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Time Served Northern Ireland prison officer's debut crime novel gets approval from Dean Koontz

I wrote to him outlining the plot and was surprised to get a reply"

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Ten years looking after a prison full of hardened criminals proved ideal inspiration for a debut novel. 

Writing under the pseudonym N E Shawson the former prison officer said he drew on a decade of working at the coalface with the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

The result is Time Served, a gritty debut novel set within the granite walls of HMP Crumlin and follows the troubled life of central character prison officer John Patterson.

There’s the inevitable interaction with paramilitary figures but the author insists the characters are entirely fictional.

“Of course the story is grounded in my experiences,” he said, “but nobody should be concerned, the characters were entirely constructed in my head!”

And he revealed the book already has the seal of approval from internationally renowned suspense/thriller writer Dean Koontz.

“I wrote to him outlining the plot and was surprised to get a reply.

“He said the book could have been set in China or Mexico or anywhere and encouraged me to go for it. Who knows, if he reads it he might give Netflix a call for me!”

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Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz

A former freelance graphic artist before going into the Prison Service, his passions has always been art and writing.

“Getting married and having a family meant I had to get a regular job with a regular income, somehow I ended up in the Prison Service.

“Enjoyable may not be the right word for it, but there were many experiences I’ll never forget – and lots of laughs along the way.”

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There were also the threats and the constant worries about personal security with the police and prison service officers constantly in the sights of the paramilitary organisations.

“Thankfully I got through it.

“When I worked in the prison I treated everyone the same whether they were terrorists or sex offenders.

“I worked A and C wings which housed the paramilitaries, I know some officers would give the sex offenders a hard time, but as far as I was concerned I was there to do a job, what they were there for was none of my business.

“I think that made life easier. There was a plenty of provocation but I tried not to react.”

After leaving the Prison Service he worked with disadvantaged young people and embarked on yet another, in unlikely, career as a cartoonist with his work appearing on the pages of a number of newspapers, including the Sunday World.

But all the while the germ of a novel idea was bubbling in the back of his head.

“I had a load of stories and experiences that I wanted to share in a fictional way, so eventually I started writing.”

Having previously been involved with a screenwriting group and penned a number of screenplays one of which attracted the attention of the BBC and another shown at the Cork Film Festival.

“Patterson has a lot on his plate ( in the book) and he makes a lot of mistakes, but I think the reader will stay with him even though he does some bad things.

“I don’t want to give the plot away but there’s a twist in the plot that I’m reliably informed by those who’ve read it, that you don’t see coming.”

At a time when crime dramas set in Northern Ireland continue to make headlines he is anxious to draw a distinction from the likes of The Fall, Line of Duty and Bloodlands.

“It’s centred on a prison officer for a start, so I don’t see any direct parallels, and I hope readers agree.”

He’s already well into his second novel a story of revenge set in the Amazon jungle and he’s plotting his third set in London.

“This had to be first one, it has been alive in my head for so long I had to get it down on paper.”

Self-published he admits production of the book ran into some technical difficulties with formatting which resulted in some people receiving less than perfect copies.

“I can only apologise, but everything has been ironed out.”

The books can be purchased at Amazon and is available on Kindle.

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