Daniel K. Longman was born in Birkenhead in 1988 and has lived in the area ever since. His fascination with local history came about in his early teens and he has developed a particular interest in true crime. A keen genealogist, Daniel regularly writes for the international publication Your Family Tree Magazine and is the moderator for its official forum. Daniel is currently working on a number of other local history projects about the Wirral and Liverpool, which he plans to complete later in the year.
How did the Criminal Wirral project start off? What sparked your interest?
Criminal Wirral was just something I felt like doing. It was one of the many madcap ideas I have over my long years, but this one actually happened! At 16 I knew college wouldn’t last forever (thank God) so I thought, OK, I need to do something. I had been writing for Your Family Tree Magazine for some time and had been doing my own genealogy since the age of 13. The necessary research and writing skills where there, so I enthusiastically delved into the old newspapers in the hope of creating something new. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be doing an interview like this about a book I had written! Never!
How difficult was it to get Criminal Wirral published?
I was turned down by I think 3 publishers; one I had expected to jump at the proposal full on as it seemed perfect for his sort of work. Alas he rejected me. I wasn’t made of stamps, so my next step was to talk to my editor, Garrick Webster at the magazine and ask him if he could suggest anyone who may take on my MS. He told me that they regularly deal with a company called Sutton who has worked on many history books. With that information and now a personal contact at the publishers to mention in my letter, I once again altered the address on my pre-made proposal and posted it off. Before the week was up I had received an email from an editor at Sutton, Simon Fletcher, inviting me to discuss taking my idea forward. Let’s just say I was quite pleased.
Terry Deary, author of Horrible Histories, has written the foreword. Have you met him and what words of advice did he give you?
Terry Deary is a top bloke! I have never met him but have been ‘talking’ to him through emails since I was about 14. Back then it was mainly your typical annoying fan with question after question about the Horrible Histories he does. Nowadays it’s more business advice and tips on how to go forward that we chat about. I’ve given him opinions on his stuff and he’s told me how to ahead with certain ideas, what to expect, what not to expect, etc. I see him as a sort of mentor, I think. He’s been invaluable. You can’t buy experience.
How long did the project take from beginning to end?
I started in February 2005. It was actually on the night of the BBC’s business show The Dragon’s Den. I remember coming back home that night clutching a load of old newspaper scans I had just printed at the library. I wondered if I, like those poor guys being mercilessly interrogated on the telly, could make something of my latest idea. With college standing in the way writing Criminal Wirraltook longer than it should have and it wasn’t totally completed until almost year later. I’m just happy I kept my motivation to get it done, no matter how long it took me.
Do your ambitions lie with being a writer as an occupation?
That would be great. Terry Deary has told me it can be done, but it would require a hell of a lot of effort. However contrary to popular belief, writing is poorly paid and I would have to be churning out a whole forest worth of publications to even think of living off them. No, I’ll have to get some sort of main income soon. Estate Agents wouldn’t have me, too young for the police, my business ideas seem a little too ambitious just now, so if anyone wants to employ a teenage historian and author, I’m here!
Have you considered writing a novel?
Yes. I sort of have an idea for a social commentary type book based around a murder mystery set in my town in Victorian era. It won’t happen until way off yet, but it’s something one day I’d like to sit down and do. Again, one of my far-fetched ideas. Big job though. I’m not underestimating it. Call me back in fifty and see where I’m up to.
Are you working on any other books at the moment?
Wirral: Tragic Tales is nearly ready to send back to the publishers. I have located true tales of Wirral accidents and disasters from the 1800’s-1920. I discovered them whilst researching Criminal Wirral but they didn’t fit into the crime genre; they needed a book of their own. I have 3 more books on top of that currently being discussed so it’s all very busy on that front.
Where is Criminal Wirral available?
Criminal Wirral can be obtained via Sutton Publishing, my own site at www.danielklongman.com and local book stores on the Wirral. For those outside the area, I’m sure your nearest book shop would be able to order it in for you.
How does it feel to be able to say “I’m a published author”?
Weird, great, but also disappointing. I used to think that, “wow, he’s an author. He must be dead clever” Now that I’ve done it myself I realise that books like mine only require a little bit of know-how and a lot of patience. There’s no secret trick to doing stuff like this. It really is just finding the time and motivation to sit at a desk or with a little note pad, and write. That’s all there is to it. Still, it’s funny to see my name sitting in a shop window. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.
What do you do in your spare time? What other “A” levels were you studying for?
My A Level was in English. I enjoyed doing it for those two long years but I was mistaken in thinking it would teach me how to write. It’s all about analysis of novels and reading into the meaning of poetry from God knows when. I’m not saying it wasn’t interesting, and I did pick up a few things along the way, but I feel maybe a dedicated writing course may have suited me better. But anyway my spare time is mainly listening to music, collecting things, reading local non-fiction and just tottering about on the PC. Oh and of course the odd visitations to public houses.
True Crime is growing ever more popular on the shelves. Why do you think that is?
You can’t really escape it. With media as it is we are having crime rammed down our throats on a daily basis. People p nowadays are so used to hearing about shocking murders and gruesome suicides on the news, that the fictional criminals once penned by the likes of Christie, have now become rather tame compared to those in real life (or death). The reality is often more interesting.
Can you give three tips to writing the best True Crime book possible?
I would say keep it short and sweet. I can’t stand sitting down to read a case written and finding to my horror that this one story is actually the size of a book itself! I want to be able to pick up a crime book, read a few tales before the bus stops or my tea runs out. People are busy. They don’t want to have to set aside a whole afternoon just to read a single tale. Include photos and maps, both contemporary and modern day, so that the reader can get a better understanding and feel closer to the people and places involved. Again, I personally don’t want to have to read a block of text with only my imagination to help set the scene. That’s ok if it’s fiction, but true crime actually happened and there is plenty of information to be found hidden away in libraries and archives that would enhance any criminal case.