For my first interview of 2021 I speak to Andrew Puckett about his work and how he creates incredible medical thrillers based on his experience working for the NHS.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards medical thrillers?
Books and writing have always fascinated me. I read Enid Blyton from the age of eight, but the turning point was finding a tatty paperback in the living room when I was 11: Miss Marple and the Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie. The discovery that I could actually try and guess whodunnit was a revelation…
I worked my way through suspense writers such as Hammond Innes, and then I graduated onto J B Priestly (still my favourite author) Henry Williamson, Laurence Durrell and Winston Graham. I think the best crime authors at the moment are Andrew Taylor and C J Sansom. The best was Minette Walters, but she’s stopped now – unfortunately!
How do you draw on your career in the NHS when you’re writing?
I started writing in my early twenties, but the acquisition of a girlfriend put a stop to that. I concentrated on my career in Biomedical Science, we moved to Oxford from Taunton and any ambitions to write were subsumed in career and happy marriage. I worked in the Blood Transfusion Service, testing donations for Hepatitis, Syphilis and Aids.
Then my wife died. I decided to have a go at writing again. It took two not very good novels and seven years to publish my first Medical Thriller, Bloodstains, which was published by Collins. (Two rules: Write about what you know, and Writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration). I had six novels published by Collins, three by Constable. These days I publish with Sharpe Books. These are mostly e books, but some paperback. All 14 of my books are available from them.
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
My main inspiration has been my career in Medical Science. Specific to various books were the emergence of HIV (Bed Of Nails) a trip to the Scottish Highlands (Bloodhound) a visit to Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station (Desolation Point) the ruthlessness of some drug companies (A Life For A Life) and Bioterrorism (Going Viral).
I’ve come across some pretty ruthless characters in the NHS – a tiny minority – but they have an effect way beyond their numbers. Think Harold Shipman. And the people jailed some thirty years ago for pinching donated blood and flogging it abroad. Some are in my books, although heavily disguised.
The British countryside inspires me. I love it and nearly all my books reflect this. Nearly all are set in the West Country, several completely or partially in Dorset.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
Collaboration is difficult – at least it is for me. I did once with a close friend, and wouldn’t do it again!
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?
Books I’m looking forward to reading: the latest Andrew Taylor or C J Sansom.
Thanks to Andrew for answering my questions; stay tuned for other exciting interviews throughout the year! Here’s to an awesome 2021 for Andrew and other awesome crime fiction writers.