I used to be a police officer, starting in London, and finishing as a DI at Moss Side in Manchester. In some ways, it finished me.

I was working at a weekend, and took a phone call. A murder, another one. I couldn’t do it, and folded.

I was sent home, and after fifteen years without one day of sick leave, I never went back. I received counselling, and took a year’s sabbatical. Depression followed.

We moved to a smallholding in the Peak District, and I began to write.

We have five acres, and keep chickens and bees, and turkeys at Christmas! The vegetable garden has been there for over a century and has wonderful fertility. There’s a greenhouse, a large soft fruit cage, and an orchard.

We’re self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables. My passion is fruit trees, especially apples, and I’m aiming for a hundred varieties – currently, 64. My favourite is Pitmaston Pineapple, an old variety which in a good year has a rich, honeyed nutty taste with a hint of pineapple.

My first book (unpublished) after leaving the police was a memoir, From Cop to Coppicer. Writing it was a cathartic process.

The combination of writing and working outside on the smallholding helped me understand what I’d been through and moved me forward.

Genetically, we’re still hunter-gatherers. It takes thousands of years for genes to change, and we have not (so far) evolved to live in small concrete boxes very close to each other.

Hence, most people, most of the time are happier / have greater wellbeing when they’re outside in green spaces. This was very true for me. The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku or tree-bathing, and prescribe it on their national health.

I’ve never gone back to work. Despite everything that happened, I don’t regret my time in the police.

I now divide my days between my two hats. I get up and write for a couple of hours, spend the day working on the smallholding, and write again for a couple of hours before dinner.

Much of the work outside is repetitive manual work, and it’s often wet and cold. Sometimes I mull my plots and characters!

Last year, I completed an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University.

And finally, after ten years of writing, the new and award-winning publisher Unbound have published my debut novel The Trail. A crime thriller, unsurprisingly!

The Trail is available on Amazon, and can be ordered from bookshops.

“Intelligent and pacy thriller” (Paula Hawkins, Girl On The Train)

“A stunning debut from an exciting new addition to the world of crime fiction” (Stephen Booth, Cooper & Fry crime series)

Author: James Ellson

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