Short, punchy, with a likeable detective who has a knack of getting information out of people, Ric Brady’s series of Yorkshire mystery novels have proved popular with fans of crime fiction, and a must-have for anyone who is fond of their setting in God’s own county. We spoke to Ric Brady to find out more.
TBF: For anyone who knows the region, the descriptions of Yorkshire village life are spot on. Did you grow up in that area? What was that like?
RB: Yes, I grew up in the rural parts of West Yorkshire.
For years, I took it as a given that everyone went to schools that had playing fields and could build dens in forests or play in the nearby rivers in the summer. It wasn’t until I moved to a city that I realised it was very rare, which made me appreciate how fortunate I was to have had such a childhood.
TBF: The landscape is one of the main characters, always present as more than a background. Do you visualise it as you write?
RB: Definitely. My mind wanders off and I find myself imagining walking those moors or standing in the grassy fields, and I can see everything. It’s great since I now live in France and I rarely get homesick. When I miss Yorkshire, I just sit down and write. It feels like I’m back home, walking around my village.
TBF: Tell us about your main character, Henry Ward. He’s a bit of an anti-hero figure; quite unfit; forced to retire under dubious circumstances; elderly. Where did you draw your inspiration for him?
RB: Henry Ward just popped into my head one day. I had an image of a man in his sixties walking his dog in the fields around Addingham, and the rest of his personality came out throughout the rest of the first novel. I’m glad he’s a bit of an anti-hero, as I like characters who have their flaws, but despite them, do heroic things. Henry tries to do his best for his community and right the wrongs he finds. I think if everyone was a bit like Henry, maybe the world would be a better place.
He can be blunt with people, which I think is a Yorkshire trait as we don’t generally suffer fools and don’t take much nonsense. As for Henry’s health issues, I started writing the series after the Covid lockdowns, and I felt as if I was just coming out of hibernation. So my fitness levels weren’t very good. Plus, Henry’s bad hips came from my own experiences, as I’ve had congenital hip issues which have required lots of surgery to sort out. So, being gruff and moody due to hip pain is unfortunately something I know first-hand.
TBF: Some of the best humour in your books plays out in the way Henry Ward reacts to younger people treating him like a bit of an idiot just because he is old. You yourself are quite young… is there a guilty conscience at play here?
RB: Possibly, though I try to respect my elders. I think some of it comes from the fact that I’m an English teacher in France, and I often get some students being lippy because they see me as being old. But on the whole, I think society dismisses the views and knowledge of older generations, which isn’t the best thing to do as older generations have so much to teach the younger ones.
TBF: Your books are full of humorous banter. Where do you get your best ideas for a punchy dialogue?
RB: The dialogue comes from the characters themselves. I like putting Jean Whitehead and Henry together because they just bicker and wind each other up. It’s possibly a northern thing, but winding people up is a sign of affection rather than just being rude. It’s how we communicate. This doesn’t always translate in France, where people sometimes think I’m just being rude with them. I do also love classic British comedies, where characters bicker and argue. My favourites for this would be Blackadder and The Thick Of It.
TBF: There’s a backstory to Henry Ward that you haven’t really told us about yet. Do you plan to?
RB: I think it will come out in later books, as some of them might focus more on the cases he’s investigated, similar to Butcher on the Moor. But I think having his backstory vague adds some mystique to him. He’s an honourable man, but we don’t really know what he got up to in his long police career. I think there’s a reason why he had alcohol issues in the past. His family life is also something I think will come out more.
TBF: You mentioned living in France. Tell us a little about your life on the other side of La Manche.
RB: There was a learning curve at first, as my grasp on the language wasn’t as good as it should have been. But after ten years, I’ve managed to fit myself into the culture here. In my opinion, the way of life is plus agréable as there’s always new things to learn or experience. And the food is fantastic, though I miss British foods like Sunday roasts and Chocolate Hobnobs. Having a cupboard full of Yorkshire Tea is a must. I think the most interesting thing about living abroad is that you can look back at your own culture and see it from a distance. Then you notice little things, mannerisms, ways of talking, cultural concepts, that you’ve never questioned before.
TBF: Why France? Is there a family connection?
RB: I do have a slight family connection to France. My grandmother’s family came from Brittany and moved to England during the war. I’ve always been fascinated by France and its culture: its food, its history, its philosophical tilt. And I’m a fan of French literature, with Émile Zola being a favourite. My partner is French, and when we had the opportunity to move over here, I thought ‘why not?’. It was only meant to be temporary, but after ten years, we’re still here. I’m now even a French citizen and have had to learn La Marseillaise, which I can mumble my way through quite convincingly.
TBF: What do you enjoy most about writing?
RB: As mentioned, I love being transported back to Yorkshire while I write. I also love spending time with Henry and the other characters, and just listening to them witter at each other. Saying that, writing is a very demanding task, and I do a lot of research to make sure all the details and facts are correct (with varying degrees of success).
TBF: Tell us a little about how you plot your books and what your writing routine is like.
RB: I usually have a basic idea of how I’d like the plot to go and then start writing. I never know who the killer is until the end, as I find that if I know who it is, my subconscious makes it too obvious to readers. I do sometimes get nervous near the end of the book, and I still don’t know who the killer is, but I usually trust Henry to work that out, and he always does. While writing, I keep a file about the case details, noting everything down. Sometimes I feel like I’m a detective myself, trying to figure it out. But I’ve trained myself to let the characters work out who the killer is. Henry’s a better detective than I ever could be.
I mostly write in the mornings, and when I’m not teaching, I have the time to write all day. But I rarely write for more than four hours in a day, as it is very taxing and fries my brain. But it’s something I love doing and would do even if I wasn’t published.
TBF: Which authors have influenced you the most?
RB: I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. The authors who’ve really influenced me are Ian Rankin, Patricia Highsmith, Daphne Du Maurier, John Grisham, Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie, and Dennis Lehane.
TBF: What are you reading at the moment?
RB: I’ve just finished the book A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton, which was a really fun read. I read a short story of hers and loved it, and then found her series. A friend suggested I read the books by James Lee Burke, and I’m currently reading the first in the Dave Robicheaux series. It’s amazing. The descriptions are out of this world.