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Interview With Barry Faulkner — Who Better To Write Police Procedurals Than The Son Of A Crime Family? Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast

Interview with Barry Faulkner — Who Better to Write Police Procedurals Than the Son of a Crime Family? Inspirational Indie Authors Podcast

My guest this week is Barry Faulkner, who writes police procedural novels. But to leave it at that would not adequately describe who Barry is. Let’s just say that he comes from a colorful family background that I’ll let him describe in his own words.

Barry is a born storyteller and, at the age of seventy-five, has many tales to tell. So, I’ll be quiet, for the most part, and just let Barry Faulkner tell his own story.

A few highlights from our interview:

On Getting Inspiration From His Criminal Family

And I was born into the Faulkners, which was just criminal idiots, basically in South London. Our house was always full of ne’er do wells and characters and all that, which is probably where I get a lot of my characters for the books from.

On His DCS Palmer Character

The thing that I get most feedback from is the humor. I’m a bit of a sarcastic so and so myself, and Palmer is sarcastic. He doesn’t suffer fools. He says what he wants to say, and he’s not very PC.

Listen to My Interview with Barry Faulkner

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Every week I interview a member of ALLi to talk about their writing and what inspires them, and why they are inspiring to other authors.

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About the Host

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last six years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a book editor to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.comLinkedIn and Twitter.

Read the Transcripts of My Interview with Barry Faulkner

Howard Lovy: I’m Howard Lovy, and you’re listening to Inspirational Indie Authors. Every week I feature, a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors to find out what inspires them and how they are an inspiration to other authors.

My guest this week is Barry Faulkner who writes police procedural novels, but to leave it at that would not adequately describe who Barry is. Let’s just say that he comes from a colorful family background, that I’ll let him describe in his own words.

Barry is a born storyteller and at the age of 75 has many tales to tell. So, I’ll be quiet for the most part and just let Barry Faulkner tell his own story.

Barry Faulkner: Hello, my name is Barry Faulkner and I’m the author of the DCS Palmer detective books.

I’m a Londoner, born in South London to a large family, and I went to just a normal secondary modern school. It was the first comprehensive school in England, which meant it was the first that had got various streams in it, a grammar stream, a literary stream, a medical stream, and all the rest of it.

I was in the grammar stream. I don’t know how I got there, but I did. I must’ve bribed someone, or my dad probably bribed someone, and that was it.

I hadn’t even thought about writing at that age. I read a lot, but I was mainly reading people like Ezra Pound and people like that, believe it or not, and that’s at the age of 11 and 12. The English teacher there took a bit of a shine to me, liked what I was doing and said, why don’t you enter a local competition which was being run by the London County council, as it was then. I can’t remember what I wrote, Howard, but it was an essay on something.

Any case, I won it. And, of course, that was it. Once I got my little medallion from the London County council saying I was a writer, that was it. I was a writer, you know, next stop the Booker prize.

Howard Lovy: Okay, obviously Barry has a lot of stories and I’ll be quiet and let him tell them. But before I let Barry continue with his own life story, let’s backtrack a little bit and talk about what happened before he was born.

It turns out members of Barry’s family had made quite a name for themselves.

Barry Faulkner: My father, elder brothers, I was the youngest one, uncles, cousins, they were all criminals, and they ran with a gang called the Richardson Gang. You may not have heard of them in the states. You would have heard of the Krays. The Krays ran North London and the Richardsons ran South London.

And I was born into the Faulkners, which was just criminal idiots, basically in South London. Our house was always full of ne’er do wells and characters and all that, which is probably where I get a lot of my characters for the books from.

My mother was a fashion model of the day and quite well known, and she was absolutely intent on me not following in the family career of thieving. She put me into the academy of something or other at the Elephant and Castle, which was an academy of art, thinking I was going to be a great actor.

Howard Lovy: Well, acting didn’t quite work out. It turned out though that his family’s, shall we say, colorful background did give him great material to be a storyteller of a different kind.

Barry Faulkner: It’s not very nice when you and your brothers or whatever, you know, are visiting dad in prison on Christmas day, you know, things like that.

I mean it was normal because we’d grown up in that way. It was normal. It was normal to have the knock at the door at three in the morning and all the rest of it. There are a few funny stories there as well.

I remember that when I was six years old, we had a big old Victorian house in South London and it had a long hall, and the front rooms were at the front, and right at the back was the kitchen, and dad was in the kitchen and the kitchen door was open, and I was right down the front of the house doing something to my bike by the front door. And there was a tap on the door, and I thought, oh, hello.

Before Dad could say anything, I’d opened the door, and there was a policeman standing there. And dad at that point yelled out from the kitchen, “if that’s the law, tell them I’m not in.” And so, I looked up at the placement and he looked down at me and I said, “he’s not in.”

And the copper looked at me and said, “alright, I’ll come back later.”

The other thing was, you may have heard of the Brink’s-Mat gold robbery, which was the biggest robbery ever in Great Britain. It was back in the late sixties, and they thought they were going to get a few hundred thousand pounds in used notes, and instead of that, they got about 20 million pounds in gold bars.

And, of course, in London, the South London side, which is where we were, was all the thieves. The North London side, they were the nasty people with guns and knives and everything. So, once the Brink’s-Mat robbery had taken place, South London was absolutely locked down the next day. There were police everywhere, plain clothes police on every corner, knocking on doors, seeing where all the felons were and all the rest of it.

And about a day later it was still there, loads of police all over the place. And it was September, so it was getting a bit dark in the evenings, and about seven o’clock, my old man came down from his office upstairs and he had a shoe box under his arm. Now, bearing in mind that it was all gold bullion in bars that had been nicked. We sort of looked at mum and mum looked at us and sort of said, don’t say anything.

And dad wandered out and he’d got this shoe box under his arm, and he wandered off up to our allotment. We had an old overgrown allotment up the road in Camberwell and I suppose he was gone about half an hour and he came back in and he’d got the shoe box under his arm again.

And he did exactly the same the next night. Came downstairs, shoe box under his arm, went out, up the allotment. Half an hour later he came back, and he did that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Well, on Friday the police raided the allotment and swooped on it and dug it all over. And then Saturday, dad went up there and planted his potatoes.

Howard Lovy: Okay, well thanks to his mother, Barry did not follow in his father’s footsteps and join the family business. Instead, he found a somewhat more respectable calling, advertising.

Barry Faulkner: Yeah, it was great. There were some characters there, and I think I’ve got a lot of my characters out of that advertising because they’re all a bit lah-dee-dah and funny, advertising people, especially in the department where we were, which is people trying to think up different things and all that.

The boss, he looked a bit like Dennis Russo, great big bloke, and he used to wear a caftan that came down to the floor. One day he’s sitting in his chair, and he used to fall asleep a lot, and we wandered in and we used a nail gun and we fastened his caftan to the floor around his chair.

Can you imagine what happened when he got up? Well, we nearly all got the sack.

We had to go and see the boss, and the boss in those days, his name was Charlie Beeston. He was the boss of Erwin Wasey and Ruthrauff Ryan, and he was the top man in advertising in Europe. And he lived in a luxury suite in the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane and, going into the Dorchester, it was fantastic, and all that.

I was just hoping I wasn’t going to bump into my family there because, one of the cons that they used to do was that, some of the family would dress up as what you call bell hops, I think, and when the rich American tourists came along and got out of their taxis coming from Heathrow, the bell hop would pick up their luggage and sort of take it up on the backstairs to the suite.

And, now and again, the luggage didn’t actually make it up the backstairs.

Howard Lovy: Well, advertising was fun and a source for great characters that he would keep in his back pocket. What he really wanted to do was write. So, the next stop in Barry’s career was the BBC.

Barry Faulkner: I was sending up scripts to the BBC and the ITV companies. And the BBC accepted a couple of them. And again, I had to go up there and see some guy that was in charge in the script department up there. It was light entertainment scripts and they took me on, and I ended up as a script writer and a script editor for the BBC and various independent television companies in the eighties and nineties.

I worked on most of the light entertainment shows, which meant, because a lot of these companies were outside London, I spent a lot of my time in hotels, and while I was in a hotel, I started writing the DCS Palmer. But I wrote them as television series and I never got round to actually putting them all together.

There were loads of notebooks, I’ve still got them full of the stuff. So, three years ago now, I had time, I’d retired and I had time now to sit and do them, and I put them all into books and put them all up on Amazon. Good old Amazon, I love Amazon!

Barry FaulknerHoward Lovy: So, who was DCS Palmer and the cast of characters that inhabit their books? Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, he says.

Really, honest.

Barry Faulkner: I don’t know where he came from. He runs the serial murder squad in the met police in London. Every time I put a new book out, I have one ex-detective who rings me up and he says, “I know who this is.”

I say, “no you don’t” and he says, “Yeah, I know who that thief is you are talking about, and I know this guy. This is so and so, and that’s so and so.”

I say, “no, it’s not. It’s not. It’s all out of my brain.”

He’s got it in his head that all my characters are based on real people that passed through when I was a kid. Maybe, I don’t know, subconsciously, maybe they are, but they’re not actually written as people that I can say, I actually knew.

This old boy he says he knows them all.

I do get people from the other side of the tracks who come on and they say, “I hope that wasn’t me you were talking about then.”

I say, “No, you’re alright, don’t worry Biffer, it wasn’t you.”

Howard Lovy: One thing you will not find in his books are tired old detective or police procedural tropes. And if nothing else, readers will also get a few laughs.

Barry Faulkner: The thing that I get most feedback from is the humor. I’m a bit of a sarcastic so and so myself, and Palmer is sarcastic. He doesn’t suffer fools. He says what he wants to say, and he’s not very PC.

He’s not very political. So, if he doesn’t like something, he’ll say he doesn’t like it and it doesn’t matter if he upsets somebody. And I think a lot of people like that.

And the other thing, he hasn’t got backstory, I hate those books where the policeman or the detective, he’s having problems at home, or if it’s a female detective, she’s being beaten by her husband.

You get all these backstories that just bore me stiff.

Howard Lovy: As you can hear, Barry Faulkner enjoys telling stories, whether it’s in his books or spoken word. He gives talks about old time London crime to any group that would have him.

Barry Faulkner: It’s called The Geezers, Gangs and Heists of London. And it basically goes from 1930, from the Messina brothers, they were the first real organized criminals in London, and it was brothels basically, they ended up in the main thoroughfares of London, Bond Street and places like that, that had something like 60 houses working for them.

And the money, when you think about 1930s and they were taking 200,000 pounds a week, in the 1930s that’s a lot of bread for those days. And then I trace it through and I go right through all the names, the gangs, the heists, the big bullion thieves and all the rest, right through to the present day and the ones that are out there now.

An interesting story there, there’s a family, should we say, out there now called the Adams’ and there’s 11 of them, but it’s three brothers that were very, very big into, I’ve got to be carefully here, crime, drugs, the rest of it.

Three years ago when they came up for trial, their solicitor rang me and asked me to take down a posting, I’ve got a blog called Geezers2016, which lists all these criminals and what they’ve done, the same as the books. And they said that it could influence the jury, would I take it down?

Well, as far as the Adams’ are concerned, yes, I would take it down and I did take it down straight away. But it just shows you, you put these things out there, who’s watching and the influence you can have. So, you’ve got to be a bit careful.

Howard Lovy: So, Barry obviously enjoys telling these stories, but that doesn’t mean he regrets not following his father’s footsteps in the family business.

Barry Faulkner: No, no. I don’t think I could live in a six by six room for a number of years, thank you very much. No, because I think I got the best of both worlds, really, because I got to know, well not know, but to meet a lot of these characters. Which, yes, obviously it influences my writing, but no, I wouldn’t want to go in on that. I mean, they’re nasty. You know, let’s face facts, some of these guys were very, very nasty. So, yeah, best to stay away.

Howard Lovy: Barry recently turned 75 years old but shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, at the age of 68 he did the comedy circuit for about a year. Now he’s working on more DCS Palmer stories, and despite the lockdown, continues to write. And once this crisis is over, he says he’s available to talk to any group.

Barry Faulkner: Yeah, I’m available. Women’s Institute meetings, dog clubs, anything you like, you know, reasonable charges.

Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an editor and writer with more than 30 years of experience in journalism, from newspapers to magazines specializing in business, science, and technology. He has spent the past few years guiding coverage of independent publishing, amplifying voices of the marginalized. Howard is also a book doctor who enjoys working with authors to get their work ready for publication.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Terrific interview, especially Barry’s history that led ultimately to the excellent Serial Murder Squad series. Loved the story about his father’s visits to the allotment. You don’t get characters like that anymore.

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