Hidden no more ... that is the hope of novelist and former police officer Roger A Price who tells Fiona Finch why be believes the world of fiction can help expose disturbing truths about the blight of modern slavery
Modern day slavery may not seem an obvious subject for a novel.
But after former police officer and author Roger Price came across a newspaper report about the extent of this often overlooked atrocity he felt compelled to write about it in the next book in his Badge and the Pen crime series.
He said: “I first got the idea to use modern slavery as a premise while travelling back from a meeting with my agent in London. I was reading an article which highlighted the issue – there was a big piece on inroads in the capital on this issue and against forced servitude.”
He recalled: “I started to pay attention and soon realised that this most misery-causing of criminality was far more evident than one would wish to believe. A truly hidden evil that is all around.”
Roger, who was born in Bury, moving to the north east at the age of three before his family moved to Garstang a decade later, said: “Once I started looking round ,my God it’s everywhere. It really is a hidden evil.”
Having become more conscious of the problem he realised he was looking at all sorts of workforces with fresh eyes - wondering if bargain prices for services were not just businesses being competitive but also indicative of businesses which are distressingly exploiting vulnerable workers and forcing them into servitude.
Like his other books much of his latest novel Hidden is based in Preston and the north west region.
He said: “I’ve lived a lot of my life and work life in Preston - I thought I would pick Preston as a centre. Manchester gets done to death.”
He stressed: “I’m not saying that there is a particular problem, or a disproportionate one in Preston compared to elsewhere, but I do believe that it is a hidden evil that is there in plain sight, and certainly more prevalent than any of us may wish to believe.”
It was after more than 30 years in the Lancashire Constabulary and stints in the Regional Crime Squad and the National Crime Squad that the then Detective Inspector decided to write full time following his retirement at the age of 50. He had been in charge of a covert unit working to break up gangs selling heroin. Previously he worked on numerous murder investigations and for a time ran Preston’s CID team. He said: “It was back in 2011 I started writing in earnest. As a detective I never had the time. I went to night school and did some training and tried to learn about structure.”
Later he enrolled on an advanced creative writing course at Preston College.
Roger had started his police career as a cadet in Garstang. After leaving Garstang High School he was sacked from jobs at a chicken factory and pie factory: “I got a bit of a rollicking off my parents and joined the police cadets. I was just a cheeky, gobby youth. I had to learn to rein it in a bit. Then I joined the real police and in January 1977 I was sent to Accrington.”
Home for the father of two and grandfather of two is now Walmer Bridge. He acknowledges he can draw on his long and varied police career to inspire and inform his writing, but says he is a stickler that procedure is correct so would not write about modern day policing. He said: “Hidden looks at those who prosper in modern day slavery, especially people-traffickers serving a market for forced servitude and prostitution
“The book, as with any work of fiction, is designed to entertain, and satisfy the reader, but novelists also hope to take readers to places that they have not been before, be that geographic or more abstract. If we can entertain, and educate, (the) more the better.”
Happy endings can be in short supply but Roger observes his satisfaction at how in his novel justice prevails.
“Obviously, I hope my current novel does well, but if it also raises awareness of this most evil of criminality, it would be a real win-win.”
• Modern Day Slavery Helpline 08000 121 700.
• Hidden by Roger A. Price is published by Endeavour Media Ltd at £6.99. It can also be bought on Kindle.
•‘Roger’s previous books include Nemesis which costs £6.99 and Vengeance £7.99.