A lot of people have been asking me about why I decided to choose the topic of the 1966 World Cup theft as the basis for my debut crime novel. Mixing fact with fiction can be a risky and challenging business of course, but basically two main things appealed to me:
1. I was surprised that there had never been a serious dramatisation/fictional depiction of this crime before. The theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy in March 1966 is, without doubt, one of Britain’s most enduring true-crime mysteries that remains unsolved to this day. Although the trophy was recovered (found in a London street by a dog named Pickles) in time for the famous tournament, the circumstances behind the theft and the criminals responsible have never been uncovered. The 60s London gangland culture/organised crime vibe has always interested me, from the dark, ambitious charm of the Great Train Robbery to the sinister but captivating Krays, so I thought there was ample scope to slot this kind of vintage (and not to mention violent) backdrop behind a thrilling portrayal of the mysterious trophy theft and a desperate chase for the ransom.
2. Always fascinated by organised crime, I’m particularly interested in the internal struggles and conflicts that crop up within a systematised criminal set-up. The Sopranos dissected this theme with delightful precision, and one episode in particular helped me pinpoint a major theme that influenced me to write a gangster crime novel. When Tony Soprano is hospitalised after being shot (by his Uncle as it goes), leading lieutenant Silvio Dante is handed the reins of Tony’s widespread criminal network. Silvio was a perfect lieutenant, enjoyed his major responsibility of managing the firm’s strip club, Bada Bing, and thrived in being a senior member of the gang. But being a trusted, resourceful number two with certain operational duties is a whole different game to being responsible for an entire empire, being the entrepreneur, the visionary, and the driving force behind the financial health of the whole firm, having the people skills and leadership qualities to settle all kind of disputes and make big decisions. And Silvio found, perhaps to his surprise, that he struggled to make those decisions and struggled to lead. The natural skillsets required in being a number one and a number two are vastly different, and are applicable in all walks of life from organised crime to the common workplace. Putting a character in that position, with circumstances forcing them from a number two role to number one, outside of their natural comfort zone and reflecting on how that impacts not just them but those around them, is an absorbing element of conflict and was therefore something I wanted to explore as a major theme in a novel.