One of the questions I often get asked is ‘what does a writer do all day when he is not actually writing?’ So having effectively finished the second draft of my latest novel, (Dead Man’s Footsteps) I thought I would share my Monday with you:
This morning, and through lunchtime, I spent with a young undercover police officer friend, who is currently working on both drugs surveillance and car crime in Sussex. We went to a number of cafes, which provide good observation points for well-known drug-dealing locations, part of which information I am using in my new book. A drug addict in this city – or indeed any UK city, will have a habit that costs him or her from £20 – £200+ per day – and some can be spending as much as £500 per day. There are few drug users wealthy enough to pay this kind of money from legitimate earnings, so many turn to crime – the reason that 80% of all urban crimes in the UK are drug related. And most of these crimes tend to be daytime burglaries on homes, muggings, thefts from cars, bag snatches, shoplifting.
A drug addict thief, in need of fast cash, will receive approximately 10% of the value of anything he or she steals. So with a £50 a day habit (not at all rare) they will need to steal £500 per day of goods, or a staggering £182,000 worth or goods each year. With 2,500 injecting drug users in the city of Brighton and Hove that is an awful lot of criminal activity. The police fight a never-ending war with both the users and suppliers. Which segways me nicely on to my afternoon:
For afternoon tea I visit the place that has nearly become my second home, the Brighton and Hove City Mortuary – although I do my best to be a daytime visitor, not an overnight guest….
The Mortuary is run on a day-to-day basis by three wonderful characters, Elsie (who revels in being Cleo!) Victor and Sean. Considering the tough and constantly gruesome nature of their work, they are truly delightful and caring people, with a great sense of humour. Mentioning how I had spent my morning, they told me about a large African man who had recently been brought in, who had died of mysterious causes shortly after an international flight to Gatwick. When they opened him up, they found his intestines packed with plastic vials of cocaine, with a street value of a staggering £300,000! One had leaked, causing a massive overdose, which had ruptured his stomach.
And segwaying nicely into stomachs… one of their recent overnight guests was a man, in his early thirties, who weighed forty-four stone – six hundred and sixteen pounds! He had lived, immobile, in a second floor bedroom, constantly fed by his mother. It took nine people, including several fire brigade members, to remove him from his bedroom to the mortuary, where he had to be placed in an enlarged fridge. His grave took up three plots and a JCB bulldozer lowered him in!
As a sign of the times, the mortuary is now reequipping with extra-large fridges. As they are receiving so many obese people who don’t fit into a standard fridge, they are left with no option.
And now I have arrived back home, and I’m looking forward to tucking into some supper. I think I fancy something cold from the fridge. And a nice Chianti….