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  • Northside East

Northside author’s new crime novel courts great interest

Thursday, 1st November, 2018 6:00pm
Northside author’s new crime  novel courts great interest

• ’In The Court’s Hands’ is available in all good bookstores and costs €14.99. It is also available on Kindle.   

Northside author’s new crime  novel courts great interest

• ’In The Court’s Hands’ is available in all good bookstores and costs €14.99. It is also available on Kindle.   

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A NORTHSIDE journalist’s feature article in a national newspaper has provided the catalyst for her debut novel in the crime genre.

Fiona Gartland, from Drumcondra, has been working with The Irish Times for 13 years, covering many trials at the Criminal Courts of Justice.

‘In The Court’s Hands’ is the first instalment of her three-book deal with Poolbeg Press. The lead character is a stenographer (a person who works in a courtroom and transcribes spoken words by typing them into a steno machine). 

Beatrice Barrington witnesses a meeting between the defendant in the criminal case she’s working on and a woman who later contacts a member of the jury. 

Still trying to deal with a difficult past, Beatrice is pulled into a world of deception, danger and blackmail. Helped by her friend, she is in a race against time to find the truth behind the death of the jurywoman before the trial collapses and more people die.

Fiona, who began her journalism career with Dublin People, says: “I started writing an article for our weekly Law Matters page and one of the articles was called the ‘The Secret Life of a Stenographer’. A stenographer hears everything in court but nobody really notices them.  

“As I’ve dabbled in writing fiction over the years, I wondered what would happen if a stenographer saw something (outside their place of work) to do with a case they were working on. 

“It could have been a short story but I saw potential for something more and decided to try the novel.” 

Fiona was shortlisted for RTE’s prestigious Francis McManus Short Story Competition on no less than six occasions. She has also had stories broadcast on radio and been published in magazines including the Stinging Fly.

While her knowledge of the courts system would seem to give weight to the adage: ‘write about what you know’, Fiona believes there is a more important tool in the writer’s armour.  

“Working in the courts was a help but I think the most important thing is understanding human behaviour,” she says.

“If you achieve that, your story could be set on the moon, anywhere, with good research. You also have to have a strong character to start out with, a character people feel they know.”

The second book has been sent to Poolbeg but according to Fiona, it was a completely different experience to writing the first.

“I was able to write the first one at my leisure but now there is a deadline,” she says. 

“I’m a journalist, though, so my natural instinct is to work to deadlines. Also, I’ve no problem applying myself; I could write all day. I do a lot of 2pm to 10pm work shifts and most of my intensive writing (fiction) takes place at weekends.”

Fiona’s family have been very supportive, so much so that her husband Paul and his friends even built her a ‘writing room’ at the end of the garden. 

“It’s very quiet and I don’t have the Internet there,” she adds. 

No Internet and no distractions – now there’s a recipe for success for wannabe authors! 

• ’In The Court’s Hands’ is available in all good bookstores and costs €14.99. It is also available on Kindle.   

Fiona Gartland, author of ‘In The Court’s Hands’.

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