Lights, Camera, Murder! The Concert Hall Killer by Jonathan Whitelaw

Writing.ie | Magazine | Crime | Interviews
The Concert Hall Killer

By Jonathan Whitelaw

I have very fond memories of murder. Okay, maybe I`m being a LITTLE over dramatic with that opening gambit. Perhaps the better way of putting it would be that I have fond memories of murder on TV. The fictional kind of course.

I grew up in the 1990s. And while I’ve instantly dated myself, it felt like almost every night there was another police procedural show that dominated the major networks. With decades to go before Netflix, Prime and everyone else got into the blockbuster drama series – the BBC and ITV were churning out series after series of ‘crime of the week’ drama that’s had a lasting effect on me.

The art of the TV cop show isn’t new, but it felt like in the 1990s, it came into its own. With the likes of Taggart, Spender, Morse, A Touch of Frost, Dalziel and Pascoe, Poirot and Midsomer Murders to name a small few, there was no shortage of grizzly, gritty, grim and gruesome crime drama to take in. Indeed, from Sunday to Thursday nights, you’d be hard pressed NOT to come across at least ONE of these shows. And sometimes you’d be treated to a multi-night story.

I watched all of these growing up. Fond memories prevail of sitting in my grandmother’s flat, the lights out, all the murder and mayhem playing on the screen. It wasn’t for the faint of heart, specially for somebody my age. But that reassuring hand on my shoulder and being told “it’s only ketchup, don’t worry” was enough to keep me glued.

So what’s caused this merry-old trip down memory lane for me? Simple. When it came to the setting and themes of my new Bingo Hall Detectives novel, I knew EXACTLY the world I wanted to set it in – TV drama.

Jonathan Whitelaw c. BSPortraits

The Concert Hall Killer is the third in the series. It once again sees nosey pensioner Amita Khatri and her grumbling son-in-law hot on the heels of a serial killer (my first) in Penrith and the Lake District. A TV cop show has come to town to film the latest series. And when the director and lead actor meet their premature ends, it’s up to our heroes to help the police catch the killer.

The world of TV and film has always fascinated me from a very young age. I’m a total geek when it comes to movies and shows. Being brought up on a healthy diet of Star Trek, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and a 90s Gerry Anderson revival will do that to a person. But there was always something otherworldly about cop shows. How did they capture that sense of dread so well? How could an actor pretend to be a detective, or indeed, an extra pretend to be dead like that? It was utterly fascinating.

Growing up in Glasgow, we were never short of spotting filming in and around the city. Taggart, that no-nonsense, often quite brutal Scottish cop show, was filmed across the whole of Scotland. Indeed, from being very young right the way through to my university days, it was almost impossible NOT to come across the film crews and cast doing their thing on the city’s streets.

One element I hoped to capture in The Concert Hall Killer is that sense of place and the part the public plays in these shows. Many cop dramas feature their locations as integral parts of the storyline. Taggart with Glasgow, Morse with Oxford, Bergerac in Jersey and even more recently Happy Valley’s stunning portrayal of West Yorkshire. Indeed, one of my favourite parts of watching TV was to try and spot places that I knew. You got bonus points if it was school or close to your own house. Absolutely thrilling.

Having my amateur sleuths Amita and Jason be in and around a film set has been, you’ll not be surprised to hear, a total treat. To write their enthusiasm, not to mention immeasurable pride, in their hometown being featured on the big screen was intoxicating. And the great magic of TV production is that we all feel this way. I defy anyone who hasn’t watched something close to home and NOT looked out for the mundane, the hum-drum, the deeply personal connections being paraded on prime time TV. Truly, it’s a magical experience.

As is always the case when you’re a crime writer, you inevitably have to throw in a murder or two to this sense of wonder and magic. Call it a professional hazard, if you will. And while this may be Amita and Jason’s first serial killer adventure (never say never when it comes to a serial killer) – they still get the chance to marvel at having a big production on their doorstep. Who wouldn’t?

The Concert Hall Killer is my ode to that extended sense of community that we all feel when we’re watching TV and film drama. While the chaos unfolds on the screen, we know we’re safe. Yet we still sense danger, we feel every blow, every stab, every punch, kick and shove when it’s happening on OUR streets, in OUR town. I think that’s a very special sensation, and one that’s never left me, all these decades later. Hopefully, The Concert Hall Killer conveys some of that gratitude I feel towards these wonderful shows. If not, at least there’s a juicy whodunnit to solve. And who can argue with that?

(c) Jonathan Whitelaw

Author photograph (c) BSPortraits

About The Concert Hall Killer by Jonathan Whitelaw:

Lights, camera, murder!
In the Lake District, someone’s laying on a deadly welcome…

The cast and crew of a popular TV crime drama are shooting in the Lake District – but behind the scenes, relationships are as tense as on-screen. The director’s reputation proceeds him, the two lead stars are feuding and rumours swirl.

Meanwhile the locals are enjoying the filming – Amita Kahtri and her friends from Penrith Bingo Club are becoming social media stars with their behind the scenes pictures from filming – although her son-in-law, Jason is taking it all with a pinch of salt.

But when on-screen slaughter gets swapped for real-life murder at the concert hall where the TV drama is based, and the genuine police are as baffled as the TV detectives, it falls to the locals to search for the truth. It seems like a taste of fame can be deadly – but what happens when a killer’s plots are wilder than anything the writers can dream up?

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Jonathan Whitelaw is an award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster. After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism, covering everything from sports to music to radioactive waste – and everything in between. He’s also a regular reviewer, podcaster panellist and commentator.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books