BOB Bridgestock and his wife Carol retired from their jobs as a detective and civilian support worker at West Yorkshire Police respectively, to live on the Isle of Wight.
Bob felt he’d never properly retire if he stayed close to his old colleagues and the scene of the many cases he’d investigated, latterly as a detective superintendent. He would somehow get drawn back in, if only on some sort of part-time basis, and frankly policing had been a big enough part of their lives.
They fixed up their new house, which took a while. Then Carol suggested that Bob should write down some stories he’d told her about his days in West Yorkshire Police, a record for their children and grandchildren to read.
New friends down south heard some of the anecdotes and encouraged him to write a book. A man whose career had kept him on the job at all hours investigating murders and other major incidents, Bridgestock hadn’t had much time to read, but he felt he could give writing a go, so long as his stories were fiction which drew on his intimate knowledge of police investigations to give them proper context and realism.
Bob and Carol enrolled on a six-week night class course on writing a first novel, then decided to co-write – with Bob producing 120,000 words in six weeks. He gave Deadly Focus its plot and shape then Carol edited and injected emotion into the tale, which followed the working life of DI Jack Dylan. She was able to use her own experience as a police wife to flesh out the character of Dylan’s partner Jen, and the couple are loosely based on their creators. The Bridgestocks self-published the book, received good reviews from a wide range of friends, old contacts and even strangers, and sold the whole 1,500 print run in six months.
On the strength of that they were able secure a four-book deal with the publisher Caffeine Nights, and Consequences, the second Jack Dylan book, has just been published. Deadly Focus will also be republished and is available as an audio book.
Having moved to the Isle of Wight partly to leave policing behind, the couple are busy almost every day on the novels – and loving it. “Nothing could have been further from our minds when we moved,” says Bob. “I used to tell both sad and funny stories about my experiences and never intended to write a book. But here we are, we love it, and feel we’ve ‘arrived’ properly now that a publisher has taken the second book and printed it. Even though I know so much about police work, I still do research and enjoy that aspect of it. I did worry that former colleagues would read the books and look for excuses to shoot them down, but everyone’s been very positive so far.
“The crime fiction market is massive, but I suppose what we bring that’s different is that we are a husband/wife team and I tell the story very much from the standpoint of knowing what it mean to be that detective put in charge of a team that’s about to investigate the death of a child and having to tell the family about the discovery of the body.” Although the stories and characters are inspired by true events, enough has been changed not to offend anyone, says Bob, who worked on many high-profile murder cases in West Yorkshire. “I like to think we have humanised the role of the police involved in murder investigations, and showed the pressures they are under,” says Bob.
Bob and Carol’s advice to others is simple: “If you believe in something strongly enough, don’t give up and walk away. With enough effort you can do it. We never thought we’d find ourselves where we are now.”
Deadly Focus and Consequences by R C Bridgestock are published by Caffeine Nights, £8.99 each. To order from the Yorkshire Post Bookshop call 0800 0153232 or go to www.yorkshirepostbookshop.co.uk. Postage costs £2.85.