The John Milton Book Club: The Cleaner

If you had told me four years ago that the release of The Cleaner would mark the start of my dream career as a novelist I would probably have said that you were crazy, drunk, high or a combination of all three. I was still working in the film industry then, my daughter was coming up to her second birthday and we were thinking about adding to the family. I could see the potential in the new world of indie publishing, but I hadn’t found a way to tap it yet.


And then along came Milton.


Some context: I had just finished The Imposter, the second full length novel in my Soho Noir series, and I wanted to try something different. I love those Soho thrillers, and still think that they contain some of my best writing, but the truth of the matter was that they weren’t really selling. Those books took a long time to write, too; I’m a stickler for authenticity, and I researched extensively to make sure that all the little details were correct. The Black Mile involved me camping out in the National Archive and going through the case file for the real Blackout Ripper and then cross-referencing my research with contemporary newspaper reports from the British Library Newspaper Collection in Colindale, north London. Hours spent photographing sixty year old crime scene photographs and poring over microfiches with the smell of warming plastic in my nostrils were as fun as they sound, but the book took two years to write and did not lend itself to the fast publication schedule that helps indie authors get noticed.


I knew I needed to try something different.


I was commuting between London and Salisbury in those days. It’s a ninety minute trip in either direction, and, since the train started in Salisbury on the way there and Waterloo on the way back I could always be guaranteed a table. I had a work computer that had been loaned to me (old, heavy and slow) and invested in a pair of noise cancelling headphones. And then I started to write.


It was immediately much easier to write Milton, and that meant it was faster, too. My research can be conducted online, the language is contemporary and the books flowed extremely quickly. I wrote The Cleaner in two months, and then went straight onto Saint Death and then The Driver. Both were finished in similar intervals. I wrote faster and faster because, for the first time, I could see decent numbers. I started to sell hundreds of books a month, and then thousands. Amazon, Apple and the other retailers started paying me good money.


Milton made his debut in The Cleaner on 4 January 2014, and, since then, the series titles have been downloaded more than a million times.


Four years later, and I’m doing what I always wanted to do – write, and be able to support my family while I’m doing it. It doesn’t get any better than that.


One of the things I have enjoyed most about building this career has been the interaction that I have been able to foster with my readers – with you! And so I thought it would be fun to read through the Milton series again, with you, just as if we were at a book club. You might find it interesting to hear what I was thinking about when I wrote each book in the series, and you’ll be able to ask me questions about the books as we read through them together. I’ll post a few articles on this blog, and you can ask your questions in the comments below or in the Facebook Group that I have created specifically for The Cleaner. You can find that group here – just click to apply and I’ll add you in.


You’ll need a copy of The Cleaner to read along with the rest of us. You might already have one, but, if you don’t, you can grab here for 99p/99c or, if you are in Kindle Unlimited, you can read it as a part of your subscription. It’s also available on Audible and iTunes as an audiobook and in print.

92 Responses to “The John Milton Book Club: The Cleaner”

  1. OutdoorsGuy

    Good morning Mark,

    I already have 99% of the Milton series but I hope I can sit in with you and try to complete my series since I only lack a few books. This is such a great idea for you and your new subscribers to get them started on the addictive path to becoming a “Dawson’s Dog” reader!! [I just made that so called title up, all you newbies!]

    Good writing, Mark, I know you will get even better in the future tales you tell! [I don’t know how you can better a 5 star rating but I know you will try, eh?]

  2. Proudly South African

    What a delightful idea. Milton remains one of my favourite characters. It will be fun to read it with you, Mark. I think I need one more title then I’ll have the whole series, and it’s on my To-Do list

  3. Mrs Michele C Scott

    Very very very excited. After listening to all of the John Milton audiobooks back-to-back and then onwards to Beatrix Rose and Isabella Rose audiobooks (so I can keep my Group 15 and John Milton fix going longer!), I am delighted to have an opportunity to engage with you and with other Milton super-fans.

  4. Iain MacFarlane

    Good afternoon mark. Thanks for the invite. I’ve been following you as an avid book fan and a burgeoning author – your SPF courses have been an inspiration. I look forward to sharing the Milton series with you. Regards Ian McFarlane,
    author of the Toby Fisher fantasy series.

  5. Pablo

    Mark I’m hooked on your books! I’ve read the entire Milton series, the Beatrix Rose series and just finished the Isabella series. I look forward to what you have coming next! Keep up the great writing.

  6. Chris

    Brilliant idea. Got the book. Need to finish my current book then I’ll be with you lol. Hope there isn’t a time limit, as I’m not the fastest of readers .

    • markdawson1973

      Thanks Chris. I hope you enjoy it. There is no time limit. I suspect that this will run through June, and then I’ll look at starting a second look.

    • markdawson1973

      Thank you, Michael. That’s very kind of you to say. You might want to give the mysteries a try. Lots of readers think that they are my best work.

  7. t0nym

    Thanks Mark. I have read all your titles at least twice. Wait a month and start again. You write fast but you I am a voracious reader. This is a brilliant idea

  8. Arklady9

    I’ve read all the books you have written and have enjoyed every single one of them. I would be happy to read them again with you, it’s the best new series I’ve read in decades.

  9. JD308

    I am a huge milton fan, I love rose too! I listen to all your books on audible, i find that i like the way the readers bring the book to life. I usually read it first and then listen to them, it feels like i am getting a new perspective of the story when i listen to it. I have spent many late nights and early early mornings listening to your books. I am really looking forward to reading them with you!

  10. Darlene Sassone

    Hi Mark, I think this is a great idea. I love John Milton! And, I recently finished the Isabella Rose series. I’d love to join the book club and start over. Truthfully, I can’t remember what “The Cleaner” was all about. This is a good chance to get to know Milton all over again. I’m excited and will download “The Cleaner” this weekend!

  11. Patricia Alice Anderson

    Hi Mark! I found Milton when you offered 1000 Yards as a free download on Facebook. He was compared to Reacher, who I thoroughly enjoy, so I read the story. But Milton was less like Reacher than I expected and I was a bit disappointed. But there was something… I read The Cleaner, then the next one and the next. Milton worms his way in and sticks. Plus, I have a great deal of admiration for you as his creator. Thank you for everything you are contributing to writing, publishing and the world of books.

  12. Ana C

    I discovered the series Milton in a hiatus between the last and the next Gabriel Alon from Daniel Silva. And since then I’ve figured out a meeting between the two characters. I’m currently reading Headhunters and I can see some synergy between these two great characters … any plans for a TV series?

  13. Mark, I am a fan. Just recently done the cleaner though.
    Like others here, I love the audio more.
    I find Milton is unique in his own brit way.
    I am trying to get through Isabella Rose but I am saving book two for when I can really focus and forgive you for where you left us in book one. I also need to work through the Milton books again to figure out the back story to Isabella Rose.
    I look forward to reading along with everyone when they get to book two (which is two? I need to load it, three and four to my phone as audiobooks)

  14. Fran Carey Rice

    Thank you for inviting me to join the group. I look forward to rereading and discussing the Milton books. He is a very interesting and unique character. I am getting on in years, so reading a book twice is very enjoyable, I sort of know what to expect, but it’s like meeting an old friend again.

  15. George Pajunen

    I’ve read all the John Milton books and some twice . I’ll probably read them all more than twice . I look forward to each new one . When I’m having a hard time finding a decent book to read I just open one of Mark’s John Milton books and get back into the life John Milton . He is the underdogs hero and a person that you don’t want on your bad side .

  16. Jojogrrl

    I’m dying to start reading your new book but I’m trying hard to save it for my holiday at the end of the month but the temptation is so hard to resist!

  17. Wayne Brown

    I have a book to finish, then will start the Cleaner again. Only read the 1st 4 Milton books so far. Tend not to read two books by the same author in a row. Looking forward to the Club.

  18. inkibitz writeblog

    Chapter 22 or so, what does GBH stand for? When you researched for the gun violence in Hackney, what is your personal opinion of it? I thought only in America was the gun violence among gangs so bad, I’d like to know what you think of it.

  19. Frank Wells

    I have a request, and not sure where to put it, so feel free to move, delete, whatever, as appropriate – but starting from the beginning has made me aware:

    I’m not sure how the chronology between John Milton and Beatrix Rose syncs up, and I’d love to read them all chronologically, including the novellas with backstory – that is, the stories’ internal chronology, not the publication order. I’ve googled like crazy, but can’t figure it out.

    Would you consider putting up a blog post or page on the website that sorts this out, and update it when new ones are published?

    Thanks for considering!

    A big (and longtime) fan

    • markdawson1973

      Yes, I should do this. There is a rough order to follow: Milton, divert into Beatrix after Ghosts, back to Milton and then Isabella. But it could be made clearer!

      • Frank Wells

        Ok, caught up through Milton 1-4, Beatrix, Milton 5-6. Suggestions for where Isabella fits relative to Milton to date are much welcome!

        Have to say again: congratulations! This is really an incredible oeuvre – and loving seeing it continuing to expand!



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