Sneak a flavour of Martin Brunt’s dispatches from thirty-five years of crime reporting in this quick-fire Q&A.
No one wants to be a victim, but everyone is fascinated by crime. Often the stories behind the stories are as interesting as the headlines themselves, so a book seemed a good platform for telling a bit more about how tip-offs, rumours and ideas get turned into news.
Why the title?
When farmers and landowners – core supporters, you would think, of law and order – demonstrated outside Parliament against a fox-hunting ban the protest turned into a physical clash with police. Scotland Yard’s then commissioner Sir John Stevens was asked the next day why his officers had used their batons. He said: ‘No one got cracked over the head for no reason.’ As a book title, I thought it would intrigue potential readers. I hope it hasn’t confused them.
How has crime reporting changed?
Crime reporting has changed a lot over the past thirty-five years, mainly because the traditional relationship between police and journalists has been damaged. The phone-hacking scandal, the Leveson Report into press ethics and a long investigation into payments by journalists to public officials have led police to distrust the media. We don’t talk to each other like we used to and restoring that relationship is vital in understanding each other’s function, work and limitations.
If you could be a fly on the wall in one of the crimes mentioned in the book, which would it be and why?
I’d love to have been in the safe deposit vault during the Hatton Garden heist when a gang of elderly villains stole millions of pounds worth of jewels, gold and cash. We still don’t know exactly how they planned it and were able to get in, climb down a lift shaft and drill through a concrete wall. And I’d love to know where the missing loot is.
What advice would you give to a budding crime reporter today?
The job of a crime reporter is harder than it used to be, though social media is a great source of stories, images and background information. If I was starting out today, I would make sure I didn’t stay stuck at my desk, but get out and meet contacts, cultivate sources, badger officials face-to-face. Just talk to people.
Why are we so fascinated by crime fiction?
For me, characters are what make crime fiction so popular. The stories, of course, need to keep you turning the page, but readers want to visualise the protagonists and the bit-part players. I’m often disappointed when a story fizzles out or I guess the ending in advance, but strong characters and their sizzling dialogue will keep me entertained. Elmore Leonard does it for me.
A wonderful blend of storytelling and analysis, No One Got Cracked Over the Head for No Reason: Dispatches from a Crime Reporter by Martin Brunt is out now.