Should killer-children should have a second chance?

A fictional Crawley Observer front page is part of Mick Lee’s new book – a book which also features a fictional female reporter.
Mick LeeMick Lee
Mick Lee

“I spent many hours reading old Crawley Observer copies in the British Library as part of my research!” Mick says.

The book is Child X, published by Matador Books, Kindle £2.59, paperback £8.99.

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Mick, aged 54, said: “Child X revolves around the issue of whether a child that kills deserves a second chance when they have become an adult. Is there any point in rehabilitating juvenile criminals? How should they be treated? There are echoes of real-life cases, such as the Bulger killers, but this is a work of fiction set in Crawley just before the Millennium.

“The story follows a down on his luck private investigator from Crawley called Ray – a compulsive gambler who owes a lot of money to some nasty people. He is offered the chance to escape his debt if he can track someone down. It emerges that this is Child X, the label given to a local 12-year-old killer over 20 years before. Ray also discovers he has a personal link to the killer and is haunted by this. Ray is helped by a local journalist who reported on the case years before for the Crawley Observer, now working in local radio. By 1999, the killer is grown up, free and living under a new identity – and Ray has a moral dilemma if he does track him down: does he save his own skin and expose the killer or allow the boy a second chance?

“The appeal of the book hopefully comes from the issue at the centre of the story, as well as the main protagonist investigator who is battling his demons and trying to find the light at the end of a dark tunnel. There has already been considerable interest from reading groups towards Child X, given its subject matter.”

Mick added: “I originally started writing about a compulsive gambler who was so desperate their only means of escape was to engineer a catastrophic and deadly event, but then I was inspired to write Child X after researching the reaction to the Jamie Bulger case – in particular to his killers now they are adults. It is aimed at those who like a crime thriller, a protagonist they can root for and want to read something that challenges their perceptions.

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“Writing is an incredibly enjoyable profession and requires considerable discipline. Working from home as many have discovered since the pandemic started has many distractions! But there is no better feeling than looking at words on screen or on paper and remembering that they have come simply from your own imagination.

“Although this story stands on its own two feet, there has already been a lot of feedback from readers who want to hear more about the private investigator Ray, as well as the female journalist who helps him. So, I am looking at a follow-up, but to say any more would give away the twist at the end of Child X!

“I also published The Men Who Robbed The Great Train Robbers, a fictional re-telling of the Great Train Robbery in 2013. After researching the accounts of all the gang involved, it became clear that their versions of events were massively contradictory and don’t really add up to the whole picture. Indeed, they ask more questions than they answer – particularly over who was really behind the robbery. Given that almost none of the stolen money was recovered, I hit upon the plausible hypothesis that the celebrated band of robbers were set up by higher forces, who then systematically robbed them in return – hence the title.

“A previous novel Under The Waltzer about a deluded serial killer is no longer available but is due to be re-published next year. I am currently working on a new crime thriller based in 1720s London – an era before organised policing existed. The premise behind that is Peaky Blinders meets Moll Flanders, with a dose of The Godfather.

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“I started writing over 15 years ago, but sometimes there is a mortgage to pay, so I spent most of this time in rooms asking people impertinent questions (sometimes called market research). But writing is full time now.

“I live near Milton Keynes now, but I was brought up in Crawley and lived during the time most of the book is set (late 1990s) in various parts of West Sussex (Horsham, Haywards Heath and Crawley again).”

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