by Nathan Burrows Genre: Legal Thriller
Gareth Dawson is an innocent man. Not a murderer. His main problem is that the British justice system doesn’t agree with him.
He might be a reformed thief guilty of many things in his past, but not murder. In the space of a few short months, he's gone from being married to the woman of his dreams to facing a life sentence.
Inside Her Majesty’s Prison Whitemoor, a Category A prison in Cambridgeshire, Gareth’s got all the time in the world to go over the events that led to the guilty verdict. The guilty verdict which cost him everything in the world that he loved.
His dignity. His freedom. His wife.
Gareth is approached by a lawyer, Paul Dewar, who claims to have information that will vindicate Gareth. But is it enough to set him free? As threats against Gareth increase on the inside, Paul Dewar’s challenge, and Gareth’s fight for freedom, begins.
I jumped as the thick metal door slammed shut. It wasn’t just the sound, but the physical force of it closing that affected me. The pressure changes inside the small cell were palpable. I could feel it in my ears, like that feeling you get on an aeroplane, and my heart thudded in my chest a couple of times before returning to normal. If only the rest of me could calm down, things would be a lot easier.
I looked around the cell, taking in the four white walls that would be my home for the next fifteen years. They seemed so close, almost suffocating. The cell was maybe six feet by ten. There was a small window high on one wall with a glow coming through it I knew was from the streetlights outside. I’d considered trying to see out, but even if I climbed up to the window, I wouldn’t be able to see anything through the opaque reinforced glass. The only other light in the room was a bright fluorescent shaft of light from the observation window set into the green metal door. Even though it was my first night in this cell, I knew in about ten minutes that light would disappear as the prison guards turned off the main lights to the wing.
Other than the bunk bed I was sitting on and the bare toilet in the corner, the only furniture in the cell was a small table with a chair and a cabinet bolted to the wall near the window. I lay back on the bottom bunk, wriggling to fit myself into the bed. They weren’t made for people my size. That much was for certain. I’d
been told that my cellmate, who was in the hospital wing for a few days, had already claimed the top bunk. I couldn’t see any point in making a scene about it. Not on my first day, anyway.
The events of the last few weeks ran through my mind as I examined the bottom of the mattress above me. Being arrested, being remanded, and being tried. Being found guilty.
Maths had never been my strong point, but I tried to do the sums in my head. I wanted to know how many times the cell door would slam before I would be eligible for parole. There were three hundred and sixty-five days in a year, so I needed to multiply that by fifteen. When I realised it was over five thousand, I gave up trying to work it out. Fifteen years was a long time, but it was the minimum term for my crime.
Nathan Burrows is a writer based in Norfolk in the United Kingdom. His debut novel, Blind Justice, was published in March 2018.
Nathan's a keen reader as well as a writer. He occasionally runs marathons, has a Norwich City football club season ticket, and is the proud part-owner of a Daschund puppy called Bertie.
His current work in progress is tentatively called ‘Meat’, and is a dark post-Brexit comedy. It’s currently scheduled to be released in the autumn.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I think in reality I’m quite boring! Probably about the only real quirk that I’ve got is that I’m left handed. I don’t just write with my left hand though, I am hopelessly left handed, left footed, left everything. I can’t even use scissors or a tin opener unless they’re left handed versions!
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
I once had the opportunity to meet Prince William at a reception. The problem was that there was free wine at the reception. I don’t usually drink wine, and by the time I got to meet the prince the only thing I could think of to ask him was whether he played Call of Duty on the X-Box. He said that he did, but when I asked him for him gamer tag so we could be friends, he just laughed.
What are some of your pet peeves?
I can be really, really pedantic about things. Grammar is one of them – I get annoyed when there’s a missing apostrophe in a shop sign, or queuing up in the ‘9 Items or Less’ checkout in the supermarket (it should be ‘9 items or Fewer’). Now on the subject of supermarkets, with the self-checkouts, why is it when you put a bag in the bagging area, it says ‘unexpected item in bagging area’? It’s a bag? What is the machine expecting??
Where were you born/grew up at?
My parents moved around a lot, so everywhere really. I’ve lived in loads of places, mostly in the south of England, and that’s where I went to school.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
A few years ago, I’d have said in a drink and drug fuelled haze! These days though, it would have to be with my family.
Who is your hero and why?
The late, great Stephen Hawkins would definitely be one of them. What a brilliant man, and to what he did in the face of such adversity is remarkable.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I would like to be a cross between Winston Churchill and Boudicca. Both of them stood up against tyrannical regimes for the best of reasons, despite the hundreds and hundreds of years between them.
What are you passionate about these days?
My two main passions in life are my family (including the dog – I’ve got a black and tan daschund), and football (or soccer as some other countries seem to call it!)
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Well, I enjoy writing, obviously! Editing less so! If I really to empty my head, I go running. I’m a keen distance runner, up to marathon level (but I’m not competitive). Running is great for thinking. No phones, no visitors, no arguments – just one foot in front of the other.
How to find time to write as a parent?
I’m actually quite lucky in that respect because I work away from home during the week in my regular job, so I have plenty of time in the evenings to write without other responsibilities to think about.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve only been writing seriously for the last year or so. I wrote one novel which will never be published, more to prove to myself that I could write something of that length. The book itself is confined to a drawer. I know it’s a cliché, but most writers will have cut their teeth in this way. Once I knew I had the endurance to write at novel length, I started on Blind Justice.
Do you have a favorite movie?
That one’s easy – True Romance. A bit of an oldie now, but what a fantastic story and cast!
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I could see Blind Justice as a movie perhaps, although it would perhaps suit the small screen better. My next book, Meat, is much more likely to look good on the big screen.
What inspired you to write this book?
In one word, insomnia!
I was working over in the Middle East for a 6 month fixed period, and I was living in a very small accommodation. Basically, it was a tiny shipping container with a door, not unlike a prison cell. I couldn’t sleep, and was lying there one night comparing it in my head to being in prison.
Now I’ve never been in prison, but one of the things that I thought about while I was trying to get to sleep was what would it be like to actually be in prison? Then, from there, what would it be like to be in prison for a crime you didn’t commit! And from there, Blind Justice was born.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m currently writing a dark comedy called ‘Meat’. It’s a very different book to Blind Justice, but it’s such a good story that I just have to get it out there! It’s set in a post-Brexit United Kingdom, and involves pig farming. I’m not going to say any more than that, other than the tag line for the book is ‘That Wasn’t Pork’…
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
It was more a case of they came to me. Once I had the overall concept, some of the characters were obvious. I introduced one a bit later on – Laura Flynn – to avoid having an all male ‘cast’, and she quickly became one of my favourite characters. We’ll definitely be seeing more of her in the future!
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I use a fantastic writing tool called Scrivener to write with. One of the features it has is a character name generator. I used it to come up with names that I liked, and that I thought fit the characters.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Finishing it! Seriously, it turned into a bit of a slog in the end, because I wanted the book to be as good as it could be.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
My main character is a man called Gareth Dawson, and I guess to an extent there’s elements of me in the character. He’s not particularly complex, just a normal man in abnormal circumstances. With respect to the other characters, I would say there’s an undercurrent of fairness within them all – they all want the right thing to happen, but their motives are different.
Who designed your book covers?
I used a company called The Cover Collection. Their work is fantastic, and Debbie – the designer I worked with – was lovely.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
It would have to be Jennifer, Gareth’s wife, just to see if she’s as perfect as Gareth thinks she is! I would like to take her out for a meal to try to find out what makes her tick.
What did you edit out of this book?
There was a lot that ended up on the editing room floor. The first draft came in at way over 140,000 words, which is far too long. It’s difficult to go into too much detail about what was cut as this would give away parts of the story that I want readers to enjoy.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
I’ve got pretty narrow tastes really. Anything by Michael Connolly, Lee Child, or Peter James is right up there. I also enjoy Val McDermid, John Connolly, and most of John Grisham’s works. For a touch of levity, anything by Douglas Adams.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I tend to research as I go along once I’ve got the main plot points down. If I’m writing something out of my personal experience, I’ll normally do an initial draft to get it out of my head, and then go back in and ‘colour it in’ once I’ve researched a bit more about the subject. I’m not one for absolute accuracy though – it’s a work of fiction so I’m happy to let minor factual inaccuracies through if they keep the momentum going.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, I do. But not yet for me! I’m hoping to get to a point in the future when I can realistically consider giving up the ‘day job’ and writing full time, but this will only be when the time is right. I’ve got a family, a mortgage, and so on. If I didn’t, I might make the leap earlier, but I can’t take any chances that will affect other people.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
It’s fascinating. The whole ‘trad versus indie’ debate is really interesting. On the one hand, it’s opened up publishing to anyone and removed the barriers. This is a double edged sword really, as it also means that anyone can publish anything, and the floodgates have really opened. My belief is that the cream will rise to the top, which is why I’ve been so keen to ensure Blind Justice is as good as it can be before publishing – I’m hoping that it will rise!
The market is definitely saturated with indies at the moment, with some massive success stories peppered among them. There’s a lot of casualties as well, and the market that has sprung up to ‘support’ independent authors is enormous. You can’t turn one way or another without being pitched to by someone offering a magic marketing bullet or something similar!
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I do read a lot, but nowhere near as much as I’d like to! I enjoy crime, thrillers, police procedurals, anything along those lines is fine by me.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
Either. I’m happy writing in silence, with music on, or with the television playing in the background. I’d rather have some noise though – I find that the act of tuning it out actually helps me concentrate.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
The habit I’ve got into now is to have one book being written, and another being edited and finalised for publication. At the time of Blind Justice being published, I’m about half way through the first draft of my next book, Meat. Once I start editing Meat, I’ll start on the sequel to Blind Justice.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Mac all the way. I use Scrivener, which is the best thing ever for writers. I work on the road a lot, and use the companion app on an iPad. It all syncs in the cloud, and is fantastic.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Blind Justice took a year, start to finish. The actual book itself took on a life of its own, and ended up being much longer than planned. This then made the editing process much longer as well! A lot of this time was spent developing habits, so I’m pretty sure then next book will be much quicker.
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