjoyment I read the latest novels by such luminaries as Steven Dunne, Stephen Booth, Sarah Ward (all set in Derbyshire), and, of course, my much acclaimed friend, M. P Wright. I also try and read as many of the books published by Fahrenheit Press, my publisher, as possible.
Q) What is next for Tony R Cox and will there be another Simon Jardine thriller?
A) The next Simon Jardine thriller is currently with my ‘editor’ who has found faults (don’t they all), but has called it well-crafted. From such an incisive and critical reader, that takes on the role of an Oscar in my estimation!
Jardine, Dave Green and Tom Freeman are again on the trail of news headlines. This time the story starts with a rock band’s homecoming gig in Wolverhampton, moves quickly into a possible expose of corrupt record sales in the music industry, and thence to drugs and murder. Police corruption lies at the heart of a novel that casts a spotlight on the finances of the IRA.
I’m also writing short stories and a more difficult work that has two main characters who speak in different dialects. It’s tough, but it exercises the writing brain.
Q) Aside from meeting me, What has been your favourite thing about being a published author?
A) Meeting your husband! No, not really, but he’s a great bloke.
There are so many positives about being a recognised writer. My first self-published Simon Jardine thriller, First Dead Body, was a personal achievement and the ‘launch’ party at Scarthin Books in Cromford, Derbyshire, was fantastic; being accepted by Fahrenheit Press for my second, A Fatal Drug, was hugely thrilling. I think the biggest change is the chance to mix with so many writers and readers whom I have admired for years, and the undimmed support they give me.
Contact for Tony R Cox
*Huge Thanks to Tony for taking part in the Q&A on by blog and I wish you much success with your further writing 🙂