James Henry’s Scene of the Crime

James Henry, the bestselling author of the DI Jack Frost prequels, tells Crime Files where he finds puts pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and is inspired to write.

Posted on July 12, 2016 in Behind the Scenes
Tags: Scene of the Crime, blackwater, british crime, james henry

A lot of the time I write on the move. This year I finally replaced my battered white mac laptop after having written four novels on it. I’d taken it everywhere, writing on planes to New York and Tokyo; writing in the back of cars; and. most frequently, writing on trains, travelling up, down and across the UK – mainly across, on my daily commute into and out of London where I work. And this is my favourite place to write – on a train, early in the morning.

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I wrote my first novel with a friend while freelancing at home on a desktop PC. After that was published, I was commissioned to write another novel, this time on my own. By then, though, I was back at work full-time, in Hammersmith. Hammersmith to Essex is a long haul; it took as long to get from Liverpool Street to my office halfway down the Fulham Palace Road, as it did to get into town on network rail. I soon realized that, with so much of my time spent commuting, the only way I’d get any writing done was if I bought a ‘portable’ (as they were still called) and worked on the move. Fortunately I instantly took to this way of writing.


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On a train, you are basically trapped, sealed in for the duration of the journey. There is no getting up making cups of coffee, or the surfing the net abstractedly for nothing in particularly (the weather forecast, and wind patterns usually in my case). Procrastination is not viable, there are barely any distractions, apart from a glance out of the window, which is soothing, complementing the motion of the train as it rattles along.  Even delays can help; many a plot issue has been solved stuck outside Stratford when the lines are down…


At weekends I write in a messy room at the far end of the house.  Or if the weather is fine on the patio, occasionally looking up across the field.


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Blackwater is published by Quercus on 14 July.

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