When I’m writing, I always love to play with people’s preconceptions about character and place. Just because I set FOURTH DAY in a cult in California, for instance, doesn’t necessarily mean you know who the bad guys are going to turn out to be.
And although ROAD KILL was set predominantly in Northern Ireland, there was very little mention of the sectarian violence, which was still very much ongoing at the time. You have to be aware of it, because it shapes the landscape into which you set loose your cast of characters, but not to the point of cliché. I’ve featured motorcyclists in many of my books, and not a meth lab between them!
My villains have been a varied bunch – usually not the most obvious choice – and not all of them were thieves and gangsters from the off.
But when I recently came across this list of the ten most-hated professions in the UK, I thought it would be fun to reveal them here with a view to the villains yet to come:
Not hard to see why bankers make the list. In the past few years they seem to have encouraged folk to get themselves in debt up to their ears, over-stretched themselves, and then needed bailing out by the British taxpayer. They’ve taken the blame for the latest financial crisis, and are becoming ever more impersonal in their interaction with customers.
Bailiffs have the right to enter your home and seize goods to the value of the debt they’re attempting to recover. Their rights of entry to your property vary according to what kind of debt you’ve defaulted on. If they work directly for the County Courts and are coming after unpaid County Court Judgements (CCJs) or overdue taxes, you’re in trouble. Many bailiff services are now run by private companies, in which case they’re called Certificated Enforcement Agents, who can also carry out arrest warrants without needing a police officer present.
Traffic Wardens (Parking Attendants)
We’ve all heard the stories about traffic wardens ticketing cars for being a couple of inches out of line. I even heard one about a car that received two tickets after the driver had a heart attack at the wheel, pulled over and died still in his seat. Winter snows are a blessing in disguise for motorists, though, as if you can’t see the double-yellow lines clearly, you can’t be penalised for contravening the regulations forbidding you to park on them. On the other hand, there’s never a traffic warden about when somebody parks really badly …
I confess I’ve had cause to curse the occasional car salesman in my time. Being assured that a vehicle is ‘immaculate – you won’t find one better’ is infuriating when you drive for an hour, only to look at a rust-bucket. Always the odd good guy, of course, but there are always exceptions that prove the rule.
I’ve met some delightful estate agents in my time, but I’ve also met some proper stinkers, who wouldn’t know how to value a house if their life depended on it. Why is it always a buyers’ market when you’re selling, but a sellers’ market when you want to buy? And even back when I worked as a professional photographer I had no idea what kind of lens estate agents used to make rooms so small appear so large on the brochure.
Independent Financial Advisors
Before the change in the law here, which now sees IFAs charging their clients a fee rather than relying on commission from the products sold, there were a lot of cases of mis-selling of unsuitable products. The Telegraph has just reported, however, that nearly a fifth of IFAs have ‘sacked’ clients with less than £50,000 to invest, preferring those with at least £150k to play with.
Well, what can I say about the legal profession that won’t see me in court? I’ll let this one speak for itself.
We all know they have a job to do, and they’re only trying to do their job, but do you know of anyone who has actually bought a product from some guy who cold-called them, at home, in the evening, just as the dinner had gone onto the table?
The difference about spammers is that, unlike all others on this list, I don’t think anybody ever has a good word to say about spam. It’s annoying, clogs up your computer, slips past the spam filter when you don’t want it to, and yet important perfectly innocuous emails end up trapped in the anti-spam software.
They had to be there, didn’t they? Everybody has to pay tax … unless, of course, you’re a multi-million pound business who has somehow managed to evade/avoid the consequences. If the rest of us file our return a day late, or make an honest mistake, we will be hanged, drawn and quartered. (Or should that be chopped into 4.8 parts? That’s quartered plus 20% VAT.)
So, the next time you’re reading a crime novel, look out for one of the above professions as the chief baddie. Do you have any you'd like to add? The only obvious one missing from this list is politicians, but perhaps that’s just me being cynical. Or maybe that’s just a book I have yet to write …
This week’s Word of the Week is taeniacide, meaning the killing of tapeworms, or an agent – especially a drug – that kills tapeworms.