North-east forensics expert to become fiction crime writer

A real life forensic sleuth-turned-academic has signed a multiple book deal that will see Robert Gordon University (RGU) become the setting of a brand new fictional crime series.  

Prof Dave Barclay book dealProfessor Dave Barclay, a senior lecturer at the university’s School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences and world renowned forensics expert, is currently putting the final touches to the first in an initial two-book run which he is co-authoring alongside British crime writer, Margaret Murphy.

Constable & Robinson will publish the first book, Dead Reckoning, in Spring 2013 under the pen name A D Garrett.

Formerly Head of the UK National Crime and Operations Faculty (NCOF) and a scientific advisor to the UK Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into Forensic Science, Professor Barclay was approached by literary agency, Curtis Brown, in 2010 after delivering a lecture at a national crime writer’s conference. The agency teamed him up with Margaret and subsequently facilitated a contract deal with Constable & Robinson.

Dead Reckoning follows Professor Nick Fennimore, a failed genetics student, a successful gambler and toxicology specialist who now lectures at RGU. In this inaugural adventure, Fennimore is approached by a young female senior investigating officer (SIO) who has hit upon her first murder case. Tension rises as the case rapidly becomes more complex, with Fennimore uncovering connections to a series of drug importations and other murders.  The young SIO encounters obstruction from within her force and it gradually emerges that there is a link between the drug dealers and a senior police officer.

Addressing the parallels between the fictional series and his own experiences as an academic and a regular advisor on live murder cases across the UK, Professor Barclay explains: “The home location of Fennimore is based at RGU, and everything to do with that aspect will be realistic such as the lecturing style, facilities and ethos of the department. However, the plot really doesn’t mirror RGU or any police force I know of, I’m glad to say!”

Moving on to describe the central character, admitting certain characteristics bear a close similarity to his own, Professor Barclay continues: “Fennimore is someone who enjoys puzzles and drawing inferences, devising hypotheses to prove or disprove later. He is an ideas person but still has a very strong work ethic once he has started something.

“He tends to synthesise apparently weird solutions from what seem to be unconnected facts, but always goes back to prove them logically later. Unlike most scientists, Fennimore is ruled by the creative side of his brain. His tastes in music - Folk Rock from the 60s and 70s - and reading emerge in little casual asides. I would expect some of my students to recognise these latter characteristics in me, particularly in some of Fennimore’s literary and musical allusions, puns and anecdotes. ”

Professor Barclay’s primary role in the writing partnership with Margaret Murphy is to develop the plot and characters, and infuse the writing with his significant experience of forensic science and its application to crime scene investigation. As such, a strong element of teaching and forensic science principles will run throughout the books, positioning them as equivalents to police procedural novels.

Although Dave has previously worked with authors such as Stuart McBride, simply to give technical advice, this is the start of a new and more creative involvement.

He continues: “It’s wonderful working in concert with an accomplished writer that can truly bring out a dramatic flare to a story. Margaret and I share a strong vision of what works in this genre and I am delighted to be bringing this new series to the light of day with her.”

Reflecting on his literary journey thus far, Professor Barclay expresses his excitement at the prospect of becoming a published writer, and also at the plots which are already emerging for future books in the series.

“I always wanted to be Sherlock Holmes,” he laughs. “My career as a forensic scientist has brought me as close to this dream as anything could and it’s fantastic to be contributing to the genre that initially inspired me to follow this line of work.”

Andrew Youngson
Communications Officer | Faculty of Health and Social Care
Robert Gordon University
AB10 1FR
Tel: 01224 262389