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Retired private investigator from Grantham releases first novel in Rutland crime thriller series

A retired private investigator has leant on his own experiences to write his first crime thriller novel.

The Rutland Connection, the debut of Grantham author Michael Dane, is to have a fitting launch event at Walkers Bookshop, in Oakham, on Wednesday, November 8, at 7pm.

The book is set in Lincoln and Rutland in 1997 and tells the story of a team of customs investigators led by the veteran, Frank McBride, whose team are targeting a gang of Lincoln-based drug smugglers.

Michael has written a second book in the series for publication next year and is working on a third
Michael has written a second book in the series for publication next year and is working on a third

McBride becomes convinced the increasingly sophisticated gang is being coached by a figure from his past, known only as ‘The Brigadier’, leading to a battle of wits between the two old adversaries.

While the book is a work of fiction, Michael knows the subject matter inside out after decades working on major investigations.

“I like cat and mouse thrillers and I knew I could be accurate and authentic about customs investigations in the 1990s because I was doing them,” he said.

Michael Dane was involved in some of the world's biggest fraud investigations of their time
Michael Dane was involved in some of the world's biggest fraud investigations of their time

“It’s not based on a true story and the characters are imaginary, although some of my colleagues think they recognise parts of themselves in parts of the characters.”

Without a career path in mind after university, Michael was encouraged by a friend to join the customs service at Heathrow Airport.

He soon found himself enticed by its detective force.

“If you were able to get into the investigations division you could spend your days driving around in fast cars, kicking down doors and generally behaving like you were in The Sweeney, so I decided that was exactly what I wanted to do,” Michael said.

“During those 10-and-a-bit years I grew up, got married, started a family and was issued with a bulletproof vest which my wife found. That’s when I started looking for alternative careers.”

After completing a law degree at night school, Michael spent the next 11 years involved in ‘very, very large cases in very, very unpopular places’ through an investigative role with a big accountancy firm.

He spent the final chapter of his career managing an investigations team for a global computer company covering Europe, Middle East, Africa and India before retiring five years ago.

His career took him all over the world, including several months in Saudi Arabia, working on a $9 billion fraud case.

Michael was also involved in what was, at the time, the world’s largest global corruption case, ending with a $900 million fine for the company involved.

Yet the exotic nature of the work didn’t necessarily translate into every aspect of the job.

“The first thing I had published was an article about rebated diesel in a journal – it was not a bestseller,” he recalled.

“When I was working, everything I wrote was so dull. I would get involved in these really quite exciting cases and at the end I would sit down and write a report - highly-detailed, meticulous, forensic, and so dull!

“I wrote a report about a helicopter chase once which was dull, and I thought wouldn’t it be lovely to write something that isn’t dull.”

He was as good as his word, following radio plays and short stories with his debut novel.

After 10 months of adapting to long-form writing, the first book of a series was born.

A second instalment, The Rutland Identity, is due out next April, while a first draft for number three – The Rutland Volunteer – is with the publishers.

But why choose England’s smallest county to base its main character, McBride?

“I chose Rutland because it’s just down the road and I could go and check on things,” Michael explained.

“And also because I’ve got such an unlikely villain, I thought why not put him in an unlikely place?

“Where would you expect to find a septugenarian spy who decides to go into drug smuggling for who knows what reason? Well an old vicarage in a tiny Rutland village, obviously!”

The Rutland Connection is published by The Book Guild and available as a paperback and e-book.

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