Every Trick in the Book by Bernard O’Keefe

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Every Trick in the Book

By Bernard O'Keefe

Every Trick in the Book by Bernard O’Keefe

Any resemblance is entirely coincidental…

“This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental”

We’ve all read them – those disclaimers in the front of novels that tell the reader that what follows is not ‘true’. A novel, they say, is made up. It’s invented, a work of the imagination in which characters and events are the creations of the writer rather than representations of real people and events.

But despite these prefatory warnings (or maybe because of them), readers still like to speculate and look for similarities. “That journalist in your book, it’s Tom, isn’t it?” “You’ve based that lawyer on Nick, haven’t you?” “Is that murder victim a thinly disguised Sarah?”

Writers are usually quick to deny such accusations of real-life parallels. But in doing so they know it’s not quite as simple as they claim. Where else can they get their inspiration for characters and events if not from their observation of the real world and the people in it? That’s why writers look closely at what’s around them. That’s why so many carry a notebook to jot down things they hear people say or trawl the news for real stories that could spark an idea for a plot.

But writers aren’t only accused of putting other people in their novels – they’re also accused of having put themselves in. This has certainly been the case with me. Ever since the first DI Garibaldi novel, The Final Round , was published I’ve been asked how much the detective is based on me. Whenever I’m asked this I always gave an honest answer. Garibaldi lives in Barnes. So do I. Garibaldi can’t drive. Neither can I. Garibaldi is of Irish-Italian ancestry. So am I. Garibaldi likes country music. So do I. Garibaldi is a QPR season ticket-holder. And so, alas, am I.

So my honest answer is always the same – Garibaldi is not like me at all. There may be some similarities, but the detective remains a fictional construct. He’s not me.

This answer might not convince everyone, and in the same way prefatory disclaimers may do little to prevent readers speculating that a novel’s characters and events are based on real-life counterparts. Most readers confine their speculation to polite questioning, but some take legal action and some go even further. One such case is Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough. When Goldsborough read The Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig (written by David Graham Phillips and published in 1909) he was so convinced Phillips had based one of the characters in the book on his sister in an attempt to defame her that he didn’t bother to question him or take legal action. Instead, he shot the author six times.

Thinking about this case led me towards the idea for Every Trick in the Book, the third novel in the Garibaldi series. Its starting point is the murder of Liam Allerton, a retired teacher who has taken up crime writing. He has recently published his first novel, Schooled in Murder. Here’s its blurb –

When the body of Alex Ballantyne is found in Barnes Pond police are baffled. Who would kill the newly retired teacher? Investigations reveal that Ballantyne had been blackmailing several of his colleagues. Sex. Money. Drugs. It seems that Ballantyne knew all about his victims’ secrets, and they were prepared to pay to buy his silence.’

What’s alarming about the murder of Liam Allerton is that he has been killed in exactly the same place, and in exactly the same way, as the victim in his book. This eerie similarity between the death of the writer and the death of his character directs DI Garibaldi and his team to the pages of the crime novel, where they  discover more connections with real life.  Liam Allerton taught at a school which seems to be very similar to the one he describes in his novel. Could the characters he describes be similar to the teachers who work there? Could Liam Allerton, like the novel’s murder victim, have been blackmailing them? And, most importantly, could the key to the writer’s murder be hidden within the pages of his own novel?

Every Trick in the Book is a metafictional murder mystery, a crime novel about a crime novel in which the detective and his team swivel their gaze between the pages of a book and the real world.

It has at its heart the murder of a retired teacher who has taken up crime writing. As it happens, I too am a retired teacher who has taken up crime writing. So that victim’s a version of me, right? Of course not. To cite the disclaimer to be found in the front of novels, any resemblance is entirely coincidental.

(c) Bernard O’Keefe

About Every Trick in the Book by Bernard O’Keefe:

Every Trick in the Book

Sex, Money, Drugs…DI Garibaldi is on the case. DI Garibaldi and his team are shocked when they discover that local writer, Ben Joseph, has been killed in the same manner and at the same location as the victim in his crime novel ‘Schooled in Murder’, the night after appearing at the Barnes Book Festival. It transpires the author is in fact a retired private school teacher who has been blackmailing several of his colleagues. As the police delve into the links between fiction and reality, the question looms: could the key to the writer’s murder be hidden with the pages of his own novel?

Order your copy online here.

About the author

After graduating from Oxford, Bernard O’Keeffe taught English for many years before turning to crime writing. ‘The Final Round’, the first DI Garibaldi novel, was published in 2021. ‘Private Lessons’ was published in 2023 and the third in the series, ‘Every Trick in the Book’, is out in February 2024.

He sees Garibaldi as ‘the bastard son of Morse and Montalbano’ and admits to sharing some characteristics with his fictional detective, most notably Irish-Italian ancestry, an inability to drive, a love of country music and possession of a QPR season ticket.

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