Today I’m very pleased to welcome Ruth to the blog telling us a little about her new novel, Humber Boy B.
- Tell us a little bit about what inspired the story – it is taken straight from the headlines is there one particular case that got you thinking about it?
After the tragic murder of Jamie Bulger, there was a recognition that the UK had no real system for dealing with children who commit the most serious crimes: murder, manslaughter, rape. As a result four special prisons were opened, and I was based on one of them (as the unit probation officer). Humber Boy B is an amalgamation of the young men I worked with during that time. I wanted to especially look at some of the `triggers` that had been identified on these high-profile cases as reasons for the murder; watching a horror film, dabbling into the occult, bad parenting. So Ben is a composite character, and the crime he commits is fictional but inspired by real events.
- It is an emotional subject – children who kill children. Was it quite difficult to write with authenticity considering how hard it is to understand?
Given that I worked with cases like this fifteen years ago, it’s taken a long time for me to actually finish Humber Boy B and I think that reflects how difficult it was to allow Ben, and his crime, to settle under my skin. Writing a novel is all-encompassing and I just wasn’t ready to write the book before, but when I finally did I found that I’d already been thinking about it so much that it came out quite feverishly. As I have a son the same age (10) as Ben and his victim, Noah, it did give me pause for thought and writing the sections about Noah’s mum was quite upsetting. There really is nothing worse than the loss of a child, especially in circumstances so cruel, and I didn’t want to lose sight of that.
- Do you have any writing habits?
I’m a bit OCD, so I use timetables and targets. I’m obsessive about hitting word counts or page numbers, but that’s how I’ve always worked. I always have a notebook with me, and often write in cafes or when I’m out and about. I don’t have a particular place to write, though I tend to work best in the daytime.
- And what is up next for Cate?
Ah, well, Cate moves to Luxembourg! Reputed to be one of the safest, wealthiest, countries in Europe she arrives thinking she’ll have a break from the world of crime but it’s not long before she starts to get her hands dirty. The novel is called Nowhere Girl and is about a teenager who goes missing at the annual summer fair, Schueberfouer. She is last seen waiting to ride on the gigantic ferris wheel but isn’t seen again …
- Favourite fictional character (from any novel)?
I love Camille in Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. She’s a journalist, and also a self-harmer, but with a difference; she carves words on her skin. Despite this vulnerability she is intelligent and kind and desperately trying to solve a murder case in her home town.
Best book you have read this year so far?
The Dinner by Herman Koch. The narrative is revealed layer by layer as we, alongside the four protagonists, make our way through an exquisite dinner. Very stylish.
Thank you Ruth!
Publication Date: Available Now from Legend Press
Source: Publisher Review Copy
A child is killed after falling from the Humber Bridge. Despite fleeing the scene, two young brothers are found guilty and sent to prison. Upon their release they are granted one privilege only, their anonymity. Probation officer Cate Austin is responsible for Humber Boy B’s reintegration into society. But the general public’s anger is steadily growing, and those around her are wondering if the secret of his identity is one he actually deserves to keep. Cate’s loyalty is challenged when she begins to discover the truth of the crime. She must ask herself if a child is capable of premeditated murder—or if there is a greater evil at play.
Humber Boy B is an emotional, often hard to read but ever compelling novel with a storyline ripped straight from the headlines.
We follow Cate Austin as she attempts to help “Ben” reintegrate into society. However an emotional outpouring via social media from the victim’s mother and interference from Ben’s own family ensure that this is no easy task – as she begins to unravel the truth behind what happened on the bridge all those years ago, some difficult facts begin to surface and she is caught up in an ever changing situation where her loyalties and beliefs will be tested to the limits.
The writing is superb here, I was immediately caught up in this very emotional tale of a boy who once made a mistake and the woman who is now trying to help him put the past in the past. As we see how Ben is doing and feeling it is often very sad but endlessly fascinating and I often sympathised with his situation despite what had led him there. Opposite Ben is Cate, a beautifully drawn character who has a deep moral code and a determination to do her job despite all the obstacles in her path.
There is a hard touch of reality as well – The authors background obviously giving her a greater insight which comes across very well, the whole thing has an authentic, real life edge, this could easily be based on an actual case. Echoes of Jamie Bulger here as the day in question is explored slowly but in detail over the course of the novel, with snapshots of external people caught up in it, the number of times at which tragedy could have been prevented. The role of social media is also given form, the realities of today’s society in the spotlight is truthful and lets face it, pretty scary.
Moving, highly disturbing, captivating and gripping from first page to last, this is a truly brilliant read that will leave you feeling emotionally wrung out, thoughtful and contemplative of those things we would rather not think about. Elegant and skillfully done, I have no issue at all in highly recommending it.
Find out more here: http://ruthdugdall.com/index.html
Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/RuthDugdall
Purchase Information: https://www.waterstones.com/book/humber-boy-b/ruth-dugdall/9781910394595
Happy Reading Folks!