The story behind Darkness, Darkness by John Harvey

I thought I’d finished with Charlie Resnick in 1998. Ten books - a template laid down by my exemplars, Sjowall and Walhoo - and the tenth was called ‘Last Rites’ after all. Couldn’t be much clearer than that. I didn’t kill him off, but even so …

After that there was the odd short story which kept him alive, even the occasional appearance in the other novels, the Frank Elder books for instance. So he was there, slowly getting older somewhere in the back of my mind, his relationship with his colleague, Lynn Kellogg, gradually becoming closer. And then, somewhere around the start of 2007, an idea logged into my brain and wouldn’t let go; an idea or a theme – bereavement. A number of my friends had sadly died around that time, including some I had worked with as a co-writer, and the experience of grieving was something I wanted to explore. The novel that came out of that was ‘Cold in Hand’, published in 2008.

Which meant the tally of Resnick books now stood at 11. All right for a soccer team, perhaps, but not so good for a sequence of novels. So gradually I began to think about book number 12 - and the more I did the more clearly it came to me that this was not going to be just the final Resnick but also - almost certainly - the last crime novel I was going to write. Time to be moving on - even if moving on meant setting the fiction business aside.

So, one final book. And it had better be good. Something with purpose, backbone. Nothing throwaway or trivial.

I’m not sure when the idea of setting it, in part, during the Miners’ Strike took hold, but I’d been considering it for a while when I met up with the writer David Peace at a crime writing festival in Lyon. David, amongst other novels which scorch through the fabric of British - especially Northern - society, had written ‘GB84’ - a brilliantly coruscating novel set during the Strike, and I took the opportunity to talk to him about my fledgling idea. Do it, he said. If for no other reason than keeping the Strike and the way it was broken clear in folks’ minds.

And so ‘Darkness, Darkness’ gradually took shape. A novel that would move between the events of thirty years ago and the present, and which would enable Resnick, now in virtual retirement, to look back upon his life and, more specifically, upon his involvement as a police officer, in the Miners’ Strike. One of the short stories I’d earlier written about Resnick, featured an unlikely but strong friendship with a former miner and strike leader named Peter Waites – and that friendship was going to provide me with the link, a way in.

All it needed then was the discovery of a body, possibly that of a woman who went missing at the heart of the Strike, thirty years before …

John Harvey
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