Five on Friday with Adam Simcox @adamsimcox @jennapetts

Today I’m delighted to feature filmmaker turned crime writer Adam Silcox. Adam is the creator of the gritty UK-set supernatural crime Dying Squad series in which the dead investigate murders the police can’t solve. It was a concept that intrigued me when I attended one of Adam’s panels at Harrogate (Theakston Crime Writing Festival) and I’m looking forward to meeting the aptly named DI Joe Lazarus. Adam’s latest book in the series The Generation Killer was published yesterday.

Adam is a London-based filmmaker who has shot commercials for brands such as McLaren, Primark and Unilever, and music videos for Britpop veterans as well as fresh on the scene alt-country stars. He began his film career by writing and directing three features: the first sold to Netflix before Netflix was Netflix; the second and third won awards and critical acclaim at festivals worldwide, and so didn’t sell at all.
When he’s not making films he indulges the masochistic pain that is being a Spurs fan, and keeps up his unhealthy vinyl collecting habit. He lives in London with his wife (a fellow writer) and their two young sons.

Over to Adam:

Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender

To say the last three years have been tough hardly marks me out as unique. Everyone’s suffered. Everyone’s found it tough. Going to see Sam Fender (easily one of my favourite artists of the last few years) at Ally Pally last November was the first time that hope bloomed we’d turned the corner on it. It was my first big gig since the pandemic started – the crackle in the air suggested it was a lot of people’s first gig since it started – and the gig was ninety minutes of healing and hope. Ironically, the stand out moment happened when Fender stopped playing; as the last bars of Seventeen Going Under faded out, the crowd picked up the baton, chanting the refrain for several minutes afterwards. It was an unprompted communal moment you couldn’t get from a live stream, or from watching old concert footage, one that put an arm around your shoulder and told you everything was going to be alright. It was right.

Call to Arms by Sturgill Simpson

Writing, making films, creating art, the whole deal involves rejection, knock backs and pain. It’s inevitable: you need to be able to take it, and wear that fucker as a badge of honour. Alt-country genius Sturgill Simpson has had more rejection than most: he worked a number of careers, including the navy and managing railroad freight before self-funding and self-releasing his debut album. It was his third record that really announced his arrival. His Saturday Night Live performance of Call to Arms is one of greatest live musical moments ever recorded. It seems to me that every slammed door and rejection Simpson’s ever received gets exorcised as he pounds his way through the song, the whole thing coming off like Marty McFly playing Johnny Be Good via School of Rock. There’s not a week when I don’t watch it at least twice. It’s my Eye of the Tiger, my rejection pick-me-up. It’s utterly electric.

Hljomalind by Sigur Ros

One of my biggest faults is an inability to live in the moment. Whatever I’m doing, I should be doing the other thing. Seeing this song performed live was one of the few times I was able to glory in the fact that there was nowhere else in the world I’d rather be, and nothing else I’d rather be doing. The band were showing their concert film, Heima, at the AFI film festival in LA, and I’d been lucky enough to get a ticket. They surprised everyone by playing a 30-minute set before the film, this song being a particular highlight. It was a night of crackling magic I’ll never forget.

Acqueisce by Oasis

Oasis were my first true musical love, and this song finds them at their very best. It’s almost like a rap battle without the rappers; Liam and Noel take turns to battle over the vocals, ensuing the real winner’s listener. 2m 1s when Liam takes the baton from Noel is one of the most exciting musical moments ever recorded. I WILL NOT BEING TAKING QUESTIONS ON THIS.

The First Days of Spring by Noah and the Whale

There are a few songs that are special, that you know, within seconds of hearing them for the first time, they’ll be keepers you’ll be listening to for the rest of your life. That was The First Days of Spring for me – the opening drum rolls send shivers down my spine even now. It’s a widescreen love letter to heartbreak, despair, and the rays of dawn that wait for you on the other side. It makes your life better for the six minutes and thirty-nine seconds you listen to it for. What else is there?

What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.

My iphone. I’m a doom-scrolling social media fiend, and how else am I going to listen to no.2 which is:

Podcasts. I’ve become a real junkie for them over the last couple of years. True crime, writing, current affairs, ones from the past, I devour them all.

My vinyl collection. I’m afraid I’m the absolute middle-aged cliché – buying all the albums I used to own on CD for ten times the price I originally paid for them, when I could just stream them (obviously I subscribe to two streaming platforms too.) I just like looking at them on the shelf. It helps me buy character. STOP JUDGING ME.

Books. Reading’s a professional requirement that never feels like one. When a book’s really good, it makes me forget I do it for a living, removes my need to analyse it and strip it down for parts, and just enjoy the damn thing. Stephen King always has that effect. Mick Herron, too.

Cinema. Man, I missed them during lockdown. I don’t care how fancy pants your TV is, or how meaty your soundbar – you’re never going to replicate the experience of going into a big-ass room, with a big-ass screen and a big-ass sound system, and surrendering to an amazing film. I love the blinking into the day feeling you have when you’ve seen something amazing. I’m glad they’re back.

Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?

I don’t know about my younger self – feels like this is the stuff I should be telling my 5- minutes-ago self:

Things will work out, even when everything points to the opposite.

Treat everyone the same, and do it with humility and decency.

The bad writing days are never as bad as you think. Plot twist: neither are the good ones.

Whatever job you’re doing, do it well. Phoning anything in’s poison.

When faced with taking a risk or playing it safe, always double down.

Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you

I studied law at university. I was a spectacularly rubbish law student.

I grew up in a village so small there weren’t any pavements, street lights or shops.

I took acting lessons when I lived in Canada, which set me on the road to writing books and answering questions like this.

I’ve shot interviews with rockstars like Meat Loaf (absolute weapon), Blondie (genuinely hilarious, couldn’t use any of her stuff because it was so inappropriate) and The Edge (a true gentleman.)

I once worked in a theme park in Myrtle Beach (the American deep souths answer to Blackpool.)

Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.

I basically have these stitched to the insides of my eyelids:

Have a Sunday Times top 10 best-selling novel

Have a book optioned for film or TV.

Have that book made into a film or TV show.

See someone reading one of my books on a train or plane.

If I can’t achieve world domination, I’ll settle for a small continent. Australia will do.

Many thanks for joining me today Adam, it’s been a pleasure. First of all, congratulations on the new book, I hope it flies for you! Thanks for introducing me to some new music, I’m always happy to extend my musical horizons. Rest assured nobody will be judging you for your vinyl collection, most of us are the same with books! Same with advice for our younger selves, it invariably applies to the adults we’re always striving to become whatever our age. I hope your bookish hopes come to fruition, the premise of your books I’m sure would translate very well onto screen, and I’m sure you’re bound to spot somebody reading one of yours soon.

Adam’s Books

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

The Dying Squad (Dying Squad 1)


When Detective Inspector Joe Lazarus storms a Lincolnshire farmhouse, he expects to bring down a notorious drug gang; instead, he discovers his own dead body and a spirit guide called Daisy-May.

She’s there to enlist him to the Dying Squad, a spectral police force made up of the recently deceased. Joe soon realises there are fates far worse than death. To escape being stuck in purgatory, he must solve his own murder.

Reluctantly partnering with Daisy-May, Joe faces dangers from both the living and the dead in the quest to find his killer – before they kill again.

The Generation Killer (Dying Squad 2)

There’s a new serial killer on the streets of Manchester – and only a dead cop can stop them.

Detective Joe Lazarus works for the Dying Squad, solving crimes the living police can’t. When the Generation Killer starts wiping out Manchester’s innocents, Joe and his new partner Bits have mere hours to catch the murderer. A young woman’s life depends on it.

Joe’s former partner Daisy-May has her own problems. Children are going missing in the afterlife, and she’s the only one who seems to care. Her investigation uncovers a conspiracy so vast, it threatens both the living and the dead.

Her predecessor the Duchess can’t help this time; she’s tracked her treacherous sister, Hanna, to Tokyo, where she’s been recruiting the dead. The Duchess must enlist the help of a local detective if she’s to have any choice of stopping her.

Time is running out for the Dying Squad. And if they can’t crack their cases, it’s the living that will pay…


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