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Author Simon McCleave has learned from the great crime writers, but says his own success came as a total shock

Like so many others, my love of reading was sparked by Enid Blyton. I remember devouring The Secret Seven and The Famous Five books in a matter of months. I soon graduated to Ian Fleming and vividly remember reading Dr No in my early teens. The novel is set in Jamaica, a far cr y from the greyness of South London, and I just loved the central character of Bond, with all his obvious flaws.

My love of darker crime books started with books by American authors such as The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, which is my favourite of the Philip Marlowe stories. I also discovered James Ellroy’s incredible LA Quar tet of noir novels in their examinatio­n of racism and corruption in 1940s and 50s LA, especially LA Confidenti­al. My favourite British author in this period is Graham Greene and I think that Brighton Rock is a true classic. flawed Rebus is and how he over-complicate­s his personal life despite the fact that he’s often fully aware of what he’s doing. I’ve always aim for this in my characters and my readers tell me it’s what they love about my books. Ann Cleeves, with her Shetland books, especially Raven Black, is also an influentia­l author. Her use of location and atmosphere gave me a template as to how to use the majestic backdrop of Snowdonia in my own novels.

There are many books that I’ve read several times, but the one I keep coming back to is My Dark Places by James Ellroy. Par t memoir, par t investigat­ive journalism, Ellroy attempts to the solve the murder of his own mother in LA in 1958 with a retired detective. It’s so incredibly power ful and evocative that it stands up to several readings.

I wrote my first book, The Snowdonia Killing, early in the morning or at lunchbreak­s when I worked as a teacher. I expected to sell a few copies to friends and family – nothing more. When it became an Amazon No 1, sold 250,000 and was snapped up for a television series, I was in total shock. I’m never happier than when I’m sitting in my study in Nor th Wales, with our dog Tilly lying at my feet, lost in the writing of my latest crime novel.

by Simon McCleave

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