'A wicked tongue is worse than any fiend' - Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: The Manciple's Tale, 1395.
Tongues are wagging in a sleepy English seaside town after a well-respected couple die within weeks of each other.
Businessman Sam Shepton killed himself. At his inquest, his heartbroken son blamed his mother, Amanda, branding her a 'black widow'.
A few days later he discovers her body.
The talking begins, accusations are made, secret lives are revealed.
Was Amanda killed because of her husband's death? Was her murder a 'personal' crime or the start of a serial-killer spree?
Everyone's words have consequences and it's clear that careless talk really CAN cost lives...
I wrote what became the first three chapters of Wicked Tongue a very long time ago; many years. It's perhaps not surprising that, given that I worked as a journalist for 12 years and then as a police officer for another 12 years, I would look to write a crime thriller.
As with all my writing and books, plot and structure is not something that comes naturally to me and I really didn't think I had it in me to write a crime thriller without the identity of the culprit being blatantly obvious right from the start, so while I occasionally looked back on the opening three chapters and thought, "Maybe one day", I parked it and focused on my nonsensical novels.
In December 2010, when I was working for the police, there was a murder in Bristol which captured international headlines. Years later, I reflected on that case, and thought I could use it as the basis for a thriller. I would change an awful lot of it, and in the end the killer was a completely different person/character to the real one, but the case, as a whole, would help me get over my usual 'structure blocks'. This book was to be called The Mistletoe Murder and I kept starting it many times over.
The story behind the story
I consulted a number of former police colleagues for some 'insider expertise'. In particular, there was a detective called Alex Game who I threw a million and one questions at, and also a cyber-crime guru, Nick Hubbard. Such was the extent of their help and guidance at the time that I used their names for my lead detective, Alex(andra) Nicholas.
But still I didn't think I had it in me to structure a convincing thriller.
A few years ago, a friend of mine, Vicki FitzGerald, published her debut thriller, Briguella which, ironically, was also broadly based on real events that I was involved in with my police press officer hat on. (She was a journalist at the time, covering the story). I helped proofread this book but when it came to writing her next crime thriller, Kill List, not only did I help proof it, but I also suggested some plot points and scenes, and ended up being credited in the book as an Editor, which I'm very proud of.
At some point in that process, I shared with Vicki my long-standing opening three chapters of a thriller. I think my initial working title was something like Trauma and for a little while after that it was Occultatum. She told me she loved it. I thought she was just being a supportive friend, and continued with my comedies. But she wouldn't let it go, to the point where she insisted that I put all my other projects aside and concentrate on my thriller, because, she said, she really liked it and wanted to read more.
And so I did.
As usual, I wrestled for a long, long, time with the plot. But it was when I decided to take a leave out of Vicki's book, and write in the first person, but from the perspective of several people, that it started to gel. Retaining my detective, Alex Nicholas, I also decided to introduce two journalists. Once I had my trio, the plot started to form in my mind. I decided very early on who the killer would be and worked from there.
I wrote chunks of it here and there, came up with new scenarios, ditched a few, adopted some more. In early 2021, I decided to have a 'proper' go at it. And then I had an unexpected stay in hospital in July 2021, which resulted more than a month-and-a-half off work. During that time - and having had a true health scare (I had a bleed on the brain) - which re-set my sense of priorities and perspective, I decided it was time to knuckle down, stop dreaming and start doing. So, in a fairly short space of time, I completed Wicked Tongue. I soon realised that I had a very downbeat ending. It was all cerebral. There was no drama. It was a lot of chat and investigation until the killer was revealed. I needed some drama. I came up with three scenes that I thought would give me that 'finale'-type drama.
Then it looked as if the wordcount was getting out of control, and I had a light-bulb moment, where two of those three scenes became one - set at a funeral - and it ended up working much better than I expected.
By now, Vicki had read about two-thirds of the book, and had given positive feedback. During my time off work, I decided to finish the book, having snatched hours at the computer when my health allowed. With all that in mind, I wasn't at all convinced that I'd come up with a decent ending. But she read it, in little over two days, and I was genuinely quite overwhelmed by her response. She loved it. And so, here it is. And, for all the structural struggles I had and concerns that I couldn't pull it off, overall, I'm pretty proud of the result.
Reviews & Feedback
Sensational. A chilling, compulsive, character-driven thriller with a killer twist! Wicked Tongue is a tense, dark, disturbing thriller and a compelling read, which I read in two sittings.
I look forward to more thrillers from this talented author.
Vicki FitzGerald, Amazon.co.uk, 27 September 2021.
Very Accomplished debut crime novel
I really enjoyed this crime thriller, which keeps you guessing 'til the very end. It's a real page turner and very hard to put down. You're dying, pardon the pun, to find out Who Dunnit? The author acknowledges that this is his first 'serious' book and I'm really hoping that it won't be his last. I don't think you'll be disappointed buying this book and I very much look forward to more in the same genre from him.
Lou B, Amazon.co.uk, 9 October 2021.
Superb First Book
I particularly enjoyed the book written in the first person, it made a most pleasant change from other books. There were a number of suspects, red herrings, twists and turns such the actual villain came as a huge surprise.
Political Pete,, Amazon.co.uk, 29 October 2021.
Excellent characters, good twist at the end
Enjoyed Darren Bane's first book very much. Very believable characters and fast-moving story. Well done.
Elaine Bryant, Amazon.co.uk, 29 October 2021.
Keeps you guessing
Great whodunnit. Not my usual genre of book to read but really enjoyed it, made recent plane joourneys fly by. Great attention to detail from an author that clearly knows the ways of both police investigations and journalists.
Lanceloto, Amazon.co.uk, 24 December 2021.
Facebook comments/personal messages sent to the author
OMG...OMG...OMG!!!!! One of the best books I have ever read! Very dark in places. Gosh, you can write!
DW, 24 Sept 2021
A gripping page-turner which will keep you guessing until the end.
CD, 5 Oct 2021
Really enjoyed it. It keeps your interest all the way through to a cracking finale. I would recommend this book to anyone. I hope there are further books to follow.
JO, 5 Oct 2021
I've read the first few pages. You had me at 'Daddy died today'. Who wouldn't want to read on?
SC, 5 Oct 2021
Congratulations on a cracking book
LB, 9 Oct 2021
I've read your book 'Wicked Tongue' and am completely absorbed with the story line, very different from most novels/thrillers, and I do like the technique of writing in the first person singular.
PB, 12 Oct 2021