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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > March 2017 > JAKE’S PROGRESS


The cracks people fall into provide a rich seam for underworld chronicler Jake Arnott, he tells Tina Jackson

Jake Arnott is the risk-taking Flash Harry of British fiction – its arch-chronicler of gangsters, chancers, duckers, divers, wheelers, dealers, deviants and denizens of the sexual underworld. His 1999 debut, The Long Firm, was a story of 1960s East End gangsters that set out his stall in no uncertain style: underworld characters; sexual ambiguity; an insight into the secret histories beneath the glamour of popular culture.

It was one of the must-read novels of that year and in 2004 was adapted for a Bafta-winning BBC2 drama starring Mark Strong, Derek Jacobi and Phil Daniels.

Jake’s work blends literary, crime and historical fiction into stylish, subversive stories that are wildly readable at the same time as being thought-provoking. Recent novels, particularly 2012’s ambitious The House of Rumour, veered away from London’s shady streets to explore wider historical territory.

But Jake’s new novel, The Fatal Tree, revisits a familiar Arnott landscape – albeit set in the 1720s. A linguistic tour-de-force written partly in the underworld dialect called flash, it visits the true-life story of notorious 18th century criminals Elizabeth Lyons, known as Edgworth Bess, a prostitute and pickpocket, her lover, housebreaker Jack Shepperd, and double-dealing Jonathan Wild, who controlled London’s organised crime under the guise of keeping its peace as ‘Thief-taker General’.

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Make this the month you make your dreams real and start becoming a writer in the Get Serious issue, with advice on: • How a change of attitude will help you, and the wider world, take your writing seriously • How to stay motivated past the difficult mid-novel slump • Money matters: Are you charging enough for your freelance writing? PLUS How to make sense of your royalty statements Cover star Jake Arnott tells us about finding the stories and characters that society overlooks and we explore the style and technique of forensic crime superstar Patricia Cornwell Get your work out there with opportunities to get published and competitions with more than £60,000 total prize money in 20 packed pages of Writers' News. All this plus our definitive guide to writing festivals, courses and other events for 2017