The Wexford author, journalist and teacher Shane Dunphy has written his first crime novel 'After She Vanished', based on an idea he had as a college student twenty-five years ago.
Shane, a former child and social care worker, has previously written a series of nine books which were inspired by the tragic stories of children he encountered in the course of his work, including the best-selling Wednesday's Child published by Penguin.
When he was in college, the idea of writing books was far from his mind but he never forgot the experience of a fellow student called Graeme in his social science class who worked part-time in a residential home for children in care.
In their third year, Graeme brought one of the children, a little girl aged about six, on a Christmas shopping trip on December 8. They stopped outside St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre to listen to carol singers and for a second the child slipped her hand out of his to fix her glove or scratch her nose. When he looked down, she was gone.
In that instant, he experienced raw, undiluted panic and was beginning to despair when he saw an elderly lady making her way through the crowd, leading the child by the hand. She had wandered off to look at dolls in a shop window.
In writing his book a quarter of a century later, Shane began to ponder what if the little girl had never been found. What impact would it have had on his friend and how would his life have turned out in the shadow of such a terrible event.
In fact, when he began writing about 10 years ago, this was the first story that came into Shane's head but he abandoned it for the book that became 'Wednesday's Child', the first of what he termed his 'misery lit' memoirs about his time working in child protection and the various cases he was involved in.
These days, Shane lectures in Waterford College of Further Education where he is head of the social care department.
He always intended to return to the missing girl, he said, as his initial plan was to write a trilogy of child protection stories but his readers wanted more and three turned into nine. It wasn't until his current publishers asked if he had ever considered writing fiction that the idea came back to him.
'After She Vanished' tells the story of criminologist David Dunnigan whose niece Beth disappears while out shopping with him on December 8, 1998.
Before she goes missing, Dunnigan is an up-and-coming academic, making a name as a consultant with the newly-formed National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. But after the child vanishes, his life falls asunder, he is alienated from his family and becomes a virtual recluse.
The book begins 18 years after the nightmare event when Dunnigan has become suicidal and the story charts his return to the world and his discovery of a new reason for living.
'After She Vanished' is Eason's Book of the Month and is available on their website at 25% off and at a reduced price in store. Signed copies are available from Dubray Books in Bray, email email@example.com.
The kindle edition of 'After She Vanished' is available for the discount price of 99 cents on Amazon.co.uk.