The Bug House Files


jim new pic2

JIM FORD grew up in Newcastle and learned his trade as a journalist on newspapers in the city before moving to London to work on the nationals. In 2001 he returned to the North as a freelance journalist and writer.

I have always been fascinated by my home city – especially its transformation from grim post-industrial wasteland to gleaming modern metropolis in the 1990s. As a journalist at that time, my job brought me into contact with the people and places that the PR brochures didn’t show, and I was keen to revisit them and their stories.

“DCI Theo Vos, his team, and the cast of villains they encounter during their investigations are of course fictional — but their world isn’t. In some cases only the names have been changed to protect the innocent, as they used to say at the start of ‘Dragnet.

“Speaking of which, a quick word about what has influenced the Bug House series. You will notice two things about the books: first, they are short; second, they are being banged out like slugs from a Detective .38 Special. I guess this is unusual in an era when most crime authors chug out a single 100,000-word book a year. But faced with the challenge of creating a new series that was somehow different, I found myself ineluctably drawn back to the punchy, rapid-fire American police procedurals of the 1950s and 1960s .

“My grandpa used to have shelves of these slim, yellowing paperbacks. They were written by the likes of Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford, Patricia Highsmith, Chester Himes and David Goodis  and as a kid I used to devour a 200-page novella in one sitting.

McBain - king of crime.

McBain – king of crime.

“For me, though, Ed McBain was king. He still is. With their spare dialogue, taut plotting, black humour and brilliantly drawn cast of characters, McBain’s 87th Precinct books – all 54 of them – remain an object lesson in concision and should be required reading for all aspiring writers, not just those who write crime.

“As an experiment I took the bloated, 90,000-word original manuscript of The Bug House and stripped it down to 65,000 words. Then I did it again and hacked off another 15,000 words. I was left with a novel that was half its original length but which, in my opinion, was immeasurably improved. The experiment had worked. Two more books followed in quick succession. Writing them was a joy. 

“I had stumbled on the format of the Bug House series: short, sharp, self-contained books that can each be read in a couple of hours and will hopefully leave you wanting more. 

If you like the first three in the series, more are planned. And if you really like the books then I’m in luck – because I get to keep writing them.”



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