The Freeman Files Book 1
by Ted Tayler
Genre: Crime Fiction
The perfect blend of detective mystery and everyday life, that will delight fans of Sally Rigby, Faith Martin, Joy Ellis, Simon McCleave, and Pauline Rowson. The first in a gripping series that will have you hooked.
Gus Freeman, a retired Detective Inspector, has spent the past three years alone. His wife, Tess, died from a brain aneurysm six months to the day after retirement. He is still coming to terms with his enforced solitary existence. His old boss wants Gus to head up a Crime Review Team investigating cold cases. Gus can’t resist the chance to enter the fray for one last hurrah.
Wiltshire is an historic and ceremonial county in South West England, famous for its ham, white horses and, above all, for its many prehistoric monuments (like Stonehenge and Avebury). It’s been home to the author all his life, and despite what you might fear from the stories that follow in this series, Wiltshire is a safe and beautiful place to live.
CASE FILE #1 – June 2008
The team tackle the brutal murder of Daphne Tolliver. The sixty-eight-year-old widow was walking her dog, Bobby, in woodland close to her home when someone bludgeoned her to death with a rock.
PRAISE FOR TED TAYLER:
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Ted Tayler brilliantly weaves the details of the mysterious murder dropping bread crumbs for readers to follow. We follow Freeman and his team as they interview witnesses, suspects, and friends of the victim. Along with his liberal use of British colloquialisms, he enriches the flavour of the tale. His prose brings the investigation to life. I think Gus Freeman will be as appealing as The Phoenix. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a solid mystery.” Elizabeth.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐“The pacing is excellent, the characters believable and the cold case work excellent as well. I already know that I will be reading all of this series” Jenna.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Carefully crafted procedural with quirky characters, that not only entertains, but also lays the foundation for a series of cases to follow.” Nana.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “A fabulous find! Ted Tayler is gifted in making sure the reader becomes an integral part of what he has written, become one with the book.” Dora.
**On Sale – Get it FREE now!**
“Hello, Simon,” said Daphne.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“We’re heading for the woods, and then we plan to walk back through the park to join up with the main road. Bobby hasn’t been out for a walk today. Too frosty this morning.”
Simon didn’t hear her. He knelt on the ground with Bobby slobbering over his face.
“Bobby likes me, doesn’t he?” he asked.
“He likes everyone who makes a fuss of him,” laughed Daphne. “I’d better get moving. Those clouds are building again. I thought we’d seen the last of the rain for today.”
“Rain, rain go away,” said Simon.
The big lad stood by the stile and watched the pair disappear towards the woods.
Daphne glanced back as they reached the narrow pathway into Lowden Woods.
Simon Attrill hadn’t moved.
“Such a shame isn’t it, Bobby,” she said, “not a bad bone in his body. There’s no justice sometimes.”
Bobby had forgotten Simon already. He strained at his lead as dozens of unfamiliar and exciting scents reached his hyper-sensitive nose.
The leafy lane burrowed its way through the many acres of well-established oak trees populating the lower reaches of Lowden Hill and weaved through more recently planted beeches and sweet chestnuts. The gathering clouds added to the gloom as Daphne and Bobby walked further from the roadway under the overhead canopy of branches in full leaf.
Daphne wasn’t unduly worried. They used this route in the past when time allowed. She had Bobby with her; nobody else was in this part of the woods. But, since they left Battersby Lane, the silence had been deafening.
Another two hundred yards and they would reach the open ground of the municipal park. No doubt there would be others enjoying the summer evening. Even if they, too, were keeping a weather eye on those clouds. No cause for concern.
Bobby stopped dead in his tracks. Was it a strange smell or a noise he didn’t recognise? It certainly unsettled him. Daphne also sensed someone ahead. Not in the lane. They were somewhere to her left. Close by but hidden from sight. She was sure it was two people. Those weren’t words she could hear. They were more urgent, guttural grunting sounds.
Daphne couldn’t resist pushing through the undergrowth, even though she dreaded the sight that might confront her. She dragged a reluctant Bobby, who seemed to understand nothing good lay behind those bushes and brambles.
Meanwhile, Holly Dean was dealing with her little Princess in the park. They had left her parents’ home on the Greenwood Estate twenty minutes earlier at seven o’clock. The twenty-year-old shop assistant planned a brisk walk around the park with her Bichon Frise puppy before the rain returned. Her little bundle of mischief had done its business. Holly was dutifully dropping the waste bag into the bin by the side of the path when she thought she heard a scream.
Holly looked around her but couldn’t see anyone in trouble nearby. She saw other people in the park, further away, who now looked in her direction. No doubt, they also wondered what they thought they had heard. Holly realised the noise must have come from the woods. She turned towards the tree-lined path and took a few tentative steps, clutching Princess to her chest.
The rain began to fall once more. Holly hesitated. Should she run home now? It might not have been a genuine scream — just teenagers mucking around.
The second agonised scream sent shivers down her spine.
Holly swallowed hard and bravely trotted into the lane. The rain was coming on harder now — an absolute downpour. The canopy of branches stopped Holly from getting drenched, but behind her, she heard the excited shouts of other park visitors as they raced for shelter. At first, she could hear nothing except the storm above.
Then suddenly, there was a noise behind her. Someone dashed a hundred yards away from the bushes and headed for the park. Holly turned and made out a figure wearing a blue anorak with the hood raised. She couldn’t tell whether it was male or female, but the speed at which they disappeared convinced her they were young.
“Hey,” she wailed, “what’s happening?”
The lane was empty once more. Holly risked a glance from where the young person had come. She saw nothing. Branches were rising and falling like the wings of geese in flight as they were buffeted by strengthening winds. The grass squelched under her trainers as she edged among the trees.
Another faint noise reached her ears; it sounded like a dog whimpering.
Holly held Princess tighter as her puppy shivered with fright. Holly knew how she felt.
At the edge of the clearing, beyond two mighty oaks, she spotted a Cocker Spaniel, its lead trailing on the ground behind it.
Back and forth, it scampered, urging Holly forward into the open space beyond. In the park, people who were now sheltered under the trees heard the young girl’s screams in the distance, and soon several men started running to her aid.
They found Holly Dean, Princess and Bobby standing at the foot of a giant oak tree.
Daphne Tolliver lay on the soggy grass, her unseeing eyes gazing at the heavens.
Ted Tayler is the international best-selling indie author of the Freeman Files and Phoenix series. His next project is another series of challenging mysteries set in England in the 1930s. Brothers In Crime is scheduled to appear on Amazon from October 2023.
Sign up to his mailing list at tedtayler.co.uk to keep informed about future release dates, giveaways, and exclusives. In addition, readers can find him on BookBub, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Ted Tayler lives in the English West country, where his stories are based. Born in 1945, Ted’s been married to Lynne since 1971. They have three children and four grandchildren.
Since he published his first novel in 2013, Ted has sold over 50,000 books and surpassed 20 million page reads on Kindle Unlimited. His thought-provoking mysteries appeal to readers of Sally Rigby, Joy Ellis, Pauline Rowson, and Faith Martin. His action-packed thrillers are a must for fans of Mark Dawson, Jack Mars, and J C Ryan.
Gus Freeman’s cold case investigations are carried out with reasoned deduction rather than bursts of frantic action. In each of the 24 books, unsolved murder is accompanied by romance, humour, and country life. The core message in the 12 Phoenix novels is that criminals should pay for their crimes. Unfortunately, the current system fails to deliver the correct punishment, so Phoenix helps redress the balance.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’m from Melksham, Wiltshire, England. I’ve lived here ever since my family moved here from Corsham (5 miles away) when I was five. I left school at 18 with a clutch of O and A Levels, and joined a bank initially, but moved to a local Tyre company because it fitted in better with my musical ambitions. I was made redundant in 2000, took various part-time jobs until 2016, and then my writing demanded that I gave it my full attention.
When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote a book of memories from my life in bands which was published in 2011. At the end of 2012, I wondered if I could write fiction! Those are the when’s. I’m still wondering why!
Tell us something interesting about you
In the mid-60s, I worked for the Kray family. This could send a shiver down the spine of people who either experienced the family first hand or have read about their ‘reign of terror’ in London at that time. Charles Kray, who was related to the infamous brothers, was a director of an entertainment agency who booked us to play at pubs and clubs across London. His name appeared at the head of every contract we received; one of his ‘boys’ arrived at the majority of venues to pay us the contracted amount or tell us it was ‘cheque to the agent’ tonight; we never argued. We worked for the agency for eighteen months and had no trouble whatsoever; it was probably the best agency we ever worked for!
When you aren’t writing how do you like to relax?
I watch sport; I love to read a good crime thriller. I enjoy times with the family whether it’s just Lynne and I pottering about in the garden, or visiting the children and the grandchildren. I listen to music; I prefer a live band to recorded material; it takes me too long to decide what to listen to from my collection – CD, cassette, or vinyl.
What is your least favourite quality about yourself?
I don’t suffer fools gladly and I can be a little too quick in letting people know it; I try to bite my tongue, but a caustic comment slips out now and then.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s for others to decide. I think of myself as a storyteller; I hope with each successive book I get better at it. What I’ve been told is the reader feels as if we’re sitting across the table from one another, and I’m just chatting with them.
Do you have a favourite movie?
‘Breakfast Club’ or ‘Stand And Deliver’ are the two stand out movies that come to mind. I don’t watch many movies these days – as you can tell.
When did you discover your love for books and literature?
My mother loved to read. She was the one to encourage me. Her eldest sister and her sister-in-law were both English teachers, so there was no escape. Whenever we visited them, they devised word games and spelling bees or sat me down with a book to read if it was raining outside. There was no TV, and in the countryside where they lived, there was no electric light. Many of our games on winter evenings involved creating shadows on the walls and ceilings by gaslight. Although I loved literature, I never dreamed of writing until I was in my mid-sixties.
How is a normal day for you structured?
When I’m writing a book, I start work at nine in the morning. I set aside forty-five minutes to an hour to deal with emails, social media, and promotion. After a short break I write for two hours. My wife and I then have lunch together before she orders me back to work! The length of time I work in the afternoons varies between two and three hours. My target is an average of two thousand words a day. Some days it’s easier to achieve than others; and if I haven’t reached that number in the afternoon, I might return for an hour in the evening. I’ve never suffered from writer’s block, so that isn’t necessary that often. A day’s work has produced as little as 750 words, and as much as 4000. I maintain two thousand a day without much trouble.
How did you come up with the concept for The Phoenix Series? Who was your inspiration for the character Colin Bailey?
Colin Bailey was the anti-hero of ‘The Final Straw’ which is a thriller from 2013 about an emotionally damaged young man seeking revenge against anyone who had stopped him becoming the person he believed he was destined to be. The character wasn’t based on anybody, and the Phoenix wasn’t even a possibility. My wife pestered me to write more about Colin Bailey and tie up the loose ends from the first book. After ‘Unfinished Business’ I was happy to stop. Writing was something I’d never done, I’d done it, and was ready to walk away to find another hobby. Because I recognised the two books had given me a great character in Colin Bailey, I agreed (reluctantly) to a trilogy about a secret organisation that hired Bailey to continue his vigilante role. Phoenix was reborn.
Where did you come up with the names in your first book?
They were a mixture of first names and last names of friends, schoolmates, and work colleagues. Since then, I’ve used a daily record of births and deaths in my home town from the 18th century to the present day, compiled by a local historian and posted on Facebook..
Who designed your book covers?
I’ve used The Cover Collection since 2018, and have no thoughts of going elsewhere. Their quality and service has been superb.
How did you get the idea for ‘The Freeman Files Series’?
A lucky accident. I’d finished writing the last book in The Phoenix Series by May 2018, and after five years struggling to make a breakthrough, I decided I’d done my best. The next six months were spent sourcing new covers, rewriting blurbs, switching browsing categories, and carrying out a deep dive into crafting keywords that would give positive results.
The relaunch of the Phoenix series in January 2019 saw me securing a Featured Deal with BookBub at my first attempt. My change in fortunes in March 2019 was dramatic, but as there were no new books in sight, the bubble was bound to burst. My wife insisted I started writing again. Although only a few hundred people seemed keen on getting to book #12 in the Phoenix Series, she thought they would enjoy a short series of thrillers, or mysteries once they were done.
That’s how Gus Freeman was born. I planned to write six books, back-to-back from August 2019, publishing the first, ‘Fatal Decision’, in time for Christmas. The following five books would then appear at monthly intervals. This rapid-release technique was designed to get me off the hook. There would be no more writing after Spring 2020; and retirement beckoned. What went wrong?
Another Featured Deal, this time for the first Box Set in The Phoenix Series gave me a second major boost with a Christmas #1. Three months later, the world was entering lockdowns and ‘Fatal Decision’ secured a Featured Deal at the beginning of April, despite only having fourteen reviews. Readers around the world were desperate for books, and I had four of the six books in the series ready and waiting on Amazon. Gus Freeman and his cold case mysteries had struck a chord with many more readers than Colin Bailey.
I stretched The Freeman Files series to ten books, and kept writing. I was shut indoors for twenty plus hours a day, so what else was I to do? Ten became sixteen as the books grew in popularity, and I finally called it quits at twenty-four in April 2023. I was shattered, having published over thirty titles since December 2019.
What are some common errors new authors make when writing thrillers and how do you avoid them?
I’m the wrong person to ask about anything technical. I’m a simple story teller. I would never presume to tell a real author how to create suspense, or to adopt the tools and techniques my limited education armed me with. I left school and got a job that allowed me to sing in a local band. I turned down the interview for a university place in case it whisked me a hundred miles away from what I loved doing.
Does writing drain or energize you?
Writing is a discipline. I have my daily schedule when I’m writing. If I find a chapter is giving me issues, I stop writing, walk away, and find something else to do. I may listen to music, read a thriller (I review over one hundred books a year), watch sport, or go shopping with my wife. I’ve solved more than a few chapter problems in the local supermarket or garden centre. Family plays a huge part in both our lives too, so we might spend time with our children and grandchildren. I’m soon energized to get back writing again.
How do you work through self-doubts and fear?
When I was a musician I learned very early on that no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are at what you do, there will always be some people that dislike what you’re playing. If you’re lucky, there will be a lot of people that do like you and stay with you on your journey. I never doubted myself or had a fear of failure because I knew I had given it everything. I see no reason to think about my writing any differently. I know some people will hate what I write and that it’s entirely probable I’ll never be wildly successful. Why worry? It’s the best I can do and that’s enough; if only a few readers come on this journey with me it will be worthwhile.
Do you focus more on creating strong characters or a strong plot?
For me it’s fifty percent of both. As both series developed, I felt I had created dozens of strong characters, many of whom might only appear in one book. Some have been ever-present, and their personalities determine how the plot I’ve selected is handled. I never set out with a rigid script. I chose themes from the headlines to be featured, or an unsolved murder, and established a rough framework for the book, and a time frame. Then, I let the characters take me where they wanted to go. That’s why some characters I loved writing about have been killed off. When I was in that garden centre, staring at bedding plants crammed into a tray, it dawned on me that to enable others to grow, some of the plants needed thinning out.
What inspired you to write your first book?
A friend asked if the stories I told about my experiences in the 60s and 70s were written down. He thought it would be a shame if they went to the grave with me. I wasn’t planning on going just yet, but I started to write them down anyway.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Charles Dickens. ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ is my favourite book. It’s the little things he observed in Victorian England that gave his books so much credibility and longevity.
Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Alexander the Great. I just want to stroke the mane of his horse Bucephalus. Why? You will have to read my first book of memories to find the answer.
What do you want written on your headstone?
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What is your favourite quote, by whom and why?
‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.’ (Aristotle)
I believe that if I keep doing what I believe to be right, in whatever venture I undertake, eventually I will reap the rewards. I never give up.
Do you have any advice for writers?
Enjoy what you are doing; make sure you write for you own amazement. Stick to it regardless of the knockbacks that come your way and measure your success in a way you are comfortable with. I go back to my musical experience; there were thousands of bands & musicians out there striving for a break. Only a small percentage ever made it to the top. Some of the best bands I met never got that break, while some pretty rubbishy ones had a handful of hit records. Life isn’t fair. All we can do is do our best and enjoy however far our writing takes us.
Why do you write?
I enjoy communicating with people. If it’s verbal, face to face, then that’s fine and I enjoy that too; however, I can reach more people with the written word and long after I’m gone the books I’ve written will be available, somewhere, for anyone who wishes to read them. I don’t have a ‘message’ to get across; I’m just a storyteller.
How do you feel about self-publishing?
I wouldn’t be without it! Ten years ago it was in its infancy. Things move at such a pace these days, five years from now, who knows what will be possible?
What’s the first stage to making a story? Do you dive straight in, or plan the whole thing?
As a series develops, although you might confine a theme to a single title, you have a raft of characters with ongoing stories. This means you have threads to pick up and pursue. I begin by selecting several themes per title and decide which subject will involve which characters. So, the first stage is to select the themes, then to research them, and when everything’s ready I write.
I’ll sit on the fence with the second part of the question. I prepare a rough outline for each chapter. These serve as signposts. I set off on the journey between Point A and B, but I let the characters take me wherever they wish to go. I end up in situations I never dreamed of, but I make sure I get back to Point B before travelling on to Point C. That’s what works for me. I make a rough plan, and after that it’s seat of the pants time.
What are the challenges in making a book, and how long does the average process take?
Writing a book is easy. What you need to recognise is that when you finish writing you’re only ten percent of the way through. Marketing, promotion and expanding your social media presence makes up the other ninety percent. As for a book’s content, one challenge is consistency. It’s vital your characters are exactly as you described them when they first appear. A key challenge is to maintain the level of excitement and anticipation.
If my books are to sell, I must find a range of different themes, and methods of investigating them. Variety is the spice of death for thriller writers.
How long does it take?
My books average sixty-five thousand words. I can complete that part in six weeks. Research could take two weeks ahead of that, editing and polishing two weeks at the end. So, the average process takes ten weeks.
Favourite food: Chicken Curry
Favourite drink: Red wine
Favourite colour: Royal blue
Best holiday spot: Santa Eulalia. Ibiza
Favourite song: What’s Going On, by Rory Gallagher.
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: Neither
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