A murder investigation has been launched after a headless body was found on the banks of a murky river.
But don’t expect to see blue flashing lights or police divers near any of South Yorkshire’s waterways as the shocking discovery is all a work of fiction.
It forms the dramatic opening sequence of a new book penned by crime-fighter turned crime-writer Michael Fowler.
The 57-year-old former police inspector spent 30 years bringing murderers, including The Yorkshire Ripper, and other serious offenders to justice across South Yorkshire.
Since retiring from the force he has carved out a second career as a successful crime novelist - and he explained how many of his own experiences investigating grisly crimes inspires much of his writing.
The father-of-two, from Swinton, Rotherham, said: “A lot of what I had to deal with informs what I write, but I also have an active imagination. I loved my job as a police officer, and I’m fortunate to love what I do now. It’s like a second career.”
A lot of what I had to deal with informs what I write, but I also have an active imaginationMichael Fowler
Since retiring in 2006 he quickly got to work on penning his first novel ‘Heart of the Demon’.
This was followed by four more, all released between 2012 and 2014, all of which follow detective sergeant Hunter Kerr as he investigates murders in the fictional town of Barnwell.
Michael said: “A lot of that character is identifiable to me and what I experienced, but some of it is alter-ego.
“There are some references with my career which are obvious. For example Barnsley and Wombwell were my patch for a while so ‘Barnwell’ became the fictional town. They are all murder mysteries, but with a twist.”
During his career Michael was posted to stations across South Yorkshire at Doncaster, Barnsley, Mexborough and Wombwell. This included stints in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) specialist vice squad in the 1970s and 80s and later as an inspector for ten years, based in Barnsley and Wombwell.
He was involved in the manhunt to catch serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, who was convicted of 13 murders following his arrest in Sheffield, in 1981.
Michael said: “I had to interview different suspects before he was finally caught. There was about two or three a week.
“On the night Sutcliffe was finally arrested in Sheffield I was just coming off duty in Mexborough and a colleague rang and said ‘Guess who we’ve caught’.
“It’s things like that which stick in your memory. Dramatic events like this inform my writing.”
His second career began when he started attending writing classes and decided to take it up full-time when his fellow classmates seemed impressed with his work.
To date, he has sold an estimated 40, 000 books worldwide through publisher Caffeine Nights. His novels are available as e-books and as hard copies from amazon.co.uk.
He explained how the books are selling well in as far away as Germany, America and Canada.
Michael has also found a niche market for his work as numerous serving and ex-coppers are becoming fans.
He said: “I get emails from detectives in America saying how much they enjoyed the books.
“I think because I put some of the procedural stuff in there they can really identify with it.”
He has just finished his sixth novel - ‘Scream You Die’ - and it is now in the hands of the publishers ahead of a September release.
The story follows the exploits of a new character, London Metropolitan Police detective sergeant Scarlett Macey, as she investigates a case after a decapitated body is found in the River Thames. She discovers the case may also have links to the murder of both her parents a few years earlier.
Michael said: “I wanted to test myself by writing from the perspective of a new character. It was challenging, but I do enjoy the writing process. I’m not done with Hunter Kerr yet, but I also hope this new book might be the start of a new series.”
For information visit Michael Fowler