Crime fiction author Jessie Keane on women and loyalty in the London underworld

Jessie Keane tells us more about the themes of women, loyalty and power that run throughout her books. 

When I set out to write a London gangster thriller aimed at women (but it seems men like them too!) way back in the day when Dirty Game, the first Annie Carter novel, appeared in my brain, I had no firm idea of what kind of woman she would turn out to be.

They say there's something autobiographical in every first book, and I think that's true; Annie Carter, as it turned out, was and is me to the power of a hundred, or me with knobs on! So she is logical, a bit devious maybe, methodical and above all loyal.

You can see that at work in her relationships; Dolly the club manager and Ellie who runs one of Max's lap-dancing clubs in Ruthless are both old friends who have known Annie forever. They prop her up when she falls down, and she returns the compliment.

Even her sister Ruthie - who let's face it, she did betray by falling for Max, her sister's husband – was never forgotten, and Annie spent most of Dirty Game in a turmoil of shame over her own feelings for Max, because of the impact they were having on Ruthie. Later on, in Ruthless, her daughter's resentment and teenage tantrums are met with unswerving devotion and a hope that one day Layla will grow up (which, fortunately, she does).

My other characters in books such as The Make and Jail Bird are similarly loyal when it comes to friends and family. Gracie Doyle is searching for his missing brother and won't give up until she finds him. Lily King is fresh out of jail after a twelve-year-sentence and determined to find out who murdered her husband, gang lord Leo.

Even the men in my books, like Max and Constantine, male stars of the Annie Carter books, are tough but devoted. Kit the lost boy who grew to be a man and who starred in Nameless and in Lawless which is published on July 17th this year, is loyal to the core. All these men have long-standing friendships and they have families they are inextricably tied to, and woe betide anyone who gets on the wrong side of them.

So you can see that the peppering of loyalty throughout all my books is instinctive, something that truly does come straight from the heart.

The Knock

by Jessie Keane

Dora O’Brien’s life started to go bad when she began to mix with the wrong company. Pregnant, homeless and under the power of corrupt policeman Donny Maguire, Dora struggles with drink and drugs. Her daughter Angel grows up in the shadow of her mother’s abusive relationship, but when things turn murderous, she’s forced to grow up fast. Survival is the only thing that matters, and sometimes being on the wrong side of the law is the safest place to be . . . This is crime fiction at its most gritty.