NEIL White has retribution on his mind.

The criminal lawyer and author of nine crime novels is due to speak at Berwins Salon North on November 26 on the subject. He will reveal how the reality of his courtroom work informs his books and how retribution is depicted in real life and fiction

The Yorkshire best-selling crime writer says the terror attacks in Paris last Friday, for example, would have been portrayed completely differently in a novel or film.

“In the blockbuster movie there would be a lot of action with planes tracking down the terrorists and bombs going off. The terrorists would be destroyed and a big cheer would go up in the cinema at the end of the film. No one would care what happened to people after the big main scenes. People get their revenge and live happily ever after. Fiction appeals to our baser instincts.

“In real life we can’t just let the bad guy get it. Reality is more complicated than the fictional stories. We have to think about how people will be affected in the future. The justice system isn’t just about revenge; it is about rehabilitation too. The ultimate retribution is, of course, the death penalty. But, I wouldn’t want to work for a system that uses that.”

Neil believes we all have it in our hearts to seek vengeance or retribution, even the mildest mannered amongst us.

“People who love animals and show kindness might, at some basic level, desire retribution against people. They might become animal extremists.

“Relatives of people who are victims of death by careless driving endure one of the least satisfying forms of retribution. If someone has failed to see someone in the road or was checking their mirror when they hit someone they might just be fined. It is very difficult to explain to the victim’s family that the death was just an accident, especially as a conviction for death by dangerous driving could result in a ten-year custodial sentence.”

Of course, not all fictional killers are punished for their crimes. Hannibal Lecter is one psychopath who gets away, but the trick there was for Lecter to charm the reader at some level, Neil says.

His own 2013 novel, Next To Die, was inspired by Moors murderer Ian Brady’s memoir. “Brady says we all want to kill, but serial killers are actually brave enough to live out their fantasies,” Neil says. “Brady also says that the newly converted are the most enthusiastic. He doesn’t say this refers to Myra Hindley, but it almost certainly does. This is chilling. My book looks at what would happen if a serial killer like Brady was caught and manipulated the Hindley type character from prison.”

Neil, 50, was born in Mexborough near Doncaster and raised in Wakefield and later lived in Bridlington. After nine years and nine published novels, in September he gave up his day job as a lawyer in the magistrates’ courts, apart from some freelance work, so he can write full time from his home in Preston.

Harper Collins published his first series of six books and Sphere the last three. He has now signed with Bonnier and is launching three books with its imprint Zaffre with the first due in hardback next summer. “My new characters are a female detective and a male freelance reporter,” Neil reveals.

“She wants to keep him away from her crimes whilst he wants the stories and they would like to be involved romantically but there is too much conflict. It is set in a former mill town in the Pennines. There have been plenty of legal dramas set in small northern towns but not with a young female private investigator.”

Also appearing at Berwins Salon North are world-renowned peace activist and three-times Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr Scilla Elworthy and artificial intelligence expert and senior research fellow at UCL, Dr Robert E Smith. Each speaker has the stage for 30 minutes in the club-style atmosphere to give their take on Retribution.

Berwins Salon North, presented by Harrogate International Festivals is at the Crown Hotel, Harrogate, on Thursday, November 26 from 7.30pm. Tickets at £18 are available on 01423 562303 or at