FEATURED AUTHOR: DOMINIC PIPER - Writer of Gritty, Sexy, Detective Thrillers

Our featured author this week is as witty and lovable as the lead character of his detective thrillers, PI Daniel Beckett. Come and get to know DOMINIC PIPER.

Tell us about Dominic Piper, the Writer. How did you choose this genre and where did the 
inspiration for the PI Daniel Beckett Series come from?

I’d been working as a television writer and script editor for quite a long while, and a former colleague put me in touch with a publisher, who was looking for people who could write in any genre. We had a meeting, and out of the blue I came up with the idea of a private investigator with some sort of secret past that is never revealed to the reader. His skills and general amorality would allow the reader to speculate (as many reviewers have done), but nothing more. 

It’s become a bit of a cliché in books, television and film to have some main character who is ex this and ex that. It gives everything away too soon. I wanted my main character to be more mysterious and to give the reader clues about him through his actions, then being contradicted and/or dumbfounded. 

Writing these novels is an interesting process, as I’m actually finding out more about him with each one that’s written. It’s an intriguing MO. People have noted that these novels are markedly different from others in the genre, and I think that may be because I’ve never been a big reader of thrillers or murder mysteries, so I’m not unconsciously copying anything or being influenced by anything.

Introduce us to the man behind the pen or keyboard. Who are you and what do you love doing when you're not writing?

I have quite a large range of interests! I’m quite an enthusiastic surfer (the type you need a surfboard for), though I’m certainly not competition standard. The UK has a lot of good spots, but the worst thing about it is the cold, even with a wetsuit on. It’s something I’ve never got used to. Even though I don’t surf regularly, you have to keep pretty fit to get out of trouble, should it arise. So far, I’ve only ever had to be rescued once and that was my fault; I got caught in a riptide and wasn’t aware of it (though, luckily, a lifeguard on the beach was smart enough to spot it). I felt like such an idiot. 

I also listen to a lot of music, particularly when I’m working. I like discovering artists that I somehow missed the first time around. At the moment, I’m working through the catalogues of Hooverphonic, Angel Olsen and Sun O))), who are an American black metal band, whose music I’ve seen described as ‘the sort of thing Satan listens to when he’s lying in a bubble bath sipping champagne’.

What can readers expect when they meet PI Daniel Beckett? Are there parts of you in his character?

Beckett, whatever his mysterious background may be, is obviously an intelligent, resourceful individual with a lot of different skills. He seems to be a firearms expert and is obviously a skilled martial artist, seemingly expert in at least half a dozen different disciplines. He’s adept at counter-surveillance and seems to be able to speak a dazzling variety of languages. He’s also a skilled burglar and a thief. You have to think ‘why would he know all this stuff?’ 

But there’re a number of other skills which are little more unusual, such as his ability to identify different perfumes and art. But I don’t think that these skills come from any personal interest. I think they’ve been acquired to assist him in his previous and current life. He’s not an unpleasant character but is quite capable of psychological manipulation. The art thing comes into play in the latest book, Bitter Almonds & Jasmine, where he uses it to gain the confidence of one of the characters by identifying a relatively obscure artist whose work adorns her walls. This knowledge and interest is work for him, one suspects.

Having written professionally for quite a while, I’m never sure whether I’m putting much of myself into these books or not. Sometimes, if I’m describing the books that a character has on their shelves, or the prints they have on their walls, I’ll take a quick look at my own bookshelves and prints and write down the first things that I see. But that’s more like laziness than anything else. 

My attitude to women and to a certain type of boorish, entitled, sexist, privileged male certainly comes through. One reviewer mentioned that whatever the vices/lifestyles/occupations that the female characters in the books have, Beckett never, ever judges them. The books have even been described (by two separate female reviewers) as being feminist novels, and while that was not my intention when I was writing them, I can see what they mean. 

The character of Beckett exists on a kind of knife edge, and is frequently misunderstood, being called a womaniser, among other things. This is incorrect. If I’m in Beckett’s personality, it’s unconscious on my part, though I can see how it can happen. Another (male) writer told me that as most writers put a lot of themselves into their main characters, he didn’t just want to read my books, he wanted to be me.

Of all the books you've written, which one is your favorite and why?

It’s always the latest one. I tend not to read them again once they’re complete, so I don’t have them all in my head to make any comparisons. The only time I re-read them is to check on what I’ve already written about when I’m working on a new one. These are usually technical things for the sake of consistency, like the descriptions of Beckett’s flat. 

I try not to repeat martial arts techniques that Beckett has already used, though sometimes that can be difficult; there are a great number of martial arts techniques, but not all of them lend themselves to good, written descriptions. In aikido, for example, it’s difficult to see what’s going on in some techniques in the first place, so it’s even more difficult to describe those techniques and make them understandable to the reader.

You've just released Bitter Almonds and Jasmine. 
Tell us a little about it and what's in store for readers.

There’s a lot of speculation over Daniel Beckett’s past; where he came from, how he acquired 
the skills he displays while on his cases. In this new book, one thing I wanted to do was to show 
him as part of a wider world where there are other people like him out there. But, as a Goodreads 
review of Death is the New Black stated: “Beckett, however, continues to be an enigma, and the 
more you find out about him (through his knowledge, amorality and abilities), the more out of 
reach he becomes.” So, despite the fact that the book starts off with an old colleague contacting 
him out of the blue, her presence, and the presence of two more characters in the story who know 
him, makes him even more remote. You begin to wonder ‘Who are these people?’ Every time 
you think you have a handle on Beckett’s origins, something will happen that confounds any assumption. I also wanted to demonstrate that people who believe themselves to be all powerful, 
are actually fundamentally vulnerable when it comes to a confrontation with an individual like 
Beckett and inadvertently make contact with people from a world they didn’t know existed. 

Do you have other books in the pipeline?

I usually start preparation for a new book by doing a lot of reading on the subjects that I have in 
mind for the story. Sometimes (as has already happened) I abandon one of these subjects and try 
to think of something else. Something usually pops up! Usually, there are two or three subjects 
that I attempt to cram into a story, despite them having no obvious connection at first. It’s a 
challenge for me to make them have a connection and to make them meld together in a satisfying 

In Femme Fatale, I wanted to include freemasonry, contemporary burlesque and the Triads. It took a while, but I got there in the end!

Do you prefer Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing? Why?

I’m ambivalent. My first two novels, Kiss Me When I’m Dead and Death is the New Black were 
originally published through a traditional publisher. As often happens in writing (and it’s 
happened to me with literary agents, as well), there’s a moment when you suddenly think ‘Well, 
I could do better than that!’ Once that moment comes, there’s no going back, and you have to 
quit. I asked the publisher for the rights back to those two novels and republished them along 
with the third in the series, Femme Fatale. 

The way I approached it was totally different. Just the covers, for example. The originals had photographs of a gun and bullets on the cover, which made them look like many conventional books in the genre. The covers that I wanted, and which I think work, were more like the striking photography of Marc Lagrange and Helmut Newton combined. Obviously, I’d like someone to come along and take them off my hands, do all the promo etc etc etc, but it would have to be someone whose competence and motivation I trusted.

What advice can you give other writers?

With your permission, I’ll reprint my reply to that question that I gave in a recent interview with the author Anthony Lavisher. I still stand by it!

It always sounds a bit condescending if you give advice like this, but my gut reaction is to say,

‘Dump everything else, even if it causes you personal or financial harm. Make absolutely sure you have nothing to fall back on. Spit on normality. Reject your family. Mock your friends. Renounce God.’

Thanks for the interview, Dominic!

Watch the Book Trailer of
Bitter Almonds & Jasmine

Connect with DOMINIC PIPER


  1. I just started Kiss Me When I’m Dead last night. It’s a fantastic read with interesting characters. One of the best things about this book is that it is written in Present Tense! After I took a screenwriting class I started writing in Present Tense and haven’t looked back. And Dominic does a great job with First Person, too. I’ve had lots of difficulty with First Person. I tend to blather on about nonsense. Fortunately, Dominic’s wiseass protagonist does a perfect job with this narration. His opinion of the characters he encounters is quite hysterical and appropriate. Now that I’ve started reading Dominic’s series, all my own writing will be set aside.

    1. Okay. Here's an update a year later. Now I am re-reading the Dominic Piper books. Since I'm old with a failing memory, it's all new to me once again. I'm pretty far along with Femme Fatale and am enjoying all the nutty characters once again. I still keep thinking about Footballer Dad, however. That was a good one.

      So now I've been checking Google Earth for the layout of Covent Garden. There's the high-level view and the street view, which is amazing. It's almost like being there: strolling down Exeter Street without a care in the world. This is all pretty cool, because I don't know a solitary thing about London and will quite likely never go there. Just think: It was built by the Romans. This would explain the preponderance of Italian restaurants in Covent Garden, which is also pretty cool.

      Cheers and Happy Reading!
      Adam James

    2. Okay! Years later and I'm still reading and rereading these four books. I feel guilty. Like I should pay every time I read one. Maybe I'll send discount coupons for pizza or something. And still looking forward to BOOK FIVE!!!
      Cheers and Happy Reading!
      Adam James

  2. Dominic Piper writes witty dialogue! We love his books.