Armstrong, David 1946-
ARMSTRONG, David 1946-
Born 1946, in Birmingham, England. Education: Attended University of Cardiff.
Home—Wales. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Allison & Busby, Bon Marche Centre, 241 Ferndale Rd., London SW9 8BJ, England.
Has taught adult education at a college in Shropshire, England.
Best First Crime Novel Award shortlist, Crime Writers' Association, for Night's Black Agents.
Night's Black Agents (novel), Crime Club (London, England), 1993.
Less than Kind (novel), HarperCollins (London, England), 1994.
Until Dawn Tomorrow (novel), HarperCollins (London, England), 1995.
Thought for the Day (novel), HarperCollins (London, England), 1997.
Small Vices (novel), Allison & Busby (London, England), 2001.
How NOT to Write a Novel (nonfiction), Allison & Busby (London, England), 2003.
Also author of poems, short stories, and plays. Contributor to periodicals, including Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times, London Times, London Evening Standard, and the Manchester Evening News.
Despite five published novels and a nomination for the Crime Writers' Association Best First Crime Novel Award, David Armstrong received little critical attention until he published How NOT to Write a Novel. A chronicle of his many setbacks and frustrations as a writer, Armstrong's only nonfiction title has outsold all his other books combined and attracted a following of writers and aspiring writers looking for the unvarnished truth about their chosen field. Humorous tips such as not crying in public when your publisher drops you and not visiting bookstores because your book either will not be carried or will not be selling are combined with hard truths about the vast oversupply of would-be authors, the extreme unlikelihood of "no-name" authors breaking into the big time, and the many frustrations of book tours. The underlying theme throughout is a message to would-be novelists: don't do it. Oddly enough, Armstrong himself emerges without the bitterness or anger one might expect. Birmingham Post reviewer Mike Ripley found Armstrong's book "a witty, quite endearing and very probably painfully honest guide to the trials and tribulations of an author so enthusiastic about the whole business of being a writer that he cheerfully suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous publishers and passes on the fruits of his decade of experience in useful tips to the aspiring author."
Prior to his newfound career as no-nonsense writer's guru, Armstrong was a writer of gritty crime novels. His first novel, 1993's Night's Black Agents, is set in the 1930s Midlands, a backwater town along a canal that is gripped by depression. When a barkeep pays a hit man to kill his wife's lover, the homicide inquiry sets into motion a series of events that brings out a number of buried secrets. This novel was shortlisted by the Crime Writers Association, which chose not to give out their Best First Crime Novel Award that year, to the outrage of many mystery fans and reviewers. Armstrong's next novel, Less than Kind, moves to the late 1960s and the rural Welsh borderlands, where Birmingham policeman John Munroe finds himself drawn into a world of fugitives and drug dealers lurking below the tranquil scenes of country life.
With Until Dawn Tomorrow, Armstrong introduces Birmingham Detective Inspector Frank Kavanaugh. Grieving over the recent separation from his wife, Kavanaugh finds himself drawn into the apparently motiveless murder of a local art teacher. Stymied by fruitless interviews and dead ends, he appears on the Crimewatch program and encounters a colleague working on a similarly baffling crime. Eventually, he finds himself on a trail that takes him to Wales and to the seedy side of London. Kavanaugh reappears in Thought for the Day. This time he is transferred to London and assigned to a kidnapping case. The missing advertising executive he is looking for, it turns out, has a shady past and a young mistress, and Kavanaugh's suspicions grow as more secrets come out. When another employee of the ad agency is murdered, Kavanaugh begins to wonder what is true and false in a world where exaggerated claims are business as usual. "Unfortunately, the ending is contrived and artificial … and does little justice to what is otherwise a fine novel," concluded Sunday Times reviewer Donna Leon.
Kavanaugh makes another appearance in Small Vices, which explores the way in which petty offenses can grow into serious crimes and how little betrayals can have huge consequences. Still separated from, but emotionally attached to, his wife, Kavanaugh has been having an affair with Detective Constable Jane Salt, "one of the most cleverly drawn characters in the book," according to Ripley in another Birmingham Post review. When Kavanaugh's investigation of a serial killer targeting prostitutes takes him to Birmingham, Salt remains on a London case involving a series of armed robberies, causing Kavanaugh to once again go through the pangs of separation. Eventually, he and Salt find themselves caught up in a tangled web that includes a radical eco-warrior and a drug czar coming under increasing suspicion for his own activities. "Armstrong knows is stuff … has interesting things to say and says them well," concluded Ripley in his review.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Birmingham Post (Birmingham, England), April 27, 2002, Mike Ripley, review of Small Vices, p. 48; July 5, 2003, Mike Ripley, review of How NOT to Write a Novel, p. 53.
Sunday Times (London, England), February 1, 1998, Donna Leon, review of Thought for the Day, Books section, p. 8.*