The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Graham Hurley

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with British crime writer Graham Hurley, whose books include the Faraday and Winter series and the Jimmy Suttle novels.

Considering your reputation as one of Britain’s finest police procedural writers, I was surprised to learn that the early Joe Faraday books were written at the behest of your publisher – not because of any particular enthusiasm for crime fiction. In hindsight, does it surprise you that the series went on to span twelve novels?

The short answer is yes.  I agreed the first three-book contract because there was nothing else on offer.  I didn’t (and still don’t) like crime fiction, and rarely read the stuff.  Prior to the Faraday books, I’d been writing so-called international thrillers – nine in all – but Orion were unhappy with their sales performance and thought they could do better for both of us by repositioning me in the commercial marketplace.  The challenge, of course, was what to put on the page.  Without any knowledge of the genre, I was obliged to take a different approach.  Happily, in a previous life, I’d spent twenty years making documentaries for ITV and loved the process of putting real lives, and real stories on the screen.  This, especially at the research stage, involves getting into other people’s heads and winning their confidence – exactly the same approach I’d used as a novelist – and so I set out to become a working detective.  The research was the toughest assignment I’d ever set myself, but the harder I looked, the more I realised that the real drama lay not in serial killers and high-speed car chases, but in the minor key.  Sit in a volume crime CID room for weeks on end, and you begin to figure out just how these guys stay sane.  In a teeming city like Portsmouth, drug-ridden, full of feral kids on the make, that isn’t easy.  But day by day, I began to recognise and understand the undercurrents – both professional and deeply personal – that flowed through that CID office, and I was very happy to stir some of that stuff into the fictional mix.  There’s a nice irony here. Workings cops are what it says on the tin – deeply suspicious of any outsider – but after the publication of the lead title in the series – “Turnstone” – they decided I’d got their world right, and after that there was no longer a problem.  To my delight, Orion recognised that there was something new here in cri-fi, and began to put serious resources behind the books.  That led to climbing sales figures, excellent reviews, a deal for a wonderful series of adaptations on French TV, and three more three-book contracts. My biggest asset by far, aside from an exploding list of contacts, was Portsmouth itself.  It’s an extraordinary city in all kinds of ways and in the end, thanks to Faraday and Winter, I had the feeling of writing about a society caught in freefall, as all the post-war support structures fell apart.  I’d invested a huge amount of time and effort in research and was determined to make those books as authentic – almost as documentary – as I could.  In this respect, I guess the final irony was that it was me who brought the series to an end, not because of sales (which remained buoyant) but because my lead cops had aged year by year, book by book, and were now due for retirement.  Shafted by my own USP?  Well, yes…

Your books are widely praised for their authenticity – how hard is it to maintain the required level of realism? Presumably research is crucial?

Absolutely right.  You’ll guess from the above that I don’t put pen to paper until I’ve got to know everything I can about the world my characters will inhabit.  In the Faraday series, that applies equally to the cops and the Dark Side.  The best cops, before policing became impossibly risk-averse, had a little of the successful criminal about them and I was lucky enough to get to know some of these guys. They understood the criminal mentality, the juice that fuels the successful drug dealer, and it showed in the way they drove an investigation.  That was a pleasure to watch, full of the best kind of surprises, and I think it began to show as the series developed. For me, writing fiction – by definition – is an act of trespass, and unless you want to get nicked (mostly by the reader), you have to get it right.

Nowadays, what type of books do you read for pleasure?

I read all the time, and always have done.  I’m addicted to current affairs, especially now, and I hoover up anything that might shed fresh light on what’s turning out to be a huge moment in our island story.  With this, unsurprisingly, goes a passion for recent history, especially the Thirties and Forties.  I’ve been lucky enough to find a publisher to indulge this passion, and I’m currently penning a series of WW2 novels, set in the shadows of the intelligence war (see below).  Research-wise, as you might imagine, this demands reading on an industrial scale, and I love it.  Fiction?  My tastes were framed by Graham Green, Ernest Hemingway, John Le Carre, Len Deighton, and now Robert Harris.  You get the picture…

I understand that the Jimmy Suttle series started after you relocated from Portsmouth to Exmouth after more than 20 years. How long had you been living in Devon before you felt comfortable working on these books?

We’d been down here a couple of years before Orion agreed a two-book contract for a Faraday spin-off.  East Devon very definitely isn’t Pompey – one of its charms – and I knew from the start that the books would need a very different focus.  That focus lay in the relationship between the lead cop – D/S Jimmy Suttle, a young  survivor from the Faraday series – and his wife, Lizzie.  Book by book, the crimes were important, and I constructed them carefully so they were full of back story and the invitation to trespass (yet again) into other peoples’ worlds, but Suttle carried a lot of narrative weight and towards the end, much like Faraday, I sensed he was starting to struggle.

The Suttle books tackle crimes in locations such as Exmouth, Topsham and Lympstone. During the creative process what typically comes first, the location or the crime?

The location.  One of the first things Lin and I did when we moved down to East Devon was join the local rowing club.  We’ve both been water babies all our lives – swimming, dinghy sailing, kayaking – but this was a new adventure.  Thirteen years later we’re still at it, part of a crew of five reprobates, and we row silly distances twice a week.  Conditions permitting, these outings either take us out to sea or up the river Exe, where Lympstone and Topsham await.  I owe the last book in the Suttle series, “The Order of Things”, to a breakfast call we made a while back.  We always take coffee and stickies and we were parked on the beach at Lympstone, just in front of a terrace of cottages.  I’ve no idea why but the upstairs window on the end one took my eye.  It was obviously a bedroom with an incredible view out over the water, probably small, probably over-furnished.  Maybe the house belonged to a divorcee.  Maybe she lived alone.  Maybe she’d met a guy from the Met Office (in nearby Exeter).  And maybe there was more to him than she’d ever realised.  Read on….

Devon feels curiously underexplored by contemporary crime writers – why do you think that is?

I’ve truly no idea except, perhaps, one.  Writers, as a breed, need a little grit in their oyster and it often helps to live somewhere that winds you up.  Big cities – especially the likes of Pompey – can do this in spades.  Too many people in your face.  Too much pollution.  Too much clamour.  Devon, thankfully, has none of these things.  Low blood pressure, in short, can be no friend of the writer….but would I ever live anywhere else?  No way….

You have amassed a significant back catalogue – do you have a favourite title among your own books, and if so why?

My favourite book is always the one I’ve just finished.  It’s called “Amen” and happily it’s set in – yes – Exmouth.  It’s number three in a series I began last year, featuring a 39 year-old Anglo-Breton actress called Enora Andressen (she was once married to a Scandi film director).  These are first person accounts, contemporary settings, and a revelation to write.  In “Amen”, Enora makes a very bad call and falls in love with a man called Deko.  Six weeks ago, I’d never heard of him.  Now, he commands an entire book.  And that’s why I write.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

Severn House have just recommissioned me for the Enora Andressen series (see above), which will mean at least four books.  My other fictional adventure, very different but equally important, is “The Wars Within” series for Head of Zeus.  To date, I’ve published four novels – “Finisterre”, “Aurore”, “Estocada”, and “Raid 42”.  “Blood of the Wolf” will be published next year, and I’ve just started work on “Kyiv”, which is already deeply promising.  After that will come “Yalta”.

Bio:  Born Clacton-on-Sea.  Wrote a number of mercifully unpublished novels before ending up at Cambridge.  Spent twenty years making documentaries for ITV, winning a number of awards.  Sold my first novel to Pan/Macmillan in 1986 on the back of an ITV commission to write a six-part contemorary drama, “Rules of Engagement”.  To date, thirty six published novels.




The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Andrew Davie

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Andrew Davie to discuss his new book, Pavement (All Due Respect).

Hi Andrew, congratulations on the publication of your new book! How would you pitch Pavement to potential readers?

Thank you so much! McGill and Gropper are unlicensed private investigators. McGill, the face of the operation, works out of a diner in Charleston, South Carolina. A former police officer, now incredibly out of shape, he rarely leaves the diner. Gropper is well versed in fighting, tactics, and does the heavy lifting. While protecting prostitutes from a trucker, they draw the ire of some dangerous and well-connected foes who will stop at nothing to settle the score and get revenge.

I’m intrigued by the blunt title – how did you decide on that name for the book?

A while ago, I learned that prostitutes who work at a truck stop are often referred to as “Pavement Princesses.” I thought it would be fitting. Also, it seemed like a good metaphor for being able to make a quick escape if necessary which suits Gropper’s temperament.

Your protagonists are unlicensed private investigators: is PI fiction making a comeback, or did it never go away?

I don’t think it ever went away. The genre has undergone some changes over time, but it’s always been there.

Who are your prime influences in that field?

I had read a lot of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser for Hire series when I was younger. Over time, I began to read Rex Stout, Dashiell Hammett, Robert Crais, and John D. MacDonald, among others.

What draws you to PI fiction ahead of other crime sub-genres?

I enjoyed reading and writing about characters who have a code, and the genre seemed to focus on characters who followed a code. They might be willing to get their hands dirty, but there were still some ground rules.

This book was published by All Due Respect; do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

I tend to go back and forth between the two, although these days I’m making more of an effort to read independent authors.

If you could recommend one crime novel that people are unlikely to have heard of, what would it be?

I would suggest reading The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley. This is the opening line: “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

I would choose Rex Stout. His detectives Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are similar to McGill and Gropper with regard to their business arrangement. Wolfe rarely leaves his apartment, and McGill rarely leaves his diner. Both Goodwin and Gropper do most of the legwork. Similarly, Stout was also prolific with his output.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

I hope to write more about McGill and Gropper’s exploits, but I’ve also written another novella in the crime fiction genre which takes place during The Great Depression.

Bio: Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant. He’s also taught English and writing in New York, Hong Kong, and Virginia. In June of 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His first book Pavement will be released in July of 2019 by All Due Respect Books. Links to his work can be found on his website.


Pre-order Pavement!

The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Tess Makovesky

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Tess Makovesky to discuss her new book, Gravy Train (All Due Respect).

Congratulations on the publication of your new book! How would you pitch Gravy Train to potential readers?

Thank you! I’m going to start with the same question I used to pitch the book to my publisher: how far would you go for £80,000?

Luckily, they didn’t report me for attempted bribery because this really is the premise of Gravy Train. It’s a breathless romp in which a group of low-lives and losers chase a bag of ill-gotten money around the back streets of Birmingham. They’re great at nicking it, but hopeless at hanging onto it, so when it all blows up into a showdown by the local canal it’s less about who wins and more about whether any of them manage to get their hands on it. Aside from the action (which has already been described as ‘raucous’ and ‘barnstorming’), there’s also a more serious message about greed, and just how far people are prepared to go for that much money. Violence, blackmail, sexual favours… Would you? Probably not – and I know I wouldn’t. But these guys are desperate enough that they just might.

What do you hope that readers take away from the book?

Apart from square eyes from reading it too quickly, you mean? Well, I hope they have as much fun reading it as I had putting it together, because it really was a joy to write. Even though (or perhaps because) the characters are so hopeless, they ended up getting under my skin and I hope the readers will care about them too. I also had a great time with the humour in the book – the slips, the trips, the sheer blazing coincidences – and I hope it will give everyone a giggle.

On top of that I hope that the book’s setting helps readers see Birmingham in a new light. Too often it’s portrayed as nothing but dull 1960s concrete when in actual fact it’s a fascinating and historic city full of odd nooks and unexpected sights. Although I can only put a fraction of that into each of my books, I’m hoping readers will be intrigued enough by the descriptions of Five Ways island, Gas Street canal basin and the Victorian suburbs of Moseley and Acocks Green to want to go and find out more for themselves.

Oh – and then there’s the scattered references to Pink Floyd lyrics (mostly from Have a Cigar, which also spawned the book’s title), which people might have fun tracking down. And then there are the elephants…

Birmingham seems like a great setting for a crime caper – are there any notable Birmingham/Midlands crime novels that you would recommend?

Your readers will probably shout at me but off the top of my head I can’t think of many crime books set in the city, which surprises me because it’s such a classic location for crime fiction. However, there is one author who leaps to mind – the late and much missed Joel Lane. He wrote two or three novels set in and around the city, and my own favourite is From Blue to Black. This noir masterpiece is set mostly in the leafy Birmingham suburb of Moseley, where I lived for many years, and involves a musician falling in half-love, half-hero worship with the lead singer of a rock band. Needless to say, there’s no happy ending, but the use of language is incredible and the strange, pared-down grey-scale palette with occasional flashes of colour left a lasting impression on me.

This book was published by All Due Respect; do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

Although I read almost constantly, I have to admit that I don’t read a huge amount of crime fiction. But when I do, I’m happy with a mixture of traditional print, small indie companies, digital, self-published – basically, whoever publishes the books and/or authors I like. That ranges from household names like Peter May and Ann Cleeves, via the domestic noir of Sarah Hilary and Michael J Malone, to the more unusual (John Connolly’s paranormal crime or Mark Mills’ mysteries with a historical edge, for example). And I’m constantly looking for new books and new authors, in pretty much any format I can get my hands on.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

There are two main groups that I kind of ‘grew up’ with as a crime writer. First, there’s a bunch of us who started out writing noir short stories for the indie publisher Byker Books at around the same time, and who have kept tripping over each other in anthologies and magazines ever since. This includes Nick Quantrill, Aidan Thorn, Ian Ayris, Craig Douglas, and of course the king of Brit-Grit himself, Paul D Brazill, and it’s a pleasure to feel I have something in common with their work.

Secondly, there’s the Crime and Publishment gang, who came together thanks to the wonderful annual crime writing course organised by Graham Smith. Since he set it up, around 8 or 9 authors have gone on to get publishing deals, many of us as a direct result of contacts made at the course, and we’re all fiercely supportive of each other’s work. As well as me, the list includes Graham himself, Mike Craven, Jackie Baldwin, Lucy Cameron and Les Morris, amongst others, and I can thoroughly recommend their books.

But this is very much the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg. Crime fiction has exploded recently and there are so many amazing authors coming through the ranks. I’m lucky to know even a fraction of them.

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

You’re probably expecting me to choose someone like J K Rowling – and who wouldn’t want to be hugely famous, sell squillions of books, and make more money than some small countries? Well, me actually. What’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for someone else, and I’m happy following my own path, at my own pace, through life. It’s fun finding out what that path leads to, and even if it sometimes seems to be taking a while to reach the top of the mountain, at least I get to stop and admire the scenery along the way.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

I’m currently working on another Birmingham-based crime caper called Embers of Bridges, featuring loyalty, a heist-gone-wrong and a getaway on a canal boat, and I have two or three others that are kind of part-finished. Nothing is certain in the world of publishing, of course, but I’d love to place all of them with All Due Respect over the next few years and build up a catalogue of fun, gritty books that, hopefully, readers will enjoy.


Liverpool lass Tess is now settled in the far north of England where she roams the fells with a brolly, dreaming up new stories and startling the occasional sheep.

Tess writes a distinctive brand of British comédie noir and her short stories have darkened the pages of various anthologies and magazines, including Shotgun Honey, Pulp Metal Magazine, ‘Drag Noir’ (Fox Spirit Books), ‘Rogue’ (Near to the Knuckle), and ‘Locked and Loaded’ (One Eye Press). Her debut novella, a psychological noir called Raise the Blade, is available from Caffeine Nights Publishing, and her first novel, Gravy Train, is due imminently from All Due Respect.

You can follow her ramblings (both literary and literal) at her blog:

Buy Gravy Train!

The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Tom Pitts

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Tom Pitts to discuss his new book, 101 (Down & Out Books).

Congratulations on the publication of your new book! How would you pitch 101 to potential readers?

101 is a story rooted in California weed country on the cusp of legalization. A kid on the run from San Francisco hides out on a weed farm with his mysterious host, an old-time friend of his mother’s. His host and his mother share a dark secret and trouble soon erupts. The fuse the kid ignites burns all the way up the 101. A wild cast of characters soon collide and his mother, his host, and an unlikely crew battle bikers, gangsters, and a couple of loose cannon cops as they all race back Oakland to settle old scores.

What do you hope that readers take away from the story?

I’ve tried to push my exploration of the multi-POV to create a fast-paced page-turner with a cinematic feel. I hope readers get to see the movie I saw in my head when I wrote it. It’s brutal, funny, and I hope captures some of what I experienced while I was knee-deep in the muck of Humboldt County.

Your various books chronicle different aspects of California’s criminal underbelly – how important is it not to repeat yourself?

I’ve very conscious of it. True, they all spring from the underbelly, but they’re very different in many ways. Hustle was about junkie male prostitutes, American Static covered political corruption. Knuckleball was about a young Mexican kid in the Mission District. Coldwater (the next one) is about a couple who move to the burbs. I’ll admit though, after these four novels, what I call my California Quartet, I’m wondering if it’s all I’ve got to say. I started writing two more novels and put ‘em down because they just weren’t doing it for me. I felt like it was ground I’d already tread. So yeah, I’m very conscious of it. I wonder how some of the successful authors, like Lee Child, deal with repetition. It’s an odd thing in the literature world. People love series, there’s something about a familiar brand they love to return to. Publishers sense that and they’ll squeeze a series—and an author—dry. I think it takes a special disposition to make a series work. I don’t think I’m built that way, my books most definitely have endings, and when they’re done, I have to move on to an entirely new story.

Are there any subjects or themes that you would like to return to?

You know, I’ve been having this debate about whether gentrification in urban America has driven writers back to rural noir, and it keeps coming up because the cities seem to have lost a lot of their edge. There’s not a lot of crime and desperation left in the big burgs. That got me thinking about what real crime looks like in the big city. And that’s petty crime, that’s hobos and winos breaking into liquor stores, drug dealers getting robbed by fiends, car burglaries, shoplifting. That’s what pulled me into writing in the first place, so I’ve been writing some shorts relating to the homeless and what’s going on out there in the street. The homeless situation in San Francisco, in all of California, has never been worse and it’s an issue that’s underreported and inaccurately portrayed.

Of all your protagonists to date, do you have a favourite – and why?

It’s funny, all my protagonists seem to be vehicles for the antagonists. I mean, that’s where the show is, right? The protags often take a back seat. They drive the story forward, but aren’t usually the heroes or the villains. Quinn in American Static was fun to write. He was a charismatic but sociopathic wise-cracking psycho. Vic, the anti-hero in 101, is great fun too, but he’s got a moral compass. A cowboy complex. I think the protag’s mother really turns out to be the hero. I try to keep the reader off balance by switching up who rises to the surface as a hero or villain, protagonist or antagonist.

In your opinion, what are the quintessential California crime novels that everyone should read?

I don’t know, that’s why I’m trying to write ‘em! Seriously, Denis Johnson did a great job with Northern California in Nobody Move, but he’s not really a crime writer. Crumley he did a great job with the state, The Last Good Kiss is a must read. Shit, Johnny Shaw, he captures his corner of the state perfectly in his books. Jordan Harper’s novel and his shorts have both a literary and an authentic note. I mean, there’s lots of great California writers throughout the last century history. Steinbeck, Bukowski, Fante, Ellroy, Chandler, Hammett. But I don’t know if the best in contemporary California crime fiction has bubbled up to the surface yet.

This book was published by Down & Out Books; do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

My tastes vary, but I do read quite a few contemporaries. I get asked to write a blurb now and again, or I’ll get excited by an internet buzz. However most of my choices still come from the age-old tried-and-true word-of-mouth.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

Is this for potential jury selection? I talk a lot about the ladder or the food chain. That guy’s a few rungs up the ladder from me, or that person’s way up the food chain. I’m usually looking up at others accomplishments, but if they’ll still talk to me, I consider them a peer. I mean, shit, I still talk to Joe Clifford daily, but he’s more than a peer, he dragged me into this mess. Besides, he’s a few rungs up from me too.

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

That’s a tough question. When I was young the lives of so many writers seemed oddly glamorous to me. The wild nights, the heavy drinking, the broken hearts. When you get older though, you realize these things are the fallout of awful selfish people, and I don’t want to leave a wake of wickedness (although I’ve left my share.) Then I really started to write, and I learned it was really about the discipline. That’s the trait I truly admired. The guys who were able to sit down and write. Elmore Leonard comes to mind. He’s never tried to write the great American novel, and I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite novel of his because they’re all good. He had one hell of a work ethic and didn’t let success spoil it, so I guess I’d have to go with him. He was an inspiration. Now if I could only implement a few of those lessons learned.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

It looks like the next one, Coldwater, is coming out in 2020. After that, maybe a short story collection. But, God willing, there’ll be more novels. I’m sketching out a period piece right now. And by period piece, I mean the 1980s.


Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. He is the author of AMERICAN STATIC, HUSTLE, and the novellas PIGGYBACK and KNUCKLEBALL. His new novel, 101, is out on November 5th.


Buy 101

The Interrogation Room – An Interview with Math Bird

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Math Bird to discuss his new book, Welcome to HolyHell (All Due Respect).

Congratulations on the publication of your new book! How would you pitch Welcome to HolyHell to potential readers?

If I only had one sentence, I’d describe it as ‘Kes meets The Getaway.’ However, if I had a few more sentences I’d go onto say that Welcome to HolyHell, set in the borderlands of northeast Wales, is a crime, noir coming-of-age story about loneliness, hope, the past that haunts us, and the fear of growing older – packing an emotionally-charged punch to every hard-boiled reader’s heart.

The book is set in the 1970s – what was your thinking behind using that era, and was it tough to iron out the period details?

Well, I love all things ‘70s: music, films, books, art, history etc. I spent my pre-teen and early-post teen years in the ‘70s. So, creatively, the decade has been a huge influence on me. The novel is set during the drought of 1976, which I remember quite vividly. Also, in an historical sense, it’s an era I’m able to reference quite easily, although I have researched the ‘70s quite extensively for many years and stored that information alongside my own memories and experience. Plus, it’s a fantastic decade to set a crime novel. ‘70s UK and noir are an ideal match. What more could you want? Also, Welcome to HolyHell is the first novel in a series of three with the subsequent books set in the mid-80s, followed by the late ‘90s. So, the ‘70s was a perfect place to start.

What do you hope that readers take away from the book?

The main thing I hope is that they enjoy the story. I hope it’s a solid, entertaining read. That’s always my main objective. I hope they enjoy the novel’s humour, tenderness, and of course its darkness (well, enough not to ask for a refund). And other than that, I hope they get a better understanding of northeast wales especially the borderlands between Wales and England – which for anyone who has read any stuff of mine will know is a central theme, in some form or other, throughout all my fiction.

Is there a rich tradition of Welsh crime novels that you are tapping into, or are you mapping uncharted territory – crime fiction-wise?

There’s certainly a rich tradition of Welsh fiction and short stories, which crime and some noir are a part of. I researched Welsh crime fiction quite extensively for my PhD, as it was the main part of my thesis. So, I could reel off a host of great writers who are worth exploring for so many reasons. But I won’t, mainly because I’d hate to leave anyone out. But what I would say in relation to mapping new territory is that most Welsh fiction be it crime or literary tends be set in the south, Cardiff (the Welsh Capital), or the north West. And northeast Wales as the eminent scholar and biographer M. Wynn Thomas once wrote remains ‘an unexplored territory and has yet to find a place in the popular imagination.’ That’s still kind of rings true today, although it’s not entirely an undiscovered country. So, in my own way, I’m trying to remedy that. Hoping that my fiction can play a small part in pushing northeast Wales a tiny step further into the popular imagination, using a genre I love.

This book was published by All Due Respect; do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

I guess, like most folk, I read a mixture of both. I buy and read anything that catches my eye. I read a lot of indie crime and noir novels; however, a lot of mainstream novels that I’ve really enjoyed I’ve later discovered that the writer was once part of the indie scene, writers such as Scott Wolven, and Sean Dootlittle for example, whom I later learned had early stories published in the brilliant ‘Plots With Guns’, where I’ve placed some of my stories too. Incidentally, I must say I love ‘Plots With Guns’, currently on hiatus, but my favourite online crime and noir literary journal.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

There are lots of contemporary writers I read and admire. Although, I’d never dare to say they were my peers. That’s not for me to judge. Although, I do love the current indie crime scene of All Due Respect, Down & Out Books, etc. – a family of which I’m a very proud to be a small part of. I love all the stuff those guys do and produce, and long may they continue.

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

Any writer who can churn out entertaining, quality crime fiction on a regular basis and make a living out of it has my utmost admiration and respect, because, as we all know, it’s no mean feat.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

Well, I’m writing Goodbye HolyHell (Book 2) and Return to HolyHell (Book 3), so I’d love to place those at some point.  I’m also rewriting an early novel entitled Bordersands and again would love to place that.

Bio: Welsh writer Math Bird, has had stories broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Radio Wales, Radio 4 Extra. His work has also appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. A collection of Math Bird’s stories, including his Pushcart Prize-nominated story ‘The Devilfish’ can be found in: Histories of the Dead and Other Stories published by All Due Respect.

His novel Welcome to HolyHell published by All Due Respect books is available from October 19th 2018 at all the usual places.

Buy Welcome To HolyHell


The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Hector Duarte, Jr.

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Hector Duarte, Jr. to discuss his new short story collection, Desperate Times Call (Shotgun Honey).

Firstly, congratulations on the publication of Desperate Times Call! How hard was it to select the stories – and indeed the running order?

So, this collection was my thesis for grad school and it was a three-year process batting back and forth with my advisor and having her tell me she didn’t like this story because… or, maybe I should revisit this story here… As far as the order, it’s actually almost chronological in the order I wrote each piece.

Do you have a favourite story in the collection? If so, why is it your favourite?

Probably ‘Cabernet’, because it’s the longest short story in the collection and I really feel it’s the best job I did in the whole thing, where I actually created this little world that twists and turns into itself. That’s the fun part of writing, when you can do something like that.

What is the oldest story in the book? How do you think your style has evolved since then?

The oldest story in the collection is ‘Accounts Payable’, which I wrote for a fiction workshop I took in the grad program. That’s from 2009. I’d like to think my writing style has improved since, in that I can write a tighter story and I’m not trying to impress anyone with my words and language, which I think is a huge rookie mistake.

How have your editorial duties at the Flash Fiction Offensive impacted on – or even influenced – your own short fiction?

I am forever grateful to Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts for trusting me enough to pass the FFO editing over to me, which helps me understand the importance of every single sentence, word, and letter. It’s taught me the importance of writing something that does not drag or waste the reader’s time. Get to the point and just raise the stakes from there.

Do you think crime fiction is too safe? Do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

All kinds of crime fiction exists out there, the stuff that is afraid to offend and, on the other side of the spectrum, stuff that tries to be too edgy but doesn’t really have anything to deliver as a proper story. It’s all good to me. Mainstream or independent, as long as I’m entertained and being taken for a ride. Like right now I’m reading The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell, which many might categorize as mainstream, but the way he opens up that novel, man, is fucking brilliant. Can I curse on here? He writes a grisly crime scene to open a near 600-page crime novel that just gets the thing rolling on all cylinders.

Your collection has been published by Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books – do you have any favourite Shotgun Honey/D&O authors or titles you would like to recommend?

Go on the site and check out the latest by Angel Luis Colon, C.S. Dewildt, Nick Kolakowski, Rusty Barnes. There are a ton of others up there. Can’t go wrong with that crew.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

This is a tough question because it could make me sound like an overconfident douche but the following are writers I started off admiring and emulating, and eventually met and realized they were very down to earth, cool people who I’d like to think I can call friends. M.J. Fievre, the aforementioned Joe Clifford, Beau Johnson, Jose Ignacio Valenzuela. This is just naming a few.

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

I’ll just answer this by saying my main goal with writing is to just keep writing. If the day comes when I can finance my life solely by writing. And, I mean a very simple life, enough to not have to stress over money and just be comfortable (I’m not looking to make “fuck you” money or anything like that), then that would be the best outcome.

Do you crave mainstream success, or is developing cult status satisfying enough?

I think a solid following is better than mainstream success. Like I said before, the type of career that allows me to keep writing, and in different forms. I’d love to try my hand at screenwriting. I listen to a lot of jam bands, Phish and Umphreys McGee being my favourites. If there is anything to learn from those bands, it’s the work ethic: constantly produce and give back to the audience because without them there is no career.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

I’m currently working on a first novel and after that I have an idea that I’m going to keep tucked under my sleeve until it’s done.


Hector Duarte, Jr. is a writer and teacher out of Miami, Florida. He’s current editor at The Flash Fiction Offensive. His work has appeared, among many others, in Shotgun Honey, Spelk Fiction, HorrorSleazeTrash, and Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction inspired by the songs of Johnny Cash. His first full-length work, the short story collection Desperate Times Call, was published by Shotgun Honey books in 2018. He loves his fiancée Samantha and his cat Felina very much.



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The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Chris Rhatigan

Next up in the Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Chris Rhatigan, the man behind All Due Respect — contemporary fiction’s finest purveyors of lowlife literature. 

For those readers unfamiliar with All Due Respect, can you tell us a little bit about the press’s origins and how it has evolved in recent years?

All Due Respect publishes lowlife literature. It began as a website featuring one short story a month. The book publishing side started in 2014 and since then we’ve done around 60 titles. ADR occupies a niche genre: we exclusively publish crime fiction told from the perspectives of criminals.

What was the first book you published, and how was the response?

God, I had to look this up. Our first book was you don’t exist, a double feature of novelettes by myself and Pablo D’Stair. (Pablo is a legit genius and everyone needs to read his series about small-time grifter Trevor English.) Our most successful early titles were Rob Pierce’s Uncle Dust and Mike Monson’s Tussinland.

I’m going to hit you with a tough question nice and early: if you have to select one book which best typifies the ethos behind ADR, which one would it be?

I’ll go with The Sin Tax by Preston Lang. It’s about a guy who works at a bodega and gets blackmailed into doing shady shit. Lang writes about lowlife characters in this spare and beautiful prose style and as soon as I saw this manuscript I knew I had to have it.

This year alone, you have published/are publishing a number of books by British authors – including work from England, Scotland and Wales – how do British submissions differ from US submissions?

When I was first becoming interested in crime fiction I was reading plenty of UK authors—Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, Paul Brazill, Nigel Bird—so this feels like a natural progression for ADR. British writers tend to be funnier and take themselves less seriously than Americans, which I appreciate.

I’ve read and edited plenty of books by British authors but there are still expressions, words, grammatical constructions, and slang that go over my head. Luckily I have Nigel Bird on board to straighten me out!

Looking back at the ADR catalogue, is there a book that you wish more people connected with?

If I had to pick a book that’s superior but hasn’t received enough attention, I’d go with Jake Hinkson’s short story collection, The Deepening Shade. Hinkson is a legend and every story in this book is a well-crafted gem.

And is there a book that you wish there was a sequel to?

I enjoyed the protagonist Joey Hidalgo in Paul Heatley’s Fatboy. But for reasons that are obvious once you read the book, I don’t think we’ll be seeing that character again any time soon!

You have published books about grifters, hitmen, thieves, ex-cons and other undesirables – is there any kind of criminal character that you feel has been under-represented to date?

There’s this Charles Willeford book, Honey Gal (also released as The Black Mass of Brother Springer) which is about an everyday guy in Florida who leaves his secure job and his wife with no direction. He gets a job through this crooked monk in which he takes over as the preacher of an African-American congregation in Jacksonville. I love this premise—the guy’s scam just involves working a mundane job that he isn’t qualified for.

So that’s what I like and will always try to do with ADR—small-time crooks shoplifting and scamming their way to mediocrity. Then, of course, their small crimes snowball and everything comes crashing down.

Publishing activity aside, you have written a number of books yourself over the years. Presumably ADR swallows up a lot of the time that would otherwise be devoted to writing? Is that tough?

Yeah, fuck. I was never someone who wrote every day, but I liked to get into a flow and write at least a few times a week. It’s difficult to just pick it up now and then and get anything going. I haven’t finished anything of my own in a couple of years now. Whenever I have time to work, it’s always editing and publishing these days. I’m hoping to take off a few months at some point and write because I miss it.

Last question: where do you hope All Due Respect will be in five years’ time?

Honestly, still in existence. It’s difficult for independent publishers to survive even for as long as ADR has already, especially because we target a niche audience. Five years from now would be almost a decade, which would be a good run.

BIO: Chris Rhatigan is a freelance fiction editor and the publisher of All Due Respect Books.

The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Anthony Neil Smith

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Anthony Neil Smith to discuss his new book, The Cyclist (Bastei Entertainment).

Congratulations on the release of your new book, The Cyclist. How would you pitch the story to would-be readers?

A failed Marine falls for a girl hallway around the world and flies to see her on a “blind date”. Little does he know, she’s hiding a secret that might just be the end of him.

Scotland is a country with a rich crime fiction history. Why did you pick it as the location for your fish-out-of-water thriller?

Well, I love Scotland. I’ve been there twice, but I’ve had friends there for years, such as Allan Guthrie (my editor) and Ray Banks. I’ve read loads of novels from the country – everyone from A.L. Kennedy to Irvine Welsh to James Kelman. So it was a natural choice to want to write about it. The Highlands are beautiful, but they can also be terrifying in a sublime way. And Glasgow has a lot of personality and attitude. I feel at home there, even though I’m still learning a lot with every trip I take and every book I read.

Given the right break, The Cyclist feels like it could resonate with a mainstream audience – was that intentional?

Absolutely. I’ve written thirteen previous novels, all of which have attracted a “cult” audience, I’d say, and some of the early ones were really rough “gonzo noir.” And I love those books!  However, I’ve always dreamed of a larger audience enjoying my books, the same way I enjoy a lot of mainstream thrillers and crime novels. So that’s a goal of mine: to learn how to write a book that can reach out and grab a very large swath of thriller readers. THE CYCLIST is another step on that journey. I mean, some writers may scoff at James Patterson or John Grisham, but they must know *something* I haven’t figured out yet in order to have so many people love to read them.

Do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

I read all of it. I love the dangerous edge of the indies, and I love the big name bestsellers. And I definitely prefer when the writing and the plot are both working at a very high level, what some people might call “transcending the genre,” although a lot of writers I know abhor that phrase. I don’t mind it. I think it just means to transcend genre expectations, thus reinvigorating the genre we love so much.

The Cyclist drags the reader into so pretty dark places – do you think crime fiction is too safe?

Sometimes, but I also have to face the fact that everyone should be able to enjoy crime fiction at a level that’s right for them, and not all crime fiction is right for every reader. I am exasperated by those people who will shit all over a novel simply because it had “naughty language” in it, but they have no trouble with bloody murder. Or, you know, turned off by sex in a book. I *love* sex scenes in books, if they don’t go for awful poetry over getting the job done.

I don’t think it’s too safe, though, when we consider that so many crime novels are also social justice novels, touching on subjects that more literary writers have been afraid to touch. Think about THE WIRE, for instance, or Don Winslow’s THE CARTEL. Those are politically provocative works.

Did you worry that you had gone too far with any of the violence in the book?

Nope. I think artists should be allowed to go wherever the story takes them, and I think violence in art is never as awful as real life can dish out. But let’s be real: I don’t think I’m glamorizing violence, and any good writer should tell you the same thing. When we write violent scenes, they have to scare ourselves in order for us to know that they work. You can sort of tell which scenes cause us to cringe as we write them. It should feel as dangerous as real life. But then again, like with horror movie gore, we *want* that visceral terror while also feeling safe.

Stepping away from your new book, your back catalogue was recently re-released by Down & Out Books – how did that arrangement come about?

Eric Campbell, who runs D&O, was kind enough to publish some of my ebook originals from Blasted Heath as paperbacks. So once Blasted Heath closed up shop, D&O seemed a natural fit for my backlist. They’ve been great to work with, have given me generous terms, and they are passionate about crime fiction. I’m also glad that I still get to work with my Blasted Heath cover designer J.T. Lindroos, who has performed artistic miracles.

If you could recommend one of your books to a first-time reader, which one would you choose?

Definitely ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS. That is the book that I think should’ve been a bestseller, should’ve been a movie, and should’ve made me rich. I think it came together beautifully. I saw a story about young Somali men in Minnesota who would go “missing” here, only to end up in Mogadishu fighting for the terrorists in a Civil War. It was fascinating and sad, so the story and characters came to me soon after hearing about it.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

Well, that’s a tough one. There are so many that I’m bound to leave some out, and I’m certainly much less read than many of them! But I’ll throw a few names out there, like my close friends Victor Gischler and Sean Doolittle, and Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, Jason Starr, Stephen Graham Jones, Adrian McKinty. IT’S NOT A FAIR QUESTION! I’ve met so many great writers, befriended so many, and with our old magazine PLOTS WITH GUNS, I’d even say we helped birth a few careers. So it’s an impossible question.

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

Wow oh wow. I daydream about this all the time, and I hope I can achieve it one day. It’s not so much the money as it is the reaching out to readers… but it’s the money, too. I would love to see myself achieving what James Ellroy has, or Walter Mosley, or Laura Lippman, or T. Jefferson Parker, or Tana French, or Adrian McKinty. I mean, I would love to write full-time (even though I love my job as a university professor) for a big audience that gets where I’m coming from.

But then again, there’s something kind of cool about being a cult author.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

I want to work with publishers who a) I like, and b) who want to help me reach more readers. I’d love to work with someone with creative ideas, not just folks looking at the bottom line all the time. After THE CYCLIST, I’m currently working on a book I’ve been thinking of writing for a long time, based on an actual crime committed by someone I once knew. It’s very early, but it’s coming together nicely. I have no idea what people will think of it, but it’s just one I *have* to write to get it out of my system.

After that: another adrenaline-drenched crime thriller, I hope. I’ll write those until I drop.


Anthony Neil Smith is the author of fourteen novels, including YELLOW MEDICINE, ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, CASTLE DANGER, and THE CYCLIST. He is a professor and the Chair of English, Philosophy, Spanish & Humanities at Southwest Minnesota State University. He likes cheap red wine and tacos. His dog is named Herman, and he is a good boy.


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The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Andrew Nette

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Andrew Nette to discuss his excellent novel, Gunshine State (Down & Out Books).

Firstly, congratulations on the re-release of Gunshine State. How would you pitch the book to potential readers?

Thank you very much.

Gunshine State is a very Australian take on the classic ‘heist gone wrong’ story, set in Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Thailand, and Melbourne. Think Garry Disher’s Wyatt series, Wallace Stroby’s Crissa Stone and Richard Stark’s (Donald Westlake) Parker books and you’ll have an idea what you are in for.

As for the storyline, here’s the pitch: Gary Chance is a former Australian army driver, ex-bouncer and thief. His latest job takes place in Surfers Paradise, working as part gang run by an aging stand over man, Dennis Curry, who runs off-site, non-casino poker games, and wants to rob one of his best customers, a high roller called Frederick ‘Freddie’ Gao. The job seems straightforward but Curry’s crew is anything but. Chance knows he can’t trust anyone, but nothing prepares him for what unfolds when Curry’s plan goes wrong

Compared to a lot of ambiguous crime fiction protagonists, Gary Chance is an open-book. Was it a deliberate decision to make him so open about his background?

While I didn’t particularly set out to write Chance as an open book, I did deliberately want him to have a discernable character with at least elements of a backstory. As much as I dig those crime stories where the criminal protagonist is a complete mystery person, solely focused on whatever criminal endeavour, I wanted Chance to be fleshed out a bit. I wanted him to have weaknesses and kinks and I was also keen to leaven out the dark material in the book – and the story gets pretty dark – with some humour, even if it is bleak humour. And you need some depth of character and backstory to do this. All this said, there is a lot about Chance I didn’t put in book one, so stay tuned.

I enjoyed the episodic nature of the story. Did you write the book in a linear fashion, or was it pieced together afterwards?

No, I write in a pretty linear way, starting off at the beginning and progressing in order until the end. The episodic nature of the novel also my attempt to signpost that the story takes places in very particularly phases, each with its own particular atmosphere.

I also appreciated the abundance of background details when setting the scene – how important is location in storytelling?

For me, hugely. Location is the part of fiction writing that comes easiest to me, as opposed to character, which is something I really need to work at. It is also the aspect of writing I enjoy the most. For me, the process of putting together the flow of a novel is a lot like watching a film, if that makes sense. I think about the story very visually and if I come up with a particular setting I really like, I’ll deliberately write the plot to include it.

A chunk of Gunshine State takes place in Thailand, and your previous book Ghost Money was set in Cambodia – what makes South-east Asia such a compelling backdrop for crime fiction?

Partly it’s the fact I spent a large part of the 1990s workings as a journalist in Indochina and I have travelled around the region extensively since then. It has given me a lot of material to play with. South-east Asia is also such a vibrant region and so much is going on – both incredibly good and heartbreakingly sad – you just can’t make up scenes and characters as good as the material you stumble across every day on the street in parts of Asia. My fascination with Asia as a setting for crime fiction is also a product of the fact that, in Australia, we are part of the region, increasingly so, but there are only a handful of crime novels set in it, and local publishers don’t seem to be at all interested in it. I have never been able to figure why this is so, but I try and fight against it.

Who do you consider your peers? Is there an Australian crime scene to speak of?

Does a bear shit in the woods? There is a huge Australian crime scene, which is far too broad to go into detail about here. The one sub-genre of crime fiction that Australia has historically not had a lot of is noir and hardboiled, which are my two favourites, although that has started to change over the last few years. In terms of Australian authors on the darker end of the scale that your readers might want to check out, I’d suggest David Whish Wilson, Emma Viskic, Leigh Redhead, Iain Ryan and Jock Serong. You can’t go wrong with any of their books.

Gunshine State has been published by Down & Out Books – do you have any favourite D&O authors or titles?

There are a lot of Down & Out authors I have not read, so I am not sure how informed my opinion is. I am a big fan of Eric Beetner’s work, as well as being in awe of his productivity. I have enjoyed the writing of Tom Pitts and Gary Phillips. I recently read Cleaning Up Finn by Sarah Chen, and really enjoyed that.

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

Hmmm, probably James Ellroy, even though I thought his latest book, Perfidia, was terrible. So many crime writers owe a debt to Ellroy and I am one of them. He blew a giant sized hole in what people thought crime fiction could be. How cool is that?

You are a big film fan: who would you cast as Chance, given the opportunity?

Easy, a young Bryan Brown. He IS Gary Chance.

Finally, I believe a sequel to Gunshine State is on the cards – how much can you tell us about that?

Yes, there is definitely a sequel on the cards. I am working on it at the moment. It is called Orphan Road and the plot revolves around one of Australia’s largest and most famous heists, the Great Bookie Robbery in 1976. I don’t want to say too much more about it, except to let your readers know that Gunshine State includes the first 5,000 or so words of the follow up as a teaser.


Andrew Nette is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, reviewer and pulp scholar. He is the author of two novels, Ghost Money, a crime story set in Cambodia in the mid-nineties, and Gunshine State. His short crime fiction has appeared in a number of print and on-line publications. His non-fiction includes, Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980, which he co-edited, an upcoming book on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian classic, Rollerball for the independent film and media studies publisher, Auteur. His reviews and non-fiction have appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Sight and Sound, Guardian Australia and Noir City, the magazine of the US Film Noir Foundation.


The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Ed Chatterton

UK crime writer Ed Chatterton has earned plaudits with his books A Dark Place To Die (2011) and Down Among The Dead Men (2013). Following the publication of Remission (2016) – the third book in the Frank Keane series – Tom Leins caught up with him to discuss brutality, Brit Grit and (James Patterson’s) Bookshots.


Remission is an often brutal book, which takes an unflinching look at some dark themes. Do you think that crime readers’ tastes get more extreme every year?

I don’t know about that, mainly because I don’t read much crime fiction. I don’t really have any interest in brutality (in fact I don’t like it!). What I think I do is to write unflinchingly about characters and situations: in my stories violence hurts, no-one is bulletproof, and consequently it feels real. Perhaps that is brutal. The most brutal moments in this book are probably psychological – I’m thinking of the scene at the zoo, and of the scenes involving Frank Keane’s cancer.

What starts out as a standard British cop thriller quickly evolves into something more ambitious in terms of narrative and geography. How important is it to broaden the horizons of British crime fiction?

Although these books (the ‘Frank Keane’ novels) start out in the UK, in Liverpool, I’m always anxious to get the characters out of the local confines of the story. I don’t see myself as a British crime writer which is probably because I have lived in Australia and the US as well as the UK on and off for the past 15 years. Most of the ‘crime’ writers I admire are American, I have to admit – Richard Price, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Patricia Highsmith, Elmore Leonard, Don Winslow, Carl Hiassen. As I said earlier, I’m not fully ‘up’ enough on British crime fiction to speak with much authority but if pressed I’d say it might be a failing of many that they are tied so closely to characters in a narrow location. In terms of horizon, I can only say I’m trying to push past the perceived expectations from crime fiction. I’m approaching the end of a PhD on the legacy of the slave trade in Liverpool, the bulk of which consists of a novel called ‘The Last Slave Ship’ which is a dual narrative beginning with a race-hate crime in contemporary Liverpool paralleling events on the final slaving voyage to leave Liverpool in the early 1800’s. One or two characters from the ‘Keane’ novels re-appear but this is not in any way a conventional crime novel. Whether or not this makes it ‘better’ remains to be seen but it is certainly more ambitious than most.

Which of your contemporaries rank as must-reads for you? What was the last crime novel that really impressed you?

Like I said above, most of them are Americans. And, for me, the best writing being done now is happening in film and TV, again mostly in the US. I thought Anthony Horowitz did a great job with The House of Silk – he’s a writer I admire (and who I’ve worked with wearing my illustrator hat) and I’m looking forward to reading Moriarty. A lot of the ‘big’ contemporary crime names don’t do much for me. If I see another book with ‘girl’ in the fucking title . . .  Jesus. There’s a lot of energy in the ‘Brit Grit’ world that I like.

There are a number of scenes in the book that panned out in surprising ways. How important is it to confound readers and try to offer a fresh slant on the tried-and-trusted police procedural dynamic?

That’s good because I loathe books which telegraph the narrative. Every book I’ve ever written (both for children and adults) has had one primary impulse: to be a book I would have liked to read. That’s it. Surprise is part of that but it’s second to character. I don’t really care that much (as a reader) about the plot. I love spending time with Sherlock Holmes for example but I don’t actually care about the fine detail of what he did. I didn’t know I was writing police procedurals until someone at Random House told me but I don’t mind that. I’m not sure I could keep writing them. Which, of course, without giving anything away, Remission ends as it does. There’s another direction this could go.

The ugly rise of right-wing politics in Europe dominates the book. Do you think that these kind of themes will increasingly come to the fore in contemporary crime fiction? How effective is crime fiction in addressing these issues?

I’m not sure the themes will come to the fore. My feeling is that crime fiction is, very broadly, conservative: the dominance of ‘strong men’, masculine power, narratives of sadism, the triumph of ‘good’ over ‘bad’, the bolstering of institutions. These are all conservative impulses and most crime writers shy away from a political stance. I’d hope there’d be more polemical writing but I’m not convinced we’ll see it. As we know, recent events have shown us to be in a new era of fascism or proto-fascism. Writers have a part to play in this but I suspect the part we’ll see more of is it (crime fiction) shifting further to the right.

I noticed on your website that you are co-writing a book with James Patterson as part of his new Bookshots series. How did that assignment come about, and can you explain a little bit about the logistics of the project – and the division of labour?

We share a publisher (Random House) and about five years ago I was asked by my editor if I’d like to work on a crime novel with JP. I said yes but then various events prevented it happening. Shortly after I was asked to co-write a book in Jim’s massively successful Middle School series, which I did. That led to me co-writing two more and I’m now coming to the end of our fourth in that series. When the Bookshots idea began, Random House must have seen we’d make a good fit for a crime collaboration which has been the case. Absolute Zero will be published in 2017. It’s a story that revolves around an ex-services Australian living in London who, in the wrong place at the wrong time, is framed for an arson attack and who then doggedly pursues those responsible to Iceland and Vermont. It’s loosely based around a Viking saga of vengeance: the Vikings were big on vengeance! Absolute Zero is sort of ‘Rambo in the snow’! The Bookshots series harks back to the glory days of pulp fiction – short, fast-paced novels, heavy on action and driven by excitement. I love the idea. With Middle School, I write to an outlined brief which may be quite small but must be centred in the world established by Jim: the world of Rafe Khatchadorian, an artsy kid in smalltown America. He populated that world with great characters and themes and my job as co-writer is to develop those in fresh ways. When I’ve written a synopsis it gets batted back and forth until everyone’s happy. Then we write and the same thing happens at various stages. Absolute Zero was slightly different because there wasn’t a ‘world’ the book had to conform to so it was more of a fresh page. The book has been written now and Jim is applying his touch to the final draft. I’m looking forward to working on more.

How is The Act of Killing TV show coming along? Which TV cop shows would you file it alongside?

It’s coming along slowly but surely. Escapade Media, the production company who own the rights are doing a great job of getting it on to the screen. They brought in Tally Garner, a massively experienced UK producer last year and that’s kicked things on I think. They’re now casting the leads and the directors and they’re certainly aiming high – it’s a surreal thing when I’m getting asked my opinion on A-list actors! The writers of the scripts, Rob Cawley and Paul Duane are two Irish writers who have had some previous success with Amber, for RTE and, I’m sure, will do a great job. I’m hoping it will fit alongside things like Happy Valley and The Fall.

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about the projects that you are working on next? Can we expect to see more of Frank Keane in the future?

While I’m definitely continuing to write novels, I’ve been making a conscious move into writing for film and TV over the past couple of years. I’ve co-written a TV crime/comedy drama series called Dotty with a mate, Brian Viner (fellow Evertonian and the movie critic at the Daily Mail). Dotty is centred around a refined Herefordshire countrywoman who somehow, semi-accidentally becomes a hitwoman. We’ve got some excitingly high level interest in that series and we’re hoping there’ll be an announcement we can make pretty soon. I’ve also written a feature film called The Last Train To Sugartown with a Canadian film-maker based in Vancouver. The Last Train To Sugartown revolves around two unsuccessful movie makers who drift into armed robbery to fund their film. It’s a comedic road movie that will be shot (we hope) on location this year in British Columbia with a score by a mate, rising British singer/songwriter, Lapsley. The Last Train To Sugartown is also going to be a stage play (something I’m doing now in Australia with co-writer, Susan Bradley-Smith) and, if I get time, I’ll write it as a novel.

I’ll be polishing my PhD novel, The Last Slave Ship, and sending that out to publishers very soon. As far as Frank Keane goes it depends on time. Myself and my creative partner in Vancouver, Michel Duran, have set up a production company over there with a view to developing more projects once The Last Train To Sugartown is done. That may cut my time to do much speculative fiction but I’m hoping to write the next Keane instalment sometime in the next year. I’m also working on a standalone crime book with Random House aimed at the Young Adult sector called RAZr about a kid growing up in a Sydney crime family.

And, lastly I’m working with an animation company, Blue Rocket, on scripts for the animated series based on Alexander The Elephant, a book/music collaboration between myself and Aussie rocker, Pat Davern. Pat and me are developing a couple of other ideas/projects…including writing some songs! All in all, pretty busy.

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