Writer from Ilford hoping to score a Direct Hit with his first Blitz Detective mystery
PUBLISHED: 15:00 14 March 2015
A former journalist is set to explore east London’s criminal underworld during the Blitz.
Mike Hollow, 62, who grew up in Ilford, tells the story of Det Insp John Jago and his mission to solve a murder after the victim’s body was destroyed during an air raid.
Direct Hit: The Blitz Detective is set during the Second World War, in 1940s West Ham, during the height of the Blitz and is Mike’s first foray into the world of fiction writing.
The author, whose mother went to Beal High School in Woodford Bridge Road, Redbridge, and had to leave in 1939 when it was turned into a fire station, is hoping the novel will be the first in a series of Blitz Detective books.
He said: “I just thought it was such an amazing time because all this stuff was happening and crime was increasing.
“The blackouts meant that there was good cover for all sorts of criminal activity.”
Mike, who takes his inspiration from a variety of authors including the iconic Dorothy L. Sayers and William Boyd, thought it would be interesting to find out what it would have been like for detectives of the time.
He said: “It was fascinating to imagine how someone with a job like that goes about tackling a case with the added pressure of the air raids.”
Mike, who was born in West Ham, added: “It starts with the first day of the Blitz and a body is found in the back streets of West Ham. But before he can get going a bomb drops and the body is destroyed.”
Mike, who now works as a Russian translator, was inspired by his dad’s time living in Stratford through the Blitz, fire-watching on the roof of Stratford Town Hall. Fire-watchers kept an eye out for fires that had started after bombs were dropped.
He said: “It was challenging to maintain the history of that time but I really enjoyed putting it together because it was such a fascinating time.
“I really enjoy learning about the history of the period and I have tried to make it as realistic as I possibly could.”
The story incorporates a mixture of real-life and fictional locations.
He said: “It really does bring a lost world to life again, particularly for anyone from east London.
“It’s like the East End’s finest hour, the whole world was looking at the East End at the time and I have used real places to try to bring it to life.”
Mike said he intentionally wanted to steer clear of 1940s detective stereotypes for the character of John Jago.
“I wanted him to be a plausible 1940s man,” said Mike.
“You often see the ‘struggling alcoholic’ detective but I wanted him to be someone that was more normal than that – he’s definitely a man of his time.”
The author has spent three years developing and writing the book and wants readers to feel as it was “written for them”.
He said: “My background is in journalism, copy writing and editing and it was a challenge to convert all those skills to write for fiction, but I do hope readers will find it a pleasant read.”
The book is available to pre-order on amazon.co.uk and is due to be released on March 20.
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