Joseph Stark hails from the historic naval town of Gosport, near Portsmouth on England’s southern shore, and arrived in London via Iraq and Afghanistan. Little wonder he doesn’t really understand the capital. But then who really does? London is a big city with a long history; it didn’t just arrive, whole, laid out in grid form to a masterplan – it grew. And as it did so it swallowed up the fields and rivers, villages and towns around it, consuming great swathes of surrounding counties until it became a county of its own, Greater London, subdivided into thirty-two boroughs named, inevitably, after the fields, rivers, villages and towns it subsumed. And this, perhaps, is one way to get a handle on the place – don’t think of it as one, think of it as many, each fiercely proud or independently indifferent, or both, but with few boarders distinguishable to the outsider.
I considered a more provincial setting for Stark’s world but London had so much more to offer. At the same time I wanted to ground the story solidly but London just felt too big for that. The London Metropolitan Police (The Met) understand this too, and divide it up into separate borough forces. I chose the Royal Borough of Greenwich because I know South-East London and Kent borders better than other parts of the city, and Greenwich has so many layers – the rich history set against the brash modernist backdrop of the Docklands and the Millennium Dome, the bohemian chic against the moneyed aspiration, the covered market, Greenwich Park, the river Thames, the woodlands, the pockets of life, the street by street juxtaposition of wealth and poverty that defines big cities radiating out across the borough through industry and suburbs. I like how alien if feels to Stark. To say that Joseph Stark is a London detective is to overlook the baffling complexity of the place. He is a detective in London.
Here are some photos of key scenes from IF I SHOULD DIE.
And here’s some key locations from BETWEEN THE CROSSES