Author Lesley McEvoy Heads To Crossing The Tees Book Festival

Emma catches up with a dyed-in-the-wool Yorkshire Crime Writer
Emma Chesworth
June 11, 2024

“Yorkshire is where my heart is and I want to drape myself in the Yorkshire flag,” says Bradford-born author Lesley McEvoy as we start chatting ahead of her appearance at Crossing the Tees book festival tonight (11 June).

That pride and sense of place oozes from the pages of Lesley’s books featuring feisty, female protagonist, Forensic Profiler Jo McCready. The latest, The Invisible Dead, is out in paperback in August and is the fourth in the series set in the fictional city of Fordley, loosely based on her hometown.

Having worked for decades as a behavioural analyst and psychotherapist, Lesley has worked with huge corporations, charities and in the prison service specialising in behavioural profiling and training. 

Author Lesley McEvoy
Lesley McEvoy

Running her own business for more than 25 years, Lesley says she found more psychopaths in business than in prison. “Since I started profiling, I definitely found the business world to have more psychopaths than I saw in prisons. In business, that behaviour can be highly rewarded as they are the people who can have the tough conversations and sack people and not lose any sleep over it.

“I also worked extensively within the prison service both training prison officers on how to understand prisoners’ behaviour and then with prisoners themselves.”

While the corporate world has been the focus of Lesley’s career, writing has always been her passion - even at the age of five. “On my first day at primary school we were asked what we wanted to be and I said I wanted to write books like Enid Blyton because I had just come to realise that people actually wrote books, they produced them and I was fascinated by that. My teacher replied that people like us read books, we don’t write them!”‍

Fortunately, Lesley didn’t let that comment stop her writing or stop her believing and, many years later, she used her professional knowledge and experience to create Jo McCready but she made her a forensic profiler with Yorkshire as her patch. While Fordley is fictional, the Yorkshire Moors, Saltaire and villages such as Haworth feature heavily in the thrillers, with the plots as dramatic as the scenery.

Having decided to scale down her business commitments, Lesley committed to writing and while visiting Harrogate Crime Writing Festival she spoke with crime writing king himself, Ian Rankin. Having met before she gave Ian a copy of her debut novel, The Murder Mile, which he took away to read and it certainly got the thumbs up from him. From there, Lesley was taken on by his agent, Jon Wood of RCW Literary Agency.

Published in 2019, The Murder Mile is a stunner of a debut novel with Jo McCready battling to get in the mind of a murderer taking inspiration from the country’s most notorious of serial killers, Jack the Ripper. She says: “I knew the book had to be set in Yorkshire and much of the story does take place on the Moors. That landscape is so dramatic - it can be beautiful in summer and deadly in winter and it is both romantic and terrifying. The scenery can be really raw but there is such history and a wealth of folklore.”

With a front cover quote from Ian Rankin saying “McEvoy really knows her stuff”, The Murder Mile set a high bar but Lesley has continued to create spine-tingling page-tuners. Jo McCready is not to be messed with and while many crime book protagonists are angst ridden characters, as Lesley puts it ‘Jo has got her shit together’. She adds: “I have carried her character around with me long before the first book came out. They say write what you know and I think she is my younger, fitter, smarter avatar. She’s fought her battles and she’s ok. She’s not badly damaged like so many of the characters we see in crime books.” In the books, Jo has a loyal sidekick in her boxer dog called Harvey, based on Lesley and her partner Ian’s boxer, Bruce.

Lesle McEvoy's boxer dog Bruce - on the moors above Haworth, near Top Withens

Lesley has found huge support from the many independent bookshops across Yorkshire including Truman Books in Leeds, The Stripey Badger in Grassington and the newly opened Criminally Good Books in York. With The Invisible Dead due out imminently, she is now working on the fifth book in the series published by Bonnier Zaffre

Writing is a solitary business with day after day spent writing in her ‘she-shed’ in the garden, so Lesley relishes getting out and about meeting readers at book talks and festivals. “It can be tough when you are writing into a void but when you go to a book event and someone tells you they have loved your book, I think, yes, this is why I am doing it. I doubt myself all the time so to get such lovely feedback from readers is wonderful.”

Lesley will be speaking at Crossing the Tees book festival at the Community Hub Central in Hartlepool at 7pm on Tuesday, 11 June.