A TOP prosecution solicitor who uses East Lancashire as a backdrop for his crime thriller novels has struck a six-figure deal with a major publisher.

By day Neil White, 46, deals with real-life cases in courtrooms in Burnley, Blackburn and Hyndburn for the Crown Prosecution Service.

But in his spare time, he writes about fictional murderers and foul deeds based in towns such as Blackburn, Great Harwood and Bacup.

He said: "I don't write about local cases as it would be in conflict with my job as a lawyer.

"I tend to look at interesting cases from abroad or from what I have seen on TV or in the national newspapers.

"I remember seeing one story about a Russian guy who was bodysnatching and dressing up the bodies as dolls."

Neil, who lives in Preston with his wife and three children, has written five books based on two crime-fighters - a freelance court reporter called Jack Garratt and his girlfriend Detective Sergeant Laura McGanity, who track down the cold-blooded killers.

His most recent, Cold Kill, reached number one in the ebook charts in July, selling more than 100,000 copies in print and online.

Neil's first book Fallen Idols, released in 2007, based on the murder of a Premiership footballer, was set in Great Harwood.

It was so successful it even won him a nomination for the Books to Talk About Award at the World Book Day Awards.

He said: "I am constantly looking around for new places to base my stories.

"I watched Jane Horrocks on the progamme 'Who Do You Think You Are?' and saw Rawtenstall.

"I thought 'that looks attractive with the old cobbles and mills in the background' and then I came across Great Harwood.

"The old brick aviary and park that appears in Fallen Idols were lifted straight from Great Harwood."

A follow-up, entitled Lost Souls, published in 2008, was based in Blackburn and followed the continuing story of DC McGanity and Garrett, who have relocated to the North from London.

The plot is filled with abduction, murder, and mysterious events which begin to put their lives in danger.

Neil, who grew up in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, said: "I wanted somewhere a bit bigger to get away from the Brookside scenario where only so much can happen in small place.

"So I looked at Blackburn with a bit of Burnley and Accrington thrown in there."

Now Neil has landed a three book deal with Sphere books, whose authors include world-renowned writers such as Mark Billingham and Val McDermid.

He is currently adding the finishing touches to his last book to be released by former publishers Avon, called Beyond Evil, set in Bacup, and has started work on his first as yet untitled Sphere book, which is due to hits the shelves in 2013.

He said: "I'm chuffed. I've certainly no plans to give up my job and go full time, if it happens one day that I can't continue to combine both then I may give it a go.

"Hopefully it will be springboard for me as they are much bigger publisher.

"I love reading crime fiction so wouldn't know how to write anything else - I wouldn't be able to do romance."