The truth cannot hide...

Writing collaboration – how does THAT work?


A.D. Garrett is the writing collaboration between Dagger Award-winning novelist Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist, Professor Dave Barclay. Together, they write forensic thrillers.

It all began in 2008, Liverpool’s year as Capital of Culture. The city hosted the BA Science Festival, and The Macaulay Institute wanted to organize a panel discussion for the general public. They needed three crime fiction writers willing to have their work scrutinized, explained, and potentially ridiculed by a panel of six (yes, six!) scientists. Did I know anyone brave (or foolhardy) enough? I persuaded Val McDermid and Peter James to face the ordeal with me. Murder, Mystery & Microscopes was a double sell-out, and has since become a staple of public science lectures.

Fast forward to 2010, and another Murder, Mystery & Microscopes event. There was just one scientist on this occasion – forensics expert Dave Barclay, whom I’d met in 2008. I’m a science geek, and my agent said she’d love to get the two of us together on a project. We met over gin & tonic, Dave agreed, and a few weeks later he came up with three ten-point plots. We chose the one that had the greatest potential to build into a satisfying thriller. I do all the writing, and I spent a couple of weeks structuring the story. But the writing process is organic, apt to change as the story develops – the outline is only a guiding structure – it’s never prescriptive, so we Skyped regularly, with Dave advising on scientific and procedural elements.


Thrashing out a plot point

Thrashing out a plot point during USA research trip

The main protagonists are forensic scientist, Professor Nick Fennimore, and DCI Kate Simms though a secondary character, enigmatic student Josh Brown, has become a favourite among readers!). In good storytelling tradition, Fennimore & Simms have some history, and Kate, who is just beginning to climb the career ladder after what she describes as ‘Four years on the naughty step’ takes a big risk when she asks for Fennimore’s help. Everyone Lies was published in 2013, and has had some cracking reviews – including a starred review in Publishers Weekly (US). The sequel, Believe No One, came out in July 2014. It’s set in the United States and in May 2012 Dave and I spent three weeks in Oklahoma and Missouri, researching the story with Homicide Detectives, Medical Examiners, CSIs, State Bureau investigators, District Attorneys, and even a judge. I wrote a day-by-day blog of the US research trip during May of this year.

Buy Everyone Lies at AmazonUK or at AmazonUS

Buy Believe No One at AmazonUS  or at AmazonUK

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