Book Club: Literary City: The Sheffield Connection

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When you think of a setting for a psychological thriller, where do you imagine?

A train line into London? Small town Missouri? The Louvre museum in Paris?

Or what about our very own steel city? Graduate of the Sheffield Hallam creative writing MA, Russ Thomas, has been snapped up by Simon & Schuster in a two book deal, with the

Sheffield-set thriller Firewatching due for publication in Spring 2020.

Thomas credits the tuition at the university with helping him to shape his craft.

“I learned an awful a lot during my time at Sheffield Hallam” he says.

“Mostly, what I got out of it was a chance to realise that I was a writer. My professors were fundamental in drawing this out”.

The programme allowed Thomas to build up his confidence and find his voice.

“I felt incredibly unsure of myself as a writer, and if I’m honest as a person.

“Sharing your work is always difficult but people on the course were really encouraging and the feedback was fundamental to developing my skills”.

Insider trading, embezzlement, and a mysterious disappearance are just some of the

highlights of the book, which began its life as Thomas’s MA thesis.

The main characters

work for South Yorkshire Police, and events unfold across the heart of the city and out into

the Peak District.

The novel begins with a search for Gerald Cartwright, who has been missing for six years,

after disappearing from his home in a village on the edge of the Peak District.

When Gerald’s body turns up, cold case expert, Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler is assigned to solve the crime.

He discovers, however, the main suspect is not only Gerald’s son, but also the man he had slept with the night before.

Thomas is confident that the novel’s conclusion will leave readers satisfied, yet equally

craving more.

He says: “I can remember submitting my first 10,000 words of the work that would later become Firewatching to my professor, Lesley Glaister. She said she enjoyed it

and that I knew how to write, but she pressed me further.”

She told him to go away and think about what could happen in the lives of the characters,

and why it would be crucial to shape the narrative.

“I had read a lot of Agatha Christie’s novels in my youth.

“So, when I left my meeting with

Lesley I thought, I know, I’ll just add in a body and see where things go.

“From there it just

took off. And I found myself becoming not only a writer, but a crime writer.”