A.K. Turner

Alison (A.K.) Turner tells us about her first novel in a new crime series Body Language and which famous faces she'd love to have dinner with.

Alison (A.K.) Turner is the author of a new crime series set in a London morgue featuring mortuary assistant Cassie Raven. The first novel, Body Language was published in November by Zaffre and is also available through Suffolk Libraries.

Who were your literary heroes as you were growing up and when did you first realise you wanted to write?

I got into crime fiction fairly early – cutting my teeth on the classics like Agatha Christie but soon moving onto grittier stuff that my Dad tried – and failed – to hide out of reach in a high cupboard. So I was only about twelve when I was gripped by The Odessa Files thanks to master thriller-writer Freddie Forsyth, and blown away by the prose of Raymond Chandler in books like The Big Sleep. I was writing poems from when I could hold a pen, then plays to be performed by my brother – who, shockingly, charged a fee to appear in my epic works…

Can you give us a flavour of Body Language for those who have not read it yet?

Cassie Raven is a Goth-girl technician working at a mortuary in edgy Camden Town who has a special affinity with the bodies in her care. She treats them like people rather than corpses, and sometimes they respond by ‘telling her’ how they died. When the body of someone she was close to turns up at the mortuary it hits her hard. After the police dismiss her growing suspicions that the death was accidental Cassie turns freelance sleuth to investigate what she is convinced was murder.

How did Cassie Raven come into being and how did you do your research for the book?

I met her at a post mortem! Sort of… Years ago I attended a PM while researching my debut crime book and there was a girl working there with punky dyed hair, piercings and a Goth vibe who must have stuck in my mind because when I was looking for a new character she popped back into my mind. Body Language is very dependent on anatomical and forensic/medical detail so I went on to do tons of research with pathologists and above all with a very talented Anatomical Pathology Technician called Barbara Peters who has been an invaluable guide to mortuary life and the puzzles that dead bodies can present. I was thrilled when I was asked to write two short stories introducing Cassie for BBC Radio 4 in 2018 – it was a great way to test drive her character and get a feel for how a full-length novel might work.

What is your writing routine? Do you have a regular desk or writing shed?

Unglamorously, I tap away while sitting at the dining table (when I’m not working at my other job as a freelance TV producer). I have big plans to turn my spare room into a study. For me, the best place to write is away from the distractions of home – my favourite spot is Southwold, where I occasionally rent a bolthole for a week out of season. I find coastal walks are the best way to clear the cobwebs and inspire the next chapter.

Is there anything you can share about your latest project?

I’m writing the next Cassie Raven book in which she is confronting a life-changing revelation about her past…

Has a book ever changed your life or made you think differently?

If it doesn’t sound hideously pretentious, every book I’ve ever read has done that – all the good ones, anyway. Good writing always leaves a mark on you. I’ll name just one true crime classic that isn’t as well-known as it should be – Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore, brother to Gary Gilmore, the murderer who was infamously shot by firing squad. It’s a beautifully written account of the Gilmore brothers’ savage, dysfunctional upbringing which really makes you think.

If you could hold a dinner party with other guests alive or dead who would you invite and why?

Amy Winehouse – one of the greatest musical talents this country has ever produced, her death was so awful, so shocking.Umberto Eco, because he wrote Name of the Rose, one of my fave crime books.Idris Elba – smart cookie who can share the inside track on The Wire – my top TV series of all time.Elizabeth Strout – wonderful writer.Grayson Perry – always surprising, and great at getting people to talk, as seen on his TV documentaries.David Bowie – I recall the first time I saw him on ToTP (Top of the Pops) when I was a little kid, and realising he was something really great and really different.Princess Anne – because she seems like a great character. (e.g telling the armed kidnapper who told her to get out of her car ‘Not bloody likely’! Go Anne!)

Can you tell us one thing about yourself that your readers may not know?

I am training to become a City of London Guide. It’s a bit like the Blue Badge but far more specialist – I will emerge with a very narrowly-focused knowledge of the history, ancient customs, and architecture of the City, which is probably the most richly historic square mile on earth and has been home to some of our great literary figures like Shakespeare, Dickens, T S Eliot, and Pepys. Founded by the Romans in 43AD it has survived plague, fire, uprisings, and the Blitz. Once we emerge from the latest crisis I hope to be able to inspire visitors with its riveting stories and characters.

Support your library
Donate to support us
Make a one off donation or set up regular payments and add gift aid at no cost to you.
Volunteer with us
Learn new skills, meet new people and make a real contribution to your community.
Explore our vacancies
Read about our latest vacancies and apply online.
Join us