Written by Jerry Sykes
Jerry Sykes came to my attention when he won the CWA Short Story Dagger a few years ago. Although he was known before this for his work in Shots’ predecessor; A Shot in the Dark, plus contributions to a slew of anthologies. When I discovered news of his debut novel ‘Lose this Skin’, I asked Jerry to tell Shots’ readers a little about the novel.
I first became aware of Camden Lock in the late 70s when The Clash had their rehearsal space there in an abandoned railway arch. Stranded in rural Yorkshire my friends and I would often talk long into the night about what a magical place the Lock must be to inspire such heroic music. But by the time I finally came to visit the Lock in the early 80s The Clash had long since gone and the area had taken its first tentative steps towards becoming some kind of Disneyland for the casually disenfranchised. Twenty years later the transformation is complete. Every weekend the Lock is flooded with thousands of tourists from all over the world in search of a little pocket hedonism and rebellion-by-proxy. Even the drug dealers who whisper at you from every corner seem to have come straight from central casting.
Behind all this seemingly harmless fun however something far more sinister lurks. Camden Town has one of the biggest drugs problems in the country. But in a world that pays Kate Moss ten times more than she was being paid before the tabloids dubbed her Cocaine Kate it is hard not to believe that the authorities are turning a blind eye in order to keep the tourist dollars rolling in.
This is all pure speculation of course but it was this idea that inspired me to write Lose this Skin. After publishing some two dozen short stories over the last few years - and winning two CWA Short Story Daggers in the process - here at last was something I felt I could get my debut novelistic teeth stuck into.
As a reader I have always been drawn to the loner but at the same time have never felt totally comfortable with the idea of a British PI. So when it came to creating my own leading man I felt that I needed a good reason for him to be acting alone. Eventually I came up with the idea of a cop on sick leave after being shot in a drive-by shooting with the shooter still out there in the night... He is finally pulled away from his own brooding when an old friend asks him to look into the death of her son. The boy had been killed under the wheels of a police car and the official line is that it was an accident but his mother thinks differently.
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