The author Simon Beckett is subject of a one-page profile in the current (29 October) issue of The Bookseller (p. 24). Beckett is author of a series of novels about Dr David Hunter, a forensic anthropologist (a fairly popular profession in crime fiction these days). Having read and enjoyed the previous three in this series, I'm glad to read that there will be a new David Hunter novel in February 2011, The Calling of the Grave (Bantam Press in the UK and Random House in Australia).
As pointed out in the profile, one distinguishing feature of the David Hunter novels is that they are all in different settings, and setting is an important component of each plot. The first, The Chemistry of Death, was set in the Norfolk fens; the sequel Written in Bone took place on a remote Scottish island; and the third, Whispers of the Dead, around the Tennessee, USA "body farm". It was this last location, apparently, that gave Beckett the idea for the Hunter series. He had written three earlier novels but failed to get a publishing deal. (The novels were eventually published by Allison and Busby.) He became a freelance journalist, during which time he went to Tennessee to shadow a group of police officers as they learned about the decomposition of human remains. From this experience, David Hunter was born.
The new novel, The Calling of the Grave, starts eight years in the past when Hunter is part of a team investigating a body buried on Dartmoor. The main part of the novel is about the escape of the person who was responsible…. "absolutely nothing is as it seems, and Beckett skilfully engineers plot twist after plot twist interwoven with the meticulously researched forensic science." The author says that he likes to tackle new ground in each novel to provide not only "elements that people come back to, but you want a sense of development in each one." Part of this process are the gradual revelations about Hunter's past as the series progresses.
It's quite well known that Beckett's books sell better in Germany and Scandinavia than they do in the UK, which is a pity as he certainly knocks the socks off Patricia Cornwell (who covers similar themes) and the like. He says that the series is harder to write as it goes on, which he says objectively is a good thing. "I don't want to freewheel – I think the more you put in , the more the reader can get out of it. ….If I were finding it easy then it might not be altogether a good thing…. for the books, anyway."
Author website (in English and German)
Archive of articles by Simon Beckett at The Guardian website.