The Good Cop, Bad War author talks about his former life investigating drug crime, and reveals his hidden talent
Where did you grow up, and what was it like?
I grew up in Buxton in the Peak District, surrounded by some of the most dramatic and beautiful countryside anywhere. It's the highest town in England, and so was often cold. I once opened my front door as a child and it was completely blocked by snow, which had drifted to way above the height of the door.
What did you do before you were a writer?
Before I was a writer I was a police officer. I worked under cover for over 14 years, but I was also a detective investigating major crimes like murder and the supply of firearms.
What inspires you?
What inspires me are the struggles for civil liberty and equality that have happened, and those that are still going on. Those people who put themselves at risk for the sake of freedom should be celebrated.
Who is your favourite fictional character and why?
My favourite literary character is Stephen Maturin from the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian. He's the most perfectly developed character I've ever read. He is a scientist first, but his intellect lends itself to all manner of things, including espionage. I adore his observations and musings on other human beings. He's fascinating - not just for his brilliance, but also his self doubt and his flaws.
How much is the illicit drugs market actually corrupting our institutions? You really should ask this, and prepare yourself to be shocked
What are you like on social media?
I've only got into social media since I've become active politically, so I'm learning as I go. I'm told I need to get into Instagram, and so I'm gearing myself up for that.
Not many people know this, but I’m very good at…
I wouldn't say I'm good at it, but a love of mine is singing. Just before I started writing I was in a rock covers band, I used to love playing at parties and pub gigs. I've always sung, but I don't really get the chance much nowadays. Thankfully, both of my kids are very musical, so I get to harmonise with them sometimes.
What moment in history would you like to have witnessed and why?
A Led Zeppelin concert, circa 1972. If I had a time machine I would travel from gig to gig. I would listen to Frank Zappa, Yes, Return to Forever, and all manner of different artists. I would just have to start with Led Zep though.
How do you celebrate finishing a book?
I celebrate whenever I finish any writing with a run. Even if I'm just scribing a small piece for a website, if I can I run off that concentration with a stretch of the legs around the woodland and fields near my home.
And finally, what question do you wish someone would ask you? And what's the answer?
How much is the illicit drugs market actually corrupting our institutions? You really should ask this, and prepare yourself to be shocked.
Find out more about the author
'Undercover, you're never just acting; you're only ever a different version of yourself.'
Neil Woods spent fourteen years (1993-2007) infiltrating drug gangs as an undercover policeman, befriending and gaining the trust of some of the most violent, unpredictable criminals in Britain. But Neil was never your stereotypical gung-ho, tough-guy copper. This is the story of how a thoughtful, idealistic character learned to use his empathetic nature to master some of the roughest, most dangerous work in law enforcement. There was no training, no manual and no plan for when things went wrong; he was just dropped at a corner and told to make connections. But, inevitably, having swords thrust against his jugular, witnessing beatings, stabbings, and gangsters burning suspected rats with acid took its toll.
Drawing on Neil’s experiences, with the insight that can only come from having fought on the front lines, GOOD COP, BAD WAR is at once a narrative-driven true crime read and a fascinating story of a character under pressure.