name:
HILARY BONNER (BORN 1949)
from:
DEVON
vocation:
CRIME WRITER
biog:
I was born and brought up in North Devon, where my dad was a butcher and ran a tea shop. At the age of eight I knew I wanted to be a journalist, specifically for the Daily Mirror, brought into a Daily Express reading family by my grandfather, a great racing man who reckoned it was the best paper for the horses. The Mirror was of course widely considered to be the country's finest campaigning newspaper back then, and I certainly thought that it was truly wonderful - even though, much to my fury, my granddad was inclined to play censor and cut out the bits he thought I shouldn't read. However, in between the ragged holes, I discovered the columns of Cassandra, the unique investigative reports of John Pilger, and the big name interviews of legendary showbiz writer Donald Zec. I still remember how I felt. I was captivated. From that moment, and whilst I also harboured an early desire to one day become a writer capable of producing a novel, there was never any doubt about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.

It was not all plain sailing. Miss Edwards, known unaffectionately as Ted, my diminutive English teacher at Bideford's strictly Methodist Edgehill College, the direct grant school where I was a grammar school pupil, was distinctly unimpressed.

'Well, at least you're tall, girl,' she remarked. 'You'll be able to look over people's heads.'

Undeterred, I stuck to my guns. Though I must admit that I was probably even more astonished than the dreaded Ted when, as a17-year-old school-leaver, I managed to l and a place on the newly launched Daily Mirror Training Scheme. And although Miss E had doubtless meant the remark most unkindly, found later that being nearly 6ft tall was indeed extremely useful if embroiled in a media scrum.

When I began, Fleet Street was, of course, very nearly respectable. Hacking, was something you did on horseback. And the term tabloid was not well know in the UK except within the press itself, and then used according to its correct definition, a newspaper of half size.

I started as a general news reporter. They were heady years. I really did turn up at the office every morning not knowing where I would end up that evening. Aged just 23 I was sent to Greece to find Zorba the Greek composer Mikos Theodorakis after The Greek Colonels were overthrown. During their regime he had been jailed and his music banned. When I arrived in Athens his music was being played everywhere. I tracked down Theodorakis who gave me a splendid interview and the piece duly appeared in my newspaper as a centre page spread - it was an example of what I was always taught tabloid journalism should be about, taking a complex story of immense importance and representing it in an instantly accessible way. The newspaper was The Sun. Yes, the Sun. Hard to imagine such an assignment being given to one of its reporters nowadays.

I went on to specialise as a showbusiness journalist, becoming Showbusiness Editor of three national newspapers including The Mail on Sunday and The Daily Mirror, the paper I'd dreamed of working for, and assistant editor of one.

It was only when I was about to leave the Daily Mirror, my last staff job in newspapers, in 1993 that I realised my other dream.

Turning out at home one day I found at the back of a cupboard a messy couple of chapters and a rough outline for a book which was to become my first novel, The Cruelty of Morning. I had started it some twenty years previously while holidaying at a friend's mountain home in Austria. Every day for a week I sat outside at a garden table in the sunshine tapping away on my little Olivetti typewriter. Then I forgot all about it for two decades.
The Cruelty of Morning was accepted by Heinemann early in 1994 and published the following year. It combined murder with rather large helpings of raunchy sex, and proved curiously, I always thought, quite controversial. After all, the vast majority of murders committed in the UK are linked in some way with sex, and/or the emotional traumas of close personal relationships. But crime fiction had a rather cosier image back them.

My latest novel, The Cruellest Game, published by Pan Macmillan, is a psychological thriller inspired, like most of my books, by a real life event reported in the press. It focuses on the violent destruction of a seemingly perfect family when it is revealed that one of the family members has been hiding a devastating secret and indeed living a lie for many years.
blog
The book is largely set on Dartmoor, and, as ever, my research was completed first hand, walking the moors, talking to local people, police contacts, a pathologist, representatives of the local coroners' office, doctors, lawyers, and others.

Looking back at my earlier books, No Reason to Die was probably the most controversial, inspired by the notorious series of unexplained deaths at Deepcut Barracks and elsewhere within the British Army. The families of several of the dead soldiers kindly placed their trust in me and worked with me in order to produce a complex conspiracy theory which, while presented as fiction, spme of them believed might have come uncannily close to the truth. The Times described me as 'keeping on the public agenda the stories our masters would prefer buried.' As an old Mirror hand I was deeply flattered.

When The Dead Cry Out drew on my own real life experience of living next door to a murderer. Its inspiration is the case of John Allen, my friend and neighbour during the 1980s, who in 2003 was found guilty of the murder of his wife and two children 27 years previously.

I have just completed a second new novel, to be published next year. Instead of being set in primarily a West Country location, like almost all of my previous books, Friends To Die For is based in the Covent Garden area of London, which I have come to know almost as well and love almost as much as the west of England. And I think it is the location that has probably given this book a rather more hard boiled flavour - but then, that's how things are in a capital city, I reckon.

I share my life with my partner, the actress Amanda Barrie, and, with our little brown dog Coco, a cross between a poodle and a patterdale terrier. We divide our time between my house in rural Somerset and her flat at the heart of Covent Garden.