Thugs take offence at a poetry reading and so track a student through the streets of a county town. The results are savage. There are enough seeds in the tale for an English crime novel. D.D. Johnston was that student, doing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire. It’s a tough episode of true crime. Read his vivid tale in The Gloucestershire Echo.
D.D. had his own sense of the psychological thriller he wanted to write. It hadn’t worked in draft. Maybe when menace ratcheted out of nowhere to smash him in the face it gave the book that hard edge it wanted. The Secret Baby Room is suffused on the surface with neighbourliness and the domestic drama of regular lives. Menace lives beneath the surface.
D.D. Johnston has written movingly (and with wry humour) about the genesis of the novel, drawn from his time in South Manchester, in this Northern Soul essay. Life fuels a lot of his writing. Keen readers who soak up his brilliant The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub (long listed for the Goldsmith Prize) can now detect the autobiographical pulse in the novel, when a creative writing student in Cheltenham is tracked down after a poetry reading, and hell breaks loose.