The hottest crime writer of the moment, A.A. Dhand, talks to James Collingwood about his Bradford-based novel Streets of Darkness. A.A. Dhand’s debut novel Streets Of Darkness has been optioned for TV and called Bradford’s version of The Wire. I talked to him about the book and his new detective Harry Virdee.
Hi Amit, you must be excited about Streets Of Darkness being published on 16 June. Can you tell us something about the main character, Harry Virdee, and his backstory? Was he a character that came to you early in your writing or did he develop over time?
Harry Virdee came to my mind ten years ago. A fiercely patriotic Asian man who loves his city and his country. I was tired of seeing clichéd, stereotyped British Asians in literature or on screen and wanted to create a character similar to Luther or Jack Bauer of 24. Harry took some time to form in my mind – I kept straying into caricatures or clichés – but ten years after creating him in my mind I finally nailed the character of the man, and he’s Bradford’s Dark Knight.
I’ve always thought Bradford was ready-made for a crime thriller but not many crime writers have used it as a setting. What do you feel are the aspects of this city that suit compelling stories like yours?
Crime thrillers in my opinion are strongest when you utilise the edge or darkness of a city. Bradford, with its amazing history and former position as a power on a world stage – the richest city in Europe 100 years ago – is a perfect setting. A city which has real beauty, with the Bronte country and the greenery of the moors, but with satanic mills dotted around the centre. Bradford has the light and the dark, much like Gotham.
Like a lot of crime writers you seem to be someone who has had a real life whilst being a writer. Can you tell us something about your work background? Do you feel your work life and experiences have fed into your fiction and if so how?
I work as a pharmacist and grew up behind the counter of a corner shop and it certainly helped with observing people and listening to hundreds of mini-conversations. It’s a continuous stream of information, and that helped with making conversations in the book authentic.
I know from reading your blog you’ve been hammering away at writing for a number of years. Did you get any particular encouragement/inspiration from teachers, venues, community etc. in Bradford or were you self-motivated?
I’ve been writing seriously since 2008. It’s been a long hard slog but I am passionate about writing and have never seen it as work or found it arduous. In the early days of 2008 I had some advice and help from a former teacher in Bradford and later I paid for a critique of my novel from professional reviewers.
Is there anything you can tell us about the potential TV series with FilmWave at this stage? Will it be based on the first Harry Virdee book or is it going to develop Wire-style over further stories? Can we expect filming in Bradford?
FilmWave have secured the option rights for the book and we’re brainstorming on what a script might look like. I’m helping them with this but it’s at the earliest of stages, although they are focused on putting this onto screen and certainly there was fierce competition for the TV rights. The series will be based on the novel and once we arrive at production we can anticipate filming within the city.
Clichéd question this, but which writers have inspired you?
Writers who have inspired me are Stephen King, Tess Gerritsen, Dan Brown, Thomas Harris and Lee Child. I love the darkness of Stephen King, the twists with Tess Gerritsen, the pace of Dan Brown, the frightening creations of Thomas Harris (Hannibal) and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is someone whose attitude and need to carry out justice mirrors Harry Virdee.
I understand the book is part of a trilogy. Are the other books already written?
The second book in the Harry Virdee series has already been written and submitted to my publisher, awaiting feedback.
Streets of Darkness by A.A Dhand was published by Bantam Press on 16 June.