BAFTA winner Tony McHale’s new novel is set in Bradford, where he grew up.

Edge of Civilisation revolves around the disappearance of several teenage girls, all of whom were living in care homes or in vulnerable situations.

When two of the girls turn up dead, the investigating officer Detective Inspector William Wordsworth - "I did Wordsworth for ‘O’ level at Hanson Grammar School and it always stayed with me, says Tony -” - realises that they’re dealing with something he’s never encountered before: the dark web.

Tony takes the reader deep into the workings of the dark web and those who haunt it. DI Wordsworth literally jumps from the page with his unrelenting determination to solve the case.

The thriller brings together the wordsmithing expertise the author honed whilst writing for many top TV crime series including Silent Witness and Waking the Dead and as a co-creator and executive producer of Holby City, for which he won a BAFTA.

Tony had long harboured a desire to write novels, but could never find the time.

“I remember being interviewed by Jilly Cooper many years ago and she mentioned she wished she could write scripts and I replied I wish I could write novels,” he says. “She was probably just being polite, but I wasn’t - I meant it. She had a number one best seller at the time and that’s what I’d love.”

It was while researching a TV show he was planning that he came across the original story that motivated him to write Edge of Civilisation. “That research was in Bradford, so I don’t think I ever considered another location,” he explains.

“Like the majority of characters, those I create are amalgamations of various people, so plots are amalgamations of various stories. Way before the ‘grooming scandal’ I came across the abuse of various young girls in care, but nobody in TV was prepared to run with the story. But even previous to that I’d read about a rather alarming underground trend that was happening in Germany which involved the murder of innocent people. I’d toyed for some time about writing a story round the German incidents but had never cracked it. Then finally, some years later, along came the dark web. My research into this murky world was the final ingredient. So, it was three real life events that propelled me to write the story.”

He adds: “I use facets from various people I’ve met or known, to create fictional characters. I can’t think of a single case where any of my characters have been recognised as a friend or associate. I often use names of people I know, and most people find it amusing when they see themselves as a murderer or virtuoso violinist. However, there was one case when I used one of my wife’s work colleagues name as a hooker in EastEnders. It was at the time the show was watched by 18 million plus people and the colleague wasn’t very happy about it.”

Tony, who lives in Buckinghamshire, has great recollections of growing up in Bradford. “It’s where I met my wife, and where both our children were born and it was, of course, where I delivered the T&A nightly for a number of years. I’m also very proud to have an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bradford.”

While writing both TV drama and novels brings a need to create interesting plots and characters people want to engage with, the difference comes in the construction, says Tony.

“A novel gives you the opportunity to explore things in a way you’re unable to do even in a two-hour film script or a ten-part series. Strangely enough you need a lot of the detail you write in a novel when writing a script, it just doesn’t go down on the page. As for which is more difficult a script or a novel, I would probably say a script. There’s always going to be parameters with a script, length, locations, characters ... even James Bond has a budget, but with a novel the world is your oyster.”

Edge of Civilisation is published on April 26 by Cranthorpe Millner Publishers.

*Tony will be at a book signing at Waterstones, The Wool Exchange, Bradford on Saturday April 30 from 12pm to 2pm.

*BRADFORD-BASED author Ian McKnight has penned Retribution, set mainly in the Bradford district.

The sixth book in his crime series, it follows Premonition, The Devil Finds Work, Games People Play, Unfinished Business and The Pandora Program.

“The main story line of Retribution is an appropriate ending to the series, and links back to the story in Premonition, and The Devil finds Work, so it’s gone full circle,” says the former stand-up comedian.

After DI Brian Peters is informed of an incident at his home, he discovers his wife and children have been brutally murdered and vows revenge. Investigations eventually point to a man who had a relationship with the Bradford bomber in Ian's previous novel Premonition, as family members of others in the Counter Terrorism Unit are also attacked.

As DI Peter’s team close in on the suspect, it emerges that he is a mercenary, hired by the imprisoned ex-CID Inspector Hardcastle who was jailed for drug offences.

“A number of other ex-officers are complicit and even a highly-ranked official of the HM Revenues & Customs is involved,” says Ian. “The sub-plot involves a series of arson attacks in the Girlington area. Eventually, it becomes clear there is a plan to buy up properties to be cleared so the area can be redeveloped.”

A further plot deals with the issue of ‘cuckooing’, a practice whereby people take over a person's home and use the property to facilitate exploitation. In this case, a vulnerable old lady’s flat is taken over for drug dealing.

“It’s probably the most difficult story I’ve written,” says Ian. “It’s action-packed, and yet emotional. A number of people have told me they’ve been in tears by the end of the first chapter. But, as I said, I intended it to be the last novel in the series and I wanted to go out with a bang.”

He adds: “Over the past two years, writing has kept me sane during the pandemic when I was cooped up in the house for long periods and unable to socialise. During this time, I digressed from my usual genre to write The Forkham Predicament, the farcical tale of a small village in the Dales, where strange events took place regardless of the pandemic.

“Over the years, I’ve had some wonderful comments from readers, and writing has been both a chore and a great pleasure. It’s been a privilege I haven’t taken lightly. As for the next novel, I’ll decide upon that soon.”

Retribution by Ian McKnight is available from Amazon