Derek Pedley, author of Dead by Friday
Tell us about your latest creation…
Dead By Friday – how lust and greed led to murder in the suburbs – It’s the true story of two lovers who hire a hitman to kill their partners, but one of the lovers, Michelle Burgess, starts an affair with the hitman. It focuses on the 18-month period from when their affair began, through to the negotiation of two murder contracts outside a primary school, to the hitman eating one contract in a sandwich after it had been fulfilled. It also tells the story from the perspective of Michelle’s Burgess’s husband, Darren, the target of the second contract, who speaks publicly for the first time in this book.
I wanted to find out what made Michelle tick, so I commissioned respected forensic psychologist Dr Jack White to create a profile of Michelle Burgess and he delivers some genuine bombshells about her personality and her state of mind at the time of the murder.
The book is also intended to honour the memory of murder victim Carolyn Matthews, a wonderful woman whose life was overshadowed by the sordid and brutal plot that ended her life.
Where are you from / where do you call home?
I’m from Manjimup, a delightful timber town in Western Australia’s lower south west. I live in Adelaide’s far northern suburbs – the spiritual home of the Snowtown serial killers. It’s the second stint I’ve had in Adelaide – I came here for the weird crime in 1995 and liked it so much I came back again in 2003 and stayed.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?
I wanted to be an author from the age of 8. Somewhere along the way I decided this was beyond me. So I set my sights much, much lower and became a newspaper journalist instead.
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?
Dead By Friday is easily my best work. It’s an extraordinary story that several people had previously tried to pin down without success. When I started researching it, I had interview knockbacks from virtually all the key characters. A lot of people were badly traumatised by this murder and, unsurprisngly, no one wanted to talk. It took five years of persistence, patience and negotiations to change their minds, but it was absolutely worth it.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?
A small study at home with an office desk, a laptop and a shelf crammed with true crime books. On the walls are a Ned Kelly Wanted poster, A framed newspaper article about Brenden Abbott and a poster with every single Simpsons character.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?
I read an unhealthy amount of true crime, but also love a good biography. I’ve rarely read fiction in recent years, but discovering GRR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books last year was an absolute revelation. I immersed myself in the amazing world of Westeros and now live in constant fear that the fat old guy will die before he finishes writing the series.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?
I was a voracious reader as a kid, but there was nothing I read that I would describe as “defining”. In 1991, when I was a young cadet journalist, I read David Simon’s Homicide – A Year on the Killing Streets. Nothing before or since has inspired me as much as that book – the characters, the painstaking detail, the humour, the dialogue, the structure and above all, the writing.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?
Stumped on this one. Hannibal Lecter? He did have such fantastic manners and tastes.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?
Spare time – what a fantastic concept! I I waste time playing Call of Duty and in fact had to institute a one-year ban on it to ensure I got Dead By Friday written. Also a passionate West Coast Eagles fan and fantasy footy nut.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?
I love a good seafood platter with a Heineken on the side.
Who is your hero? Why?
David Simon. I admire his writing talent and his ability to tell sprawling stories with great pathos, using very real and very complex characters. Sadly, he’s not written many books, but has promised that he will one day “put down the crack pipe of TV” and go back to books.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?
Maintaining the quality of writing – and the trust of readers – amid the growing slushpile of eBooks.