Book cover design & photography: John Boden
In 1955 Harold Stine has to leave Bournemouth. Concealing his past, and starting again in Great Yarmouth, isn’t easy. Old habits die hard, but this time he must be more careful. As a businessman, and a regular churchgoer, who would suspect him of any impropriety? But it isn’t long before he is persuading a young teacher to visit his basement photographic studio. Just for a bit of portraiture you understand.
His clandestine visits to Soho lead to a business transaction which could prove his undoing. The implications of his actions only slowly begin to dawn on him. But other people have secrets too. Can he count on this to save him from the gallows?
This is an adult crime novel which contains scenes of sexual violence.
This was my second attempt at a novel. But it turned out to be a novella. I had always been interested in film noir, but this owes more to noir novels and short stories than it does to films. Nevertheless, as I was writing it, I could see it as an ‘X’ rated British crime film, set in the oppressive atmosphere of a fifties seaside town in winter.
To digress slightly...
In 1986 when I first told my agent I was interested in writing a novel (after having had some scripts commissioned) she told me to write something autobiographical. She said it was hard enough to produce eighty thousand words without having to invent all the detail. So I wrote about my only serious relationship, which had lasted around nine years. When my agent read the manuscript she said it was OK, but it didn’t really go anywhere from about half way through. I said, “Well, neither did the relationship.”
So when it came to writing Stine’s Photographic, I decided on some new rules. It had to be fiction, set in a period which interested me, and it had to be about what went on in the head of the protagonist. I also decided not to use dialogue, in order to keep the reader inside the claustrophobic world of Harold Stine.
What fascinates me about novels written in the first person, is being able to see the world from someone else’s point of view. And if that person is manipulative, or an unreliable narrator, that makes it more interesting still. I like to know why people do bad things. Understanding why seems dangerous, but it is not the same as having sympathy with their actions, or relating to what they do. And in the real world I think understanding might be the first step towards prevention.