I like all the man-alone heroes such as James Bond and Jack Reacher and Philip Marlowe but I knew that my guy – Max – would have some sort of family. And that’s why he has a dog and a daughter. It took a while from that first night for the first Max Wolfe boom to be published – The Murder Bag came out in 2014 – but I wanted to get it right. I talked about it with my wife and my agent and I cashed in my pension, all my life savings, so that I could write the book without a contract. It took a couple of years to write The Murder Bag but we sold it in 24 hours. I knew that I had to start all over again and be chosen by a new publisher who was passionate about the book. I couldn’t just let my old publisher put my first crime book out as if it was just a passing whim on my part. I had a lot riding on that first Max Wolfe book. That is why it is so good.
The first piece of journalism that I wrote after leaving my job on New Musical Express was with the vice squad at West End Central. I liked the idea of Max being in West End Central – this is a massive police station on Savile Row – because New Scotland Yard would have been a bit predictable and a bit of a cliché. I was keen to avoid all clichés and at the time, I had never been inside New Scotland Yard and I felt a bit more of an affinity for West End Central. But it all started with the conversation with Sam Mendes. His love of the Ian Fleming books inspired me to read them again myself, and that gave birth to Max Wolfe.
Treebeard: Max Wolf is still a DC and yet is usually lead detective on some brutally difficult cases. Has he decided to stay at this level or is it the police who are not promoting him?
Tony: I keep him as a DC simply because I like the idea of his rank being memorable. I am not that fussy about keeping it realistic. I have spent a lot of time around the police now and I am very happy when policemen, or retired cops, tell me they like my books. But I want them to be authentic – they don’t need to be 100%. For example, I had the idea in my head that Max would go down to the basement of West End Central and there would be thousands of confiscated knives on tables as Max looked for a murder weapon. And the scene worked – and that’s more important than what might really be in the basement of West End Central – which is probably a canteen! A lot of this stuff just has to feel right – and keeping Max as a DC rather than promote him feels right. He does have a Queen’s Police Medal, which is the highest award for bravery a cop can receive. So, he is doing all right!