I am a retired Metropolitan Detective Sergeant who now writes for fun, and hopefully some profit.
I was initially reluctant to join the Police at the age of 21 having just completed four years of military service in the British Army. Returning to uniform duties didn’t really appeal to me, but there was a part of policing which intrigued me, and that was the investigation of murder. It was to be several years before I was selected for the CID and became a Detective Constable and a few more years before I was posted to a permanent murder squad.
Apart from a period of stress-related illness at the tail end of my service, I had a great time and would do it all again if that were possible. When I made Detective Sergeant it wasn’t long before I became a permanent office manager responsible for the administration parts of murder and other major enquires, and I loved it.
However, before reaching the dizzy heights of office manager I was a uniformed officer for 3 years and a crime squad officer for 2 years and a Detective Constable for 5 years. I was lucky enough to be involved in all sorts of serious and series crime investigations and along the way, I made numerous cock-ups and mistakes.
My first book ‘Low Fat Police: Tales of a Dyslexic Detective’ included many of my mishaps and the influence that dyslexia had on my service. I hope it illustrates to other Dyslexics that it’s not a bar to joining the police.
So, who is Harry Stoneleaf?
When I was a serving officer within the Metropolitan Police I tried to keep the darker parts of my job, murder and major crime investigations separate to my role as a husband and father. Inside my head, I attempted to create a sterile corridor between the two and not let them intermix.
I didn’t always succeed and being ‘On call’ ready to respond to the next murder or child abduction within my geographical area of responsibility often played havoc with my personal life. Having an understanding wife and two wonderful daughters brought me back from a very dark and depressing place I descended to during one bleak period of my service.
Once I started to write about murder and major crime investigations, both real and fictional I decided to recreate a sterile corridor within my mind and to maintain a gap between crime and family. Writing under my real name was not an option. I didn’t want friends, relatives or neighbours quizzing me about my latest book or short story, and as such, I needed a pseudonym to hide behind.
Following research, I realised that any pen name should be simple to remember and simple to type. My real forename and surname have been misspelt in many different combinations, so to avoid any similar misspelling my pen name had to be simple to remember and simple to type. Besides had I chosen to stick with my birth name I would have been one of at least 24 individuals with the exact same forename and surname.
To be honest writing my books and short stories has been relatively easy. However, the process of editing my own work has been incredibly difficult and emotionally challenging. Nobody likes to hear that they could do better or that a sentence could be written better and being self-critical has been a bigger challenge than I anticipated. Worse than the editing was the picking of a pen name. Every time I came up with a snappy, catchy name a search on Facebook would reveal numerous other individuals with the same name. Now to my knowledge I am the only person using the name Harry Stoneleaf, and as such I hope to capture any Internet traffic and emails without disrupting some other guy called Harry Stoneleaf.
Picking the forename ‘Harry’ was easy and picking the surname ‘Stoneleaf’ was more a process of elimination than selection. Every combination of ‘Harry this’ or ‘Harry that’ seemed to belong to a dozen or so other individuals and I just kept going until I found a unique combination.
I picked the forename ‘Harry’ in homage to two fictional detectives. The first being Harry Callahan aka ‘Dirty Harry’ as played by Clint Eastwood in the film of the same name and the four sequels. My police service was nothing like that of Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan of the San Francisco Police Department but on one occasion I was accused of acting like him. The allegation against me was ridiculous, but I loved the idea that the accuser had thought of me as some sort of Dirty Harry character.
The second fictional detective that I love to watch is ‘Harry Bosch’ as played by the brilliant American actor Titus Welliver, in the American TV series ‘Bosch’ which is set in Los Angeles, created by American author Michael Connelly.
Having picked Harry as my pen name forename I needed to pick a surname which would create a unique combination. Stoneleaf was properly about the eighth or ninth surname I tried, and once I saw the full name ‘Harry Stoneleaf’ in type I felt happy with the combination and thankfully it was unique.
So here I am ‘Harry Stoneleaf’, former crime fighter, now crime writer.
Incidentally, Stoneleaf is a Celtic Grey slate with a rugged surface – perfect.