Bruce Beckham - Letting Mysteries Unfold
Bruce Beckham is a multiple award-winning copywriter and author. A resident of Great Britain, he has travelled and worked in over 60 countries. His series 'Detective Inspector Skelgill Investigates' now extends to 11 standalone murder mysteries, and sells across five continents, from Japan and India to Brazil and the United States of America. As our Author of the Day, Beckham tells us all about his latest mystery, Murder in the Woods.
Please give us a short introduction to what Murder in the Woods is about.
Set in the English Lake District, the dismembered body of a female is discovered at a secluded woodland spot known only to locals. Despite a series of distinctive features, the police are unable to identify the corpse. Several local inhabitants emerge as possible suspects – but most prominently, a shady male character – an outsider, who disappeared when the murder was committed. DI Skelgill finds himself at odds with his team – when his gut feel does not fit the emerging facts. But, little by little, his country craft and sixth sense combine to lead towards an entirely unexpected explanation.
What inspired the story for Murder in the Woods?
A real murder case in which a body was found in similar circumstances in woodland about 400 yards from where I live! I am friendly with the state prosecutor, and learned many interesting details about the case.
Why murder mystery? What drew you to this genre?
I have been a big fan of Agatha Christie and other traditional detective novels since my early teens. I like trying to solve the puzzle, knowing there will be a resolution. And I enjoy the ‘soap opera’ interactions of the characters: Poirot & Hastings, Holmes & Watson, Morse & Lewis etc.
Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you
My wife and I have 5 kids.
We have a labradoodle called ‘Noodles’.
I was at my most popular when I worked as the brand manager for a leading brand of British chocolate.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I like all formats. My preferred reading in normal circumstances is a ‘proper’ book. But in bed in the dark my Kindle is great (and for finding the way to the bathroom). Also I can pick up where I left off with the Kindle app on my phone – so waiting outside school I’m never short of something to read. Recently I’ve had 3 Skelgill books recorded for Audible – and I’m enjoying listening at times when I can’t read eg. driving, chores etc (and it’s better than Brexit on the radio).
How does Murder in the Woods tie in with the other books in the series?
The 11 books to date are all in fact stand-alone mysteries. So – more like Poirot or Morse – you can pick from any in the series. I’ve always felt it a bit presumptuous to expect readers to go through the whole lot.
What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
I’ve had a handful of really ‘bad’ reviews – especially in my early days of writing. Painful though they were, they helped me to focus on my weaknesses, and I believe have contributed to the kinder reviews I now mainly receive. From my perspective, the best advice I could offer is don’t give up.
How do you force yourself to finish what you're doing before starting the next project when the new idea is nagging at you?
It’s true that I normally have the idea for the next book before I’m finished the current one – but this feels like a good state of affairs. I manage to read 4 or 5 books at once – so writing 2 doesn’t feel particularly onerous.
Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
That’s an amusing thought. I suppose Skelgill is unpredictable – I find him reacting before my eyes, no planning needed!
Do you ever have days when writing is a struggle? How do you deal with that?
Writing original text, first draft is never easy. I get up at 6am every day and just start typing. You can always write one word... one sentence... one paragraph – and before you know it you’re up and running. I work in short bursts, and change the scene (where I write) 4-5 times a day.
Your books contain some interesting twists - do you plan them out before you start writing or do some of them just "happen" along the way?
Thanks! No I don’t plan them. I don’t plan the plot. I start with a problem (usually a murder or disappearance) and leave the detectives to get on with it. I think the trick is to create compelling suspects early on – the twists seem to flow naturally as the story unfolds.
What has most surprised you about the response you've received from readers from some of the books in the series?
Well – I’m British and most of my readers are in the USA. The Skelgill series is set in rural Cumbria (the Lake District) and there is a certain amount of vernacular spoken. I feel kind of humbled by the patience shown by readers in this regard. I’m surprised and delighted that the characters are popular – and to be honest I get a lump in my throat when I read that people are enjoying the books.
What are you working on right now?
Writing number 12 in the Skelgill series; it’s called Murder on the Run. (And thinking about number 13 – Murder on the Midnight Express!)
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Via my author pages on Amazon and Goodreads, or the publisher’s address, [email protected]