No, that’s not a school teacher style address.
From his 2007 novel ‘I Predict a Riot’, until the last two books in his Dan Starkey series, Colin Bateman had his works branded with surname only (as the dedication of that novel states: “For my Christian name, gone but not forgotten“, or as Bateman himself announced on his blog: There will be no more Colin Bateman books. It’s official. It seems that the name ‘Colin’ isn’t sufficiently ‘action’ enough, and the decision has been taken by my publishers to drop the Christian name from the front covers. In future I’ll just be ‘Bateman’. I’m a brand! I will also need to acquire some muscles, and perhaps a tattoo to go with my new image. There are also some rather tasty new cover designs on the way.
Just think of that: an author as a ‘brand‘ who still writes his own material (yes, I’m looking at you James Patterson…)
Like the other authors in this series, it’s a name (be it full or mononymous) I look for as soon as a new work comes out – although according to Mr. Bateman himself, that may be some time as nowadays he’s spending most of his time working in movies and TV…but more of that later.
Originally a newspaperman, Bateman released his debut novel ‘Divorcing Jack’ in 1995, a year after it won the Betty Trask award as a manuscript (an award for first novels written by authors under the age of 35, who reside in a current or former Commonwealth nation) – the first in what was to become a (so far) 10 book series featuring Dan Starkey – a Private Investigator fulfilling all the clichés – cynical, hard-drinking, in a troublesome marriage. A typical PI then, other than the fact that Starkey is a journalist: a profession which, in his novels, manages to play with the PI genre conventions in some new and interesting ways. My own first encounter with Starkey, and by extension, Bateman was the second novel in the series published a year later, ‘Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men’. I picked it up at the time being a huge boxing fan and intrigued by the back cover blurb which described the story of Bobby Fat Boy McMaster, a journeyman boxer picked as Mike Tyson’s next opponent and Dan Starkey, tasked with writing the book about him and who, ultimately, find out who has kidnapped the Fat Boy’s wife in the build up to the title fight taking place on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve always enjoyed reading (well-written) novels by authors who manage to blend real-life characters with their own fiction and OWSMaM sucked me right in, sending me out straight after finishing it to find the previous novel, and the then recently published stand-alone ‘Cycle of Violence’.
By the time I’d read the first three of Bateman’s book I’d come to know what to expect from his writing – and I mean that in the most positive way: cracking dialogue, strong doses of humour (often jet-black), well-plotted mysteries, and, generally, likeable losers. Nothing wrong with any of that in my book.
Between 1995 and 2016 Bateman was prodigious in his output: as well as the 10 Dan Starkey novels, he released 9 stand-alones, 2 Murphy novels (Murphy’s Law was originally a TV series written by Bateman and produced as a BBC TV series which ran for 5 seasons starring James Nesbitt. In the subsequent novel Bateman changed the protagonist’s name from Tommy to Martin – partly in recognition of the novelist’s recognition that even the most involved author cannot hope to maintain full creative rights when a work passes into the TV/ Movie adaptation world, and therefore staking his claim on his own creation in print form. ), and my personal favourite series – the four Mystery Man novels featuring a nameless book-seller suffering from hypochondria, an unseen mother who may well bring back memories of a certain Mrs. Bates, a hatred of pretty much everything and everyone around him, and a penchant for getting into all sorts of trouble. The man with no name has to be one of the most likable unlikable characters in print, and the novels are a treasure chest for crime/ flick geeks with references peppered all over the place by the ‘know more than anyone else’ smart arse protagonist that us fellow smart arses can smile smugly at as we ‘get it’: hey, even the titles raise a grin for us: The Day of the Jack Russell (2009), Dr. Yes (2010) and The Prisoner of Brenda (2012) all following up the original Mystery Man
In addition to the adult fare, Bateman has also produced a number of children’s books (or YA if you prefer): three books in the SOS series, two in the Titanic 2020 series, and my son’s personal favourites – three in the Eddie and the Gang With No Name series: I think it says something that when #1 son went off to University three years ago to start his Creative Writing degree I spied in his bag of books, among the Mailer, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Kerouac, a very battered, much-read copy of ‘Reservoir Pups’, the first in the series…(“Antony Horowitz gets all the plaudits for his kids books, but I think Colin Bateman is a preferable writer” said he.)
As well as the sheer enjoyment factor of his writing, Bateman has been, in my opinion, something of a front runner as a mainstream published author who has looked to do something different with his works – one of the earliest to embrace the possibilities of new era ‘self-publishing’ through e-books: his novel Papercuts (based on his own work writing 14 episodes for the Irish language TV series ‘Scup’ (or ‘Scoop’)) was later released in chap-books which work well as individual pieces or as the complete book), and re-working of existing works like the Eddie books. Ahead of the crowd, back in 2003 Bateman ran a Kickstarter campaign to publish five rare short stories ‘Dublin Express’ (and a very good collection of shorts it is, too.)
The quality of Bateman’s world creation is evident in the amount of interest shown towards his work by TV and Film – the original novel ‘Divorcing Jack’ was made into a 1998 movie starring David Thewlis and Jason Isaacs. Under-seen, the film’s popularity with those that actually got to see it is pretty impressive, as is Wild about Harry (2000) – another strong cast/ little seen piece. In addition to the aforementioned Murphy’s Law and Scup, he has also written for various well-known series including Rebus and Doc Martin, and has a wealth of projects currently described as ‘in development’.
As stated at the beginning of this article, Bateman’s time is increasingly being spent on TV and movie projects, so while it may be a while before we see the next print work hit the shelves, there’s still plenty to look forward to: his latest work Driven, a ‘based on the real event’ tale of John DeLorean and the infamous scandal, closed the 75th Venice International Film Festival, and was the special gala presentation at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival and is due for wide release early 2019.
Ultimately it all comes down to the writing, which I go back to again and again, but for me Bateman is also a great example of a writer not satisfied to do just one thing – to explore and be very actively involve with other media ventures, and, if it’s not happening via publishers etc., to just get on and do it.
Some recommended reading/ viewing: (available in Kindle and Paperback…)