David Gant Benson
David Gant Benson's first novel, 'The Jacks' was published in mid-2020.
David was born and educated in Blackpool. He joined a North-West Police Force in 1963. His police career ended in 1990 with him retiring in the rank of Chief Inspector. David and his wife now live in North Yorkshire.
David kindly agreed to an interview at the end of March 2019.
SMP: Good afternoon, David. I’ve a few surprise questions for you… I asked you for biographical items and examples of your work for your page on the SMP website and was pretty shocked by what you sent me. Shocked in a good way! You say about your poetic works, that they ‘may not tick the boxes for real poets but… reflect my views on life… You make your mind up. I won’t be offended’. With that write-up, I wasn’t expecting much, but what you sent were, to my mind, glorious. I absolutely love your poetic style and it totally ticks my poetic boxes! First of all, can you tell us what was the story behind ‘Last Post’? I’ve reproduced it here on your author page.
D : It is not an attack on social media as a medium of communication. It is a comment on those who use it as a vehicle to express their contempt for others. They might be a minority, but they cause a disproportionately high amount of offence and concern to their victims.
SMP: I actually laughed quite a bit at your poem, ‘Hopeless’. Absolutely brilliant and so clever. Was the poem born from writing group criticism? Or are you lucky, like me, to be part of an amazingly supportive writers’ network? Tell us about your writing group experiences…
D: It was joining a writers’ group that got me started. Like many others, I always thought that I had enough material gained from my work and other life experiences to write a book, but I hadn’t a clue where to begin. My first experiences of reading out what I had written to the group were nerve racking, but we were all in the same boat. I have always been prepared to listen and learn and if criticism is constructive, I don’t have a problem with it. I quickly realised that I could write prose and did have an imagination, something that I’d never recognised before. However, to begin with my writing style was immature and I had the good sense to realise that. The members of the group were great in helping me develop a more grown-up style. In the past year I have tried my hand at poetry. Well, I call it poetry, but others in the group might argue otherwise. I would describe my style as being more Roger McGough than Wordsworth.
SMP: That explains why I love it so much! So, ‘The Jacks’ is to be your first novel. Could you let our readers know where the title comes from please?
D: ‘Jacks’ is a colloquial expression. In the fifties and sixties members of the CID in North-West Police Forces were often referred to as ‘Jacks.’ This was particularly so in Liverpool. Some believe that the expression originated in Australia where it was used to refer to detectives, but no-one is really sure.
SMP: Police procedures are something that many non-police writers struggle with. You have a distinct advantage over most of us because of your long career in the police force. Could you tell me a little about your career background, please?
D: I joined the police in 1963, almost a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis and a month before the assassination of President JF Kennedy. Early in my service I became a detective. I was in the CID for eight years until I was promoted to Uniform Sergeant. Later I spent time as an instructor at a National Detective Training School. I was subsequently promoted to Uniform Inspector, a rank that I held until 1986 when I was promoted to Chief Inspector - the rank that I held on my retirement from the Service.
SMP: What about your current writing projects? Is there anything bubbling under at present?
D: I have ideas for a follow-up to 'The Jacks: The Camera Never Lies'. So far, it is rather unimaginatively called 'Jacks 2'. I want to write a few more poems and maybe put together an anthology. At the moment, it would be called ‘A Mixed Bag.’ That’s exactly what it would be, a mix of comedy, tragedy and fairy stories.
SMP: You say you’ve only been writing for about three years. What was it that encouraged the start of your writing?
D I was a great reader of crime novels and read a few by well-acknowledged crime writers that disappointed me. It sounds arrogant but I thought that I had more credible ideas for plots. Finding and joining the writers’ group was the impetus that I needed to get started. I would encourage anyone who wants to try writing to join a group.
SMP: And what’s your writing technique? Do you write directly onto the computer, or work in longhand first then type up? Do you have a special time and place for your creative work? What about the things that stop you from writing?
D: I write in my home office where I use a laptop from the very start. I make great use of the ‘cut and paste’ and ‘read aloud’ functions in Word 2016. It’s useful to hear your written words turned into speech, particularly, when you write dialogue, which I do a lot of. I tend to write in the evenings, but if I get an idea at any time, I want to get it down before it leaves me. I have yet to experience writers’ block, but I have had other problems in writing a novel of 108,000 words. The main issue is keeping track of times and places and not getting things out of sync. For example, placing a character in two places at once. I have developed my own methodology for trying to avoid such issues, but they still creep in.
SMP: Thanks so much for your answers. We’ll talk more soon!