Friday, November 18, 2011

Murder, Ballet and God: An interview with Philip Catshill, author of the Mike Newman mysteries

Last September I did a blog post called ‘When Good Guys Go Bad’ about the mystery novel ‘Who Else IsThere?’ and today I am thrilled to be interviewing the author of the Mike Newman mysteries, Philip Catshill. First of all Philip, can I ask how you become an author and what led you to write your first book, ‘Who Else Is There?'

My original intention was to write a brief account of an accident and illness I had 30 years ago, and the eighteen months it took to get back to my work as a police sergeant. It was one of those serious illnesses where, at the time, the likelihood of living another 30 hours seemed pretty remote.

The accident happened simply because my head was in the way when a friend slammed the car boot lid shut. Stupidly, I ignored the dizziness and later I had a few drinks at a party. The combination of the two events brought on a massive stroke. After reading the manuscript, which I called “A Step out of Stroke,” Rosie Goodwin, the author of several best sellers, (The Ribbon Weaver, etc) suggested using the experience as the basis for a novel which I did. Somewhere along the line, I thought, “What if the injury had been deliberate?” and the seeds for the first novel were sown.

“Who Else is There?” introduces Police Sergeant Mike Newman. Encouraged by an attractive policewoman, Sandra, Mike is persuaded to call an end to his disastrous marriage. After a drink and discussion with his best friend, Mike gets a blow on the head which leads to a life threatening stroke, but there, the similarity between fact and fiction comes to an end. Mike’s near death experience and damaged brain have left him with some severe disabilities to deal with, but he seems to have developed an unforeseen ability. Mike refuses to believe in anything paranormal, but what other explanation is there for what he sees? As the novel progresses, the reader is made aware of a secret clique of police officers that are rapidly rewriting the rule books and enforcing only the laws relevant to their evil intentions. Corruption thrives. Once you realise that you cannot trust the police, who else is there?

You have recently published a second book, the murder mystery, ‘Suffer Little Children’.  Without giving too much away, could you tell us something about it?

It is six months since Mike’s wife disappeared and he is still struggling with his own health and relationship issues. His daughters Rebecca and Emmahave endured hatred and abuse in the “care” of their deranged aunt. When the aunt discovers a long forgotten priest hole in a derelict church, she interprets the inscription “Suffer Little Children” on a broken window as a direct commandment. But corrupt police officers have a more sinister and profitable plan for the children, so the children’s disappearance sparks off a stream of events which involve murder, riot and arson. While his friends are content to write off the death of yet another policeman as suicide, Mike faces an uphill battle to convince them to see things differently, and his relationships suffer as a result.

What are your plans for your third novel?

I have another Mike Newman mystery in mind. By now, I think my readers will have realised that Mike’s friends have individual characteristics and temperaments which I want to develop further, while at the same time not losing the essential elements of crime and the criminals who commit them.  The novel is in its early stages and as yet, hasn’t got a working title.

When you are not writing, I understand that you like to paint.  Could you tell us something about that?

Just sixteen days after my second marriage, and two days after we came back from honeymoon, my car was rammed from behind and catapulted into another. I was injured of course. The head injury brought on my second stroke and brought my police career to an end. At the time, my wife’s mother attended an art class at a local college and I was encouraged to give it a try. I have never regained sufficient dexterity in my right hand, so holding a paintbrush in my non-dominant hand was a challenge in itself. Hey, there is nothing clever in what I do. Some people have to hold a paint brush in their teeth or toes, now that is clever. I lost the heart for painting when my mother-in-laws life was ripped away by cancer, but one day I’ll get back to it. I recently put some paintings on my website and I’ve been greatly encouraged by the comments I’ve received, so maybe I’ll start painting again very soon.

I believe you are also a fan of the ballet, like me.  What first led to this interest and are there many balletomanes in the police force?

Swan Lake Photo: Rosalie O'ConnorI don’t know of anyone in the police who shares my passion for the ballet. I admit to being reluctant to attend that first one in 1982. Most of my colleagues were full of derision with the thought. You know the sort of thing “men in tights” and that. However, I have yet to see any macho policeman lift a 7 or 8 stone weight from the floor, and hold it for several seconds with one extended arm, and do it with grace! The first ballet I saw was Swan Lake. Wow! Every pre-conception disappeared within minutes. I have seen different versions of Swan Lake, but nothing compares to Birmingham Royal Ballet (Peter Wright choreography). We subscribe to the whole Birmingham season, and enjoy every single minute. We are also friends of the Birmingham Royal Ballet so we get to see rehearsals and classes.

Where can we buy your books?

My novels are published as ebooks and are available from and In addition, there are free short stories on  Granddad’s Treasure should make you smile.

Any parting thoughts?

Yes, I would like to share the two pieces of advice that have guided me throughout the last 30 years. When I had the first stroke, I was 30. I don’t know whether you can imagine what it is like to be a fit and active policeman and then in less than a minute, to have half your mind and body ripped away, but still be there as some paralysed and lifeless appendage. As far as I was concerned at the time, my whole world had collapsed. There was little that I could remember, I couldn’t speak, my eyesight had been affected and I had no feeling or movement in any part of my right side. Needless to say, I was a tad unhappy about my prospects, but then I was introduced to a physiotherapist named Angela. I have never seen her since and have been unable to trace her, but Angela took me aside during a severe bout of depression and said a few words that changed my life, prompted my rapid recovery and got me back on the road to recovery. Angela said, “Never say I can’t.”

The second and really, the most useful advice I have ever received came from an unexpected source and is really a story in its own right. When I was 40 and my first marriage had collapsed, I was temporarily homeless (I had shelter but believe me, it is not the same thing.) At these times, you find out who your real friends are, and there weren’t many about. It seemed that everyone was able to tell me what they would have done or what I should have done, but no one could tell me what I should do.

Then a woman I worked with said, “You could always pray.” Seriously, I thought that was a joke! I was a committed atheist! I retorted, “I haven’t believed in God for years.” And she said, “Just because you do not believe in God, it has never stopped Him believing in you.” I had tried everything else from marriage guidance to psychologists, so I thought, “Okay, give it a go.” So I prayed. I even went to church but it just got worse. I think God was putting me through some sort of a test. I gave up everything, but not my prayer, and believe me, prayer works. For everything I lost I have gained a thousand times over. Not in material possessions, but I have a wonderful wife, a growing supportive and loving family grandchildren and a home. Prayer works. That’s it really. And thank you Katheryn, you have been very supportive and I am grateful.

You’re most welcome. You are right about prayer. It really does work! Thank so much for the great interview.

To find out what Philip has been up to recently, take a look at his latest interview on this blog, here.


  1. This is a wonderful and beautiful testimony of what a person can do and achieve when they turn to God in prayer! I have seen some of Philip's paintings and they are amazing. His talents and passion for the good things in life show in his work and I can't wait to read his books. Thanks for sharing this encouraging and inspiring interview of Philip Catshill.

  2. Hi Ronnie,

    Thank you for your comment. Philip's story is indeed inspiring and a great testimony of what prayer can do. Definitely check out his books!


  3. Thank LSP. Cheers for dropping by.


  4. I'm new here, having just friended Phillip. I write romance. Guardian Angels, as well as others. I'd have to say Angela would have a place in one of my books, where good always triumphs over evil, and good, brave men often need help and get it by believing.

    My antennae is rather bent (seriously), but I do believe in the power of prayer, and giving it all up. There are things I cannot explain in my life other than the hand of God working miracles.

    Great read, Phillip. Thanks for directing me there. I'll go buy your book now. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  5. Hi Sharon,

    Thank you for visiting. I looked for your book under 'Guardian Angels' on Amazon. Is it 'Heavenly Lover?'


  6. Loved your blog Katheryn...very interesting read and Philips books sound amazing as well. Loved learning about how he came up with his story from a true life incident.

    Thank you both for sharing.

  7. Hi Christine,

    So glad you like my blog. Thank you!


  8. hmm knowing the guy so well am concerned about his seemingly biased and oneside view of his experiences

    1. What a shame you have chosen to remain anonymous.