Luke Delaney: Five Things That Changed My Life

Editor’s Note: Generally, authors will, for Five Things, pick books, albums or films that had an impact on their lives. Today, Luke Delaney presents a list of events that literally changed his life, including illness, addiction (tobacco) and even a certain serial killer novel that gave us an iconic serial killer with distinct culinary tastes.

The novel – RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris.

I wasn’t actually much of a reader – I was young and already in the police, with much more exciting things to do than read. But I finally took some time off to take a holiday and decided to grab a book. I saw Red Dragon, loved the title and cover, the blurb sounded good too, so I bought it and read it in two days flat. It simply blew me away – menacing, fascinating, unbelievably good characters and plot and I can assure you very true to life from the police investigation point of view – the best ever written, even today. Not only did it make me an avid reader, but it reminded me of an ambition I already held – to one day write a book. I’ve now had four of my own published, with a fifth on the way, so yeah, you could say this book changed my life.

Almost dying from a bout of severe sepsis and pneumonia.

A couple of years ago I started to feel very unwell, but was convinced I either had tonsillitis or flu, so did little about, until after a couple of days when I started to go into toxic shock and ended up being zipped off to hospital. I was put into an isolation room in Intensive Care where over the next few days I drifted back and forth dangerously close to the edge from where no one returns.

There were times when I didn’t really know what was going on, but most of the time I did and knew I was in big trouble. Let me tell you, when it boils down to not knowing if you’ll still be around come morning, all the stuff you thought was important, even the stuff you may have dreamed about all your life, goes out the window and all you think about are the people you love and who rely on you. For me that was my wife and kids. Absolutely nothing else mattered – nothing at all. Not for one second did I think about books, career, success, houses anything. It all completely disappeared from my mind.

Once or twice I considered chucking the towel in – I was so tired, but I had a picture of my kids and wife right next to me. All I had to do was focus on that photograph and it was enough to make me fight like hell and get myself through to the morning when I always seemed to make a little bit of a recovery – gathering enough strength for the battle I knew waited for me when the night came. I experienced some weird things as I drifted here and there, but strangely enough and I can’t really explain why, but having survived, I wouldn’t go back and undo what happened, even if I could. It was, after all, life changing in a positive way. Of course I’ve always loved my wife and kids, but since then I truly understand what a gift they are.

Joining the police.

I always wanted to join the police. At school, when we played cops and robbers, I was the only kid who wanted to be the cop. But the police gave me even more than I thought it would. Not only did it straighten me out as a young man, but it shaped the entire rest of my life. Even the books I write today come from my experiences in the police and the discipline and technical writing skills I learned during my service have been a huge factor in giving me the tools I needed to become a published author.

But it opened my eyes as well – to the real world. I come from a pretty tough town and was very streetwise even before joining, but the police really homed those senses – enabled me to see and feel things most people simply will never be able to do. It gives you a tremendous feeling of walking through life with your eyes open and even to this day I can sense danger or when something’s not quite right miles before the people around me – unless those people also happen to be cops. The police basically turned me into a completely different person and what can be more life changing than that?

Having children.

I know this isn’t very romantic, like this song changed my life, or this film changed my life, but apart from Red Dragon, my life’s never been changed or even slightly altered by a book, film or album. I’m far more affected by practical things that really do cause a seismic change in the way you live and there’s no greater tsunami in a person’s life than the arrival of small, totally dependent, utterly trusting and completely vulnerable little people. I’ve got three, but you only have to have one to very quickly realize that from the moment they arrive your life has utterly and totally changed forever. Life before children seems little more than a distant and very foggy memory. The ability to be totally selfish is wiped out over night – as is sleep, going out, late nights, reading newspapers, watching TV, sitting down etc. Having kids isn’t just life changing – it’s life shattering, but you piece it all back together in a totally new way – in a way that can be rewarding and beautiful in a way you could never have imagined before the little rats came along.

Quitting smoking.

Seriously. I’d smoked from about the age of sixteen and I mean smoked properly – fifteen to twenty cigarettes a day. But being young and really into my sports meant it was quite a long time before I started to feel the awful effects of having smoked for so long. Even though I was only in my early thirties, even climbing a few stairs was hard and sport was now out of the question. So I vowed to quit before it was too late and quit I did.

It was remarkable how quickly the damage seemed to repair and soon I was playing sport again, running and training for extra fitness and just feeling generally fantastic. I’m into my fifties now, but can still train pretty hard and most importantly, keep up with the kids in the garden. Quitting smoking is damn hard, but worth the pain and effort. I dread to think what state I’d be in by now if I hadn’t quit. Even if I’d survived to the point where I came down with sepsis and pneumonia – if I’d still been smoking there was no chance I would have survived it. No chance. It may not be as romantic as talking about a beautiful piece of music, but it was hugely life changing.

Luke Delaney

Luke Delaney joined the Metropolitan Police Service in the late 1980s, and his first posting was to an inner city area of South East London notorious for high levels of crime and extreme violence. He later joined CID, where he investigated murders ranging from those committed by fledgling serial killers to gangland assassinations. His novels include THE KEEPER AND COLD KILLER and THE TOY TAKER  all featuring DI Sean Corrigan. THE TOY TAKER is the most recent and landed on shelves on July 28th.

The third novel in the DI Sean Corrigan series – authentic and terrifying crime fiction with a psychological edge, by an ex-Met detective. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham, Peter James and Stuart MacBride. Your child has been taken…Snatched in the dead of night from the safety of the family home. There’s no sign of forced entry, no one heard or saw a thing. DI Sean Corrigan investigates. He needs to find four-year-old George Bridgeman before abduction becomes murder. But his ability to see into dark minds, to think like those he hunts, has deserted him – just when he needs it most. Another child vanishes. What kind of monster is Corrigan hunting? And will he work it out in time to save the children?

For more about Luke and his novels, check out his site.