TV deal for The Jigsaw Murders

The cast of ITV’s hit crime drama Vera, with Brenda Blethyn in the starring role

It has been a big week for me and my book.

First, I hit 50,000 words in my writing, which is the halfway point. It’s very satisfying piecing the little details I’ve dug out in research together with the narrative’s timeline. I have found lots of previously unreported details that help to layer and enrich the story.

The other, more momentous news, however, is that The Jigsaw Murders has been optioned for TV by Elaine Collins (whose company is Tod Productions) and STV Productions. I am hugely indebted to my literary agent Joanna Swainson and my TV/film agent Marc Simonsson, of Soloson Media, for securing such a wonderful deal.

TV producer Elaine Collins, who spotted the potential in The Jigsaw Murders

I’m particularly thrilled because Elaine is one of the top TV drama producers in the UK. She brought the brilliant novels of crime writer Ann Cleeves to our screens: Shetland at the BBC and Vera at ITV. Both shows, which I love, have casts to die for.
The cast to the brilliant BBC1 crime drama Shetland, with Douglas Hensall as DI Jimmy Perez

I’ve always thought the Ruxton murders were ripe for a television drama. So, why the interest now? There have been a number of related books and many, many newspaper and magazine accounts about the case in the decades since the crimes.

I’ve always said that my book will go much, much deeper into the human drama — the human tragedy — behind the lurid surface details. As I’m writing narrative nonfiction — a true story that reads like a novel — I want to immerse my readers in the story, to make them care for the people at the heart of it, to empathise and hopefully try to understand the reasons why they did what they did. That includes not only the victims, the scientists, the police and legal people, but also Ruxton himself. What he did was monstrous, evil; but I believe we should try to understand who he was (even if we are repelled by his crimes): a deeply troubled and flawed human being who nevertheless had some good, well-meaning qualities as well.

So, my version of the Ruxton story will be different to what has gone before. It will not sensationalise the gory aspects of the case, nor will it cross the line into fictionalising what happened on the night of the killings; instead it will stick to the facts and dramatise a truly human tragedy whose impact is still being felt today.

Here is the press release about the TV option put out by STV Productions:

News of the option deal has been quite widely reported, especially by Scottish media. Here is just a selection:

Daily Record

The Herald, Scotland

The Scotsman

The Knowledge Online

World Screen

And here’s the news announced on the website of my literary agent, Hardman & Swainson.

American entertainment magazine Backstage has alerted the acting world that there might be casting opportunities coming up.



Research during lock-down

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced a rethink on how to conduct research for my book

I had big plans for April 2020.

My teaching commitments at Manchester Metropolitan University would be over. I had a few days’ holiday booked and I was planning a research trip to the university archives in Edinburgh and Glasgow for my book The Jigsaw Murders.

It was not to be. It hardly seems important compared to what so many people are going through during the coronavirus pandemic, but I am having to rethink how I complete crucial research for my book.

I had mapped out the route I was going to drive to Scotland, travelling via Moffat and the Devil’s Beef Tub, a key location at the heart of my true crime book. It was here that the gruesome discovery was made of the two victims’ bodies in autumn 1935.

I was to stay in Edinburgh and Glasgow for a couple of days each, immersing myself in the archives relating to the Ruxton killings and the landmark work done by the Scottish forensic pathologists who helped to solve the mystery.

I was also planning a trip to the National Archives at Kew, London.

The longer the lock-down continues, the likelihood is that I will have to use the money I would have spent on hotels and fuel on paying the archivists to copy the material for me instead so that I can do my research from home.

It’s not what I intended, but in uncertain times you have to be resourceful.