John Baker

John Baker

Photo © Anna Baker

John Baker was a founder member of Murder Squad who continues to write, but his writing has taken him away from the crime genre and he is no longer a member of Murder Squad. You can follow John via his website johnbakersblog.co.uk/. His latest book is Winged with Death:

In 1972, 18-year-old Frederick Boyle arrives by ship in the heat and dust of Montevideo, Uruguay. Equipped with little more than a phrase book and a few pesos, he quickly finds himself renamed Ramon Bolio.

Winged with Death

Uruguay is a country on the brink of dictatorship and as Ramon finds friends within the resistance movement and marvels at the beautiful girls, the world around him is changing rapidly. Then one night he discovers the tango and begins the long process of becoming a Milonguero – a master of the dance.

Looking back on this time many years later from a new life in York, Ramon finds himself at the heart of a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a teenage girl. He reflects on the threads that link the past to the present, of how the people and events from his time in Uruguay have shaped his life. Winged with Death is a novel about time and tango and revolution, abduction and denial.

Buy Winged with Death via the Flambard Press web site ISBN: 978-1-906601-02-7.


The following information is from the time when John was a member of Murder Squad.

John Baker lives and works in York, which is also the setting for the Sam Turner novels. Sam is a private eye with a dark sense of humour and a collection of eccentric helpers. John's novels, which are published by Orion, have been called 'Why-done-its' rather than 'Who-done-its'. He has also published two novels (The Chinese Girl & White Skin Man) in the Stone Lewis series, based in Hull. These deal more overtly with social issues, featuring a protagonist who comes face-to-face with contemporary problems. His latest Sam Turner novel, The Meanest Flood, is set in Oslo and York and explores the idea of magic, charm, sleight of hand and personal illusions. The Sam Turner series has been optioned for television.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say we specialize; though we do take up different stances within the wide genre of crime writing. Some of us write police procedurals, while others work with private detectives or within the tradition of the psychological thriller. Some of us are heavy on plot, while others rely more on character. For myself, I am mainly interested in language and ideas and my novels tend to reflect this, the plot often being a skeleton on which I hang the development of character and relationship while cogitating about identity or fiction or sexual politics or anything else that wants to be involved in the text."


White Skin Man

This one is a political novel.

It’s the second Stone Lewis novel. It’s about racism, the people who perpetrate it, those who suffer it, and those who stand and watch.

The dark, hook-nosed man held an incredible fascination for Katy Madika as she took shots of the sunlit docks. She was strangely drawn to his striking looks and it was perhaps fate that her camera ended up being the only witness to his murder...

Katy runs, clutching the precious evidence. But the killer comes after her and claims the camera - warning her against ever revealing what she saw. But unbeknownst to him, she has already palmed the digital film. When she returns to the spot, the body is gone - and for weeks there is no indication that anything had happened.

Stone Lewis, for the first time for a long time, is happy. But when Katy comes into his life and tells the story of the strange murder, he is once again drawn into the dark side of life...

White Skin Man is an incredible book, powerful and absorbing. Its racial theme is disturbing. The horror builds page by page as the reader anticipates what this band of misfits are going to do to their next victims. Baker has done some astonishing work in the development of the characters. First of all, there’s Stone Lewis, who is autistic and learning how to function in a world that he doesn’t quite understand.

“One of the secondary characters, Heartbreak, steals the page every time he’s on it. Even one of the skinheads, Mort, is sympathetically portrayed; although his principles are reprehensible, he cares for his housebound and disabled mother without complaint.

“White Skin Man receives my highest recommendation. It hit me hard when I read it, and it’s stayed with me ever since.”

Maddy Van Hertbruggen.

White Skin Man (Orion, first published: February 2004) ISBN 978-0-7528-4749-8
Buy from Amazon: paperback or hardback.


The Meanest Flood

Sam Turner returns to his home town, after completing a case in Nottingham, to find storm clouds gathering and the police waiting for him. He discovers that two of his ex-wives have been killed and that he is a suspect. Sam is released on condition that he does not leave York, but he sees a pattern in the two murders and guesses that the next victim will be another of his exes, Julie. Sam rushes to Oslo, where Julie now lives, but his efforts are in vain. She too is killed. Her murder marks out Sam as a prime suspect. He goes on the run, dodging not only the police, but the real killer, and finds himself embroiled in a terrifying mystery where he is both the fugitive and the detective, trying to anticipate the moves of the murderer and save his own skin.

“The river Ouse, which runs through York, reached a peak of 17ft 8ins (5.3m) above normal at 0330 GMT on Saturday 4th November 2000. This is the sixth Sam Turner novel. It's about magic and talismans and charms and the stuff of dreams. I wanted to write about sleight of hand and escapes and the idea of enchantment and personal illusions.”

The Meanest Flood (Orion, first published: February 2003) ISBN 978-0-7528-6573-7
Buy from Amazon: paperback or hardback.


Shooting in the Dark

This is the fifth Sam Turner novel. It’s about being blind and sometimes looking too hard. It’s about not being able to see the wood for the trees and sometimes seeing things that simply could not be there, watching and being watched. I wanted to write about voyeurism and readers and writers and to discuss the enigma of the different ways we all choose to see the world we share.

Shooting in the Dark (Orion, first published: September 2001) ISBN 978-0-7528-4798-6
Order direct from the author via this page on John Baker's website.


The Chinese Girl

Stone Lewis is just out of jail and looking for a fresh start. With new tattoos on his face - they held him down in the nick and did them for him - he looks scary enough for people to give him a wide berth. But that doesn't stop a battered Asian girl he finds in the doorway of his basement flat asking for his help. Ginny has come to Hull from California, looking for her best friend after her letters suddenly stopped. She's beautiful, she's a very long way from home, and Stone agrees to help.

Soon he's right back among the vicious city lowlife he was trying to avoid. And before long, as the terrible truth emerges, Stone finds himself surrounded by psychos and Dobermanns.

The Chinese Girl (Orion, first published: August 2000) ISBN 978-0-7528-4373-5
Order direct from the author via this page on John Baker's website.


Earlier crime novels
Walking with Ghosts (1999) was conceived as an exploration of the idea of the ghost in Western culture. Sam Turner is a haunted private eye at the centre of a political scandal and a familial tragedy. The black humour and the streets of York, as in the previous novels of the series, are forever present.
King of the Streets (1998)
Death Minus Zero (1996)
Poet in the Gutter (1995)
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