Money, love, murder waylay Jack, a builder. He is Working on a summerhouse for a millionaire couple. It seems a dream job, it pays well. But he’s out of his league when he falls for their secretary, becoming so entangled in their scheming, that he’s primes suspect for murder and has to become detective. First in the Jack of All Trades series.
Targeted Age Group:: 20 to 90
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to write a crime series, as I am a crime reader. I didn't want a cop as a main character. Although I am law abiding I don't feel comfortable around the police. There are good cops but some behave badly, and can be used by the state. So not a cop. I needed then a main character whose job would take him to different places, each to be a setting for the crime. And homed in on a builder, someone without a university education but a lot of savvy, short of money, a few personal problems, single so there could be romance sub plots. That was enough. I just had to think of the first place he would work, and who else might be there. And of course, someone would be murdered.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I started with Jack, my main character. He is a builder, always short of money. I had to give him some problems, otherwise he's bland. He's an ex alcoholic and from time to time falls off the wagon. He's divorced and has a 10 year old daughter, who he looks after a few days a week. That gives me Jack, his daughter and his ex. Wherever he works, there has to be people in conflict. I decided in the first book, Jack of All Trades, that it would be a millionaire couple. They are at war, both having affairs. That was enough to begin. I got Jack working on their summer house, the wife sizing him up, the husband figuring that he can use Jack against her. So its work, the couple, Jack bouncing between them. There's her secretary, some love interest. There's a cook too. That was people enough for me to explore them further in the writing. I am experienced enough to know I had to keep the plot tight, if the book is going to work. Money, love, murder.
Planing made him feel like a real carpenter. All the curls of shiny wood, the whoosh and certainty of it. Sharp steel, a long run down the edge, the resin smell intermingled with his sweat. An eighth of an inch to take off. Too little to saw, a lot to plane. There was probably a better way, but at least planing was safer. He could have used a power plane, but there was no muscle in it. It made him feel part of a machine, whereas this had the freedom of a gymnast.
It’s all in the marking up, his dad used to say. That and sharp tools. Nothing about a sharp workman, though he wasn’t bad at carpentry. The problem with calling yourself a builder was that clients expected you to be good at everything. Mostly he could pull it off, though there had been one or two close shaves he’d rather not think about. We’ve all been there, said Bob, talking about their near misses. Thank you, Bob, he thought. But it shouldn’t be a question of what you can get away with.
Better than he was, though. Some of those earlier jobs he’d had to come back and redo, and still left a grudging customer. But wasn’t that the way with every builder? No one had all the skills. You come in as a carpenter and they want more and more of you. Plastering, plumbing, roofing. So you say yes to get the work. Learn on the job.
And hope you can get away with it.
Plane a bit, try it, plane some more. Getting even along the length, that was tricky. But the window mustn’t be wobbly in the frame. He looked again at the pencil mark, too up and down along the length. He glanced up, her indoors was looking at him. Trying to ignore her, he did a couple of long runs to get the bumps out. Then concentrated on one of the ups. He’d never liked teak, at least he thought it was teak. He should look at the label. Sound more of a carpenter. Teak this, teak that, shake his head and suck in a long breath with a pencil behind his ear.
Six of the bastards to get in.
A bigger job than he was used to. In Chigwell of all places. Less than ten miles from Forest Gate where he lived, but a universe away in lifestyle. Poshland for East End gangsters going legit, footballers with their wives and girlfriends, division two entertainers. This summerhouse. It was bigger than his flat. And talk about demanding. Jack could change a lock, fit a new door, put a fence up, concrete a path fairly confidently. Handyman stuff. You can do this one, insisted Bob, his old mucker, who’d come back off holiday from Egypt with an attack of enteric fever. Nearly died. And passed this job on to him. Up your street, mate. Just a small repair job. Oh sure. How it grew! They kept adding bits. New windows, then new roof, new floor. They kept piling stuff on. The small repair job ballooned. All it needed was new walls to make it a 100% renewal.
And he’d said, yes I can do it. Sure, no trouble. Getting way beyond his comfort zone into plumbing and electrics. And he was nodding like a dog in a car window. Sure, no trouble.
The sort of garden shelter he was used to was more like a shed without windows, a gazebo. Somewhere to sit out in fine weather, a sort of Wendy house for grown ups; a single space with benches, you could just about get a table and a couple of chairs in. This one made him think of rich Russians, their dachas, the whole family migrating in summer time. A Russian builder he’d worked with once had told him about them. This had a kitchen, toilet and shower, with two large rooms and a small one – it was out of his world. A summerhouse! He’d move in tomorrow.
He’d heard of writers writing in a shed, but you’d scarcely call this a shed. And why would you want a shower? For a steamy sex scene. And then a second room? A kitchen? She’s a writer not a cook, so he’d heard.
There was a sofa bed in one room. What was that used for? Guests, was the innocent thought, but the way she moved when she was here an hour ago, talking about the job, a hand on her hip, tight skirt and cavernous cleavage, and that sly grin gave him other thoughts. You don’t dress like that unless… you’re ready for it. He shook his head. Plane, saw, hammer. Head down, do the job. Drive back to Forest Gate without a stain on his character.
But you just never know. You think she’s got to be up for it, but then again… That teacher who’d slapped his face and yelled at him for a drunken fumble. But how do you know if you don’t try? Not that drink gives you the sharpest eye.
Tell me, tell me.
He rested for a breather, looking across the manicured lawn to the house. He couldn’t get over working in Chigwell. The size of the rooms in the house itself, like halls, a semicircle of cream leather sofas that could seat ten. What would this house be worth? Two, three million… How would he know? But it made you realise the difference, the space, the way these people lived. And of course, how they see the rest of us. Those who didn’t live on Manor Road, Chigwell. Their army of workers, to be employed when needed, and complained about.
She was still looking out of the window. Maybe she was thinking about the sofa bed. Or maybe that he should get a move on, as she wanted her summerhouse back.
He’d hoped Bob was recovered enough for the electrics. He didn’t want to use Joe again. More of a cowboy than he was himself. At least he knew his weaknesses, admitted them, whereas Joe was all bullshit. In my country we do it like this. Sure, sure. But in my country, Joe, it has to work.
For at least as long as it takes the cheque to clear.
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