One dead cop, one small island and an impact that will last a lifetime.
When Sergeant John White, mentor, saviour and all-round good guy, is murdered during a routine call-out, the tight-knit world of Tasmania Police is rocked to the core.
An already difficult investigation into the death of one of their own becomes steeped in political complexities when the main suspect is identified as Aboriginal and the case, courtesy of the ever-hostile local media, looks set to make Palm Island resemble a Sunday afternoon picnic in comparison. And as the investigation unfolds through the eyes of the sergeant's colleagues, friends, family, enemies and the suspect himself, it becomes clear that there was a great deal more to John White - and the squeaky-clean reputation of the nation's smallest state police service - than ever met the eye.
The Brotherhood is a novel about violence, preconceptions, loyalties, corruption, betrayal and the question a copper should never need to ask: just who can you trust?
Y.A. Erskine spent eleven years in the Tasmania Police Service. She was active in front-line policing and served as a detective in the CIB. She is also an historian with an honours degree in early modern history. Y.A. Erskine lives in Melbourne and is happily married with two dogs.
Random House Australia
Author: Y.A. Erskine
Question: What inspired you to write The Brotherhood?
Yvette Erskine: In 2006 I resigned from policing after an eleven year career. I'd been writing for a while but was still to produce a manuscript that would make it through a publisher's door. After a stint in Melbourne, my husband's work took us to Canberra and it was there in August 2009 that I was sitting in front of the computer, surfing the morning news when I opened one of the Tasmanian papers and nearly fell off my chair.
I was catapulted back in time. For there was a photograph of an ex-colleague who I'd known since our academy days in 1995, had worked with on and off, but had lost touch with after I left policing. He'd been involved in a horrific situation involving a firearm where he could easily have been killed on duty.
I was astounded at how emotional I became reading the article. I'd considered myself completely removed from policing, but obviously I was wrong. Thus The Brotherhood was born that morning from a simple question. 'How would those nearest and dearest (and even those very far away) feel if one of their colleagues had been murdered on duty?'
I began a new manuscript that very day.
Question: How did your career as a police officer help you write The Brotherhood?
Yvette Erskine: Being a police officer gave me the knowledge of processes and procedures which an author might otherwise find impossible to learn, no matter how much research they do. It's like any job - you might think you have a bit of an idea how it works, but until you're on the inside, completely immersed in it's culture, you can't begin to comprehend how it really works in practice. Policing itself is very two faced - what the public sees is not even close to what goes on behind the scenes.
It also provided me with an interesting insight into men which assisted when it came to my male characters. As a naïve 21 years old joining the job, I realised pretty quickly that I knew nothing about the other sex. Working a ten hour night shift in a car with a male partner on a slow job night, gave me a good insight into the male psyche.
Policing also provided me with an inside snapshot of the life of the crook. I myself grew up in a warm, fuzzy, middle class environment and had no idea how the other half lived - I didn't really know they existed come to think of it! As a uniform officer you spend a lot of time in their homes, listening to their stories, seeing how they live and interact with one another, hearing how they abuse you, feeling how they assault you and watching on shaking your head and knowing they will most likely end up in jail or dead well before their time. It's all quite depressing, but at the same time, it's quite an insight that most will never be privy to.
Question: There are several issues raised in this book, such as racism, sexism and corruption. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?
Yvette Erskine: As a writer, I'm quite organic - I don't really plan my stories out too much. With The Brotherhood, it was more a case of finding the question I wanted to answer, finding an appropriate structure within which to answer it (the ten individual narratives) and then just ploughing headlong in and letting it grow naturally.
The racism, sexism and corruption filtered in through the story as I was determined to keep it real, gritty, honest and a little black - because that's the way I felt about policing. I never intended to write a 'happily ever after' sort of story. In this politically correct world we live in, our public words must be censored unless we want to be sued. However, this doesn't mean that our thoughts can or ever will be. There are always going to be people out there who resent women doing a particular job. There will always be people who resent the so-called special treatment that minorities receive. As for the corruption, there will always be someone who is doing the wrong thing - no matter what office or corporation you're working in. That's just the way it is. It's real life.
Question: Who would you recommend reads The Brotherhood?
Yvette Erskine: Readers of crime fiction, readers who like a fast moving tale with interesting twists and turns, readers who enjoy character driven stories and finally, readers who are curious as to what it's really like behind the closed doors of the police station.
Question: Is the character of Sergeant John White based on anyone you've met?
Yvette Erskine: When I wrote the book, the John White in my mind was actually one of the first sergeants I had when I began policing. He was newly promoted to the rank and was determined to turn his three constables into decent police officers. He inspired a sense of shift loyalty in us, as well as loyalty to the job and his sense of humour carried us through many bleak times. He was also fiercely private and taught us to protect ourselves and be careful of the outside world - a necessary evil when you're living and working in a small town. He was someone you could always depend on, a person who you could tell anything. A man who truly engendered respect. That said, John White the character in my book has made his own mistakes and his storyline is completely fictional.
Interview by Brooke Hunter