Most of us love a good crime thriller but when it comes to authors, Leeds’s own Andrew Barrett talks the talk and walks the walk. Interview by Neil Hudson
It’s over 20 years since Leeds-born Andrew Barrett became a crime scenes investigations officer with West Yorkshire Police.
During that time, he’s pretty much seen it all, from burglaries, cannabis farms and assaults to murders and suicides. By day, it’s his job to painstakingly piece together the clues left at a crime scene and work out what happened. When he’s not doing that in real life, more often than not he’s writing about it. To date, he has penned nine full length novels but he’s just published his fifth featuring fictional CSI Eddie Collins (part of his ‘Eddie Collins series’).
Fact and fiction
“He’s a diluted version of me,” says the 52-year-old married father-of-three. “Or rather I’m a diluted version of him, because he doesn’t stand for any red tape and if he comes up against any in his job, he physically and verbally deals with it in a way in which I sometimes wish I could do in real life.
“Working as a CSI, you have to be dispassionate, to look at the facts. You look for the triggers - what went on in the background. You can follow a person around a crime scene via the clues. In my job, I am very victim orientated and when I write the character Eddie, he’s the same but quite often this throws up dilemmas because it means he sometimes ends up sympathising with certain people. One of the most fascinating things about crime, both in real life and in fiction, is looking at why people do what they do. When I became a CSI, I was dropped in at the deep end of this violent world of crime and I thought it was the perfect vehicle to write a book, which is where my first, A Long Time Dead, came from. I also know Leeds very well, so it makes sense from that point of view."
Meanwhile, he’s no stranger to earning high rankings on reader charts. A novella called The Lock, also featuring Eddie Collins, recently ranked number two on an Amazon reader chart.
Andrew’s books have all been self-published, with one, A Long Time Dead, shifting over 200,000 copies through downloads and sales. While most of us are hooked on TV crime dramas which are usually set in London or some other city, the unique thing about Andrew’s books is that they are all set in and around Leeds.
The youngest of four and son of a seamstress and a transport manager, he grew up on the outskirts of Leeds and attended Royds School, Oulton, before going on to study electrical and mechanical engineering at Kitson College, Leeds, after which he found himself working as a contractor for a firm building engines, which took him overseas.
He worked in Iraq and Kuwait around the time of the invasion. His passion for writing came about in the 1980s after he read what he describes as “a really bad book”.
“I just remember reading it and thinking, how hard can it be? Well, I’ve spent the last 30 years finding out.” He has around 7,000 people on a newsletter and whenever he receives comments, he makes sure to respond.
Making it in the world of self-publishing
Writing seems to come naturally to him but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, he adds. “Writing a book is very difficult. Getting it published is even more so. When you’re writing, you’re often alone, sometimes for weeks on end, agonising over every detail, filling plot holes and making sure everything is as it should be. It’s a slow, laborious process.
“Self publishing is even more difficult, because not only do you have to write it, you have to promote it and if you think writing it’s hard, that’s even harder.”
His latest full length novel, The Death of Jessica Ripley is about a mother in an abusive relationship who ends up being framed for the killing of her husband.
“It’s a revenge tale,” explains Andrew. “But one with a twist, because when she gets out of jail after 12 years and she’s lost everything, she finds out she’s not the only one with a grudge.”
The End Of Lies comes out on May 10 and is also available on Amazon Audible (narrated by Colleen MacMahon) and The Death of Jessica Ripley is out on June 21 but if you’re an avid crime fiction reader, don’t despair, Andrew is already working on his next book. Watch this space.