CTG Interviews: Paul Gadsby about his new book Chasing the Game

Chasing the Game cover image

Chasing the Game cover image

 

Today I’m delighted to welcome Paul Gadsby to the CTG blog to talk about his new book – Chasing the Game.

So, let’s get to it …

Chasing the Game is out now, and gathering rave reviews. Can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s a crime thriller depicting one of the most fascinating real-life crimes in British history – the theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1966. Three months before the football World Cup tournament was due to begin, the trophy, on display in Westminster Central Hall, was stolen in an audacious daylight raid with the back doors of the building forced open. No one actually saw the trophy being taken but a ransom demand was made a few days later to the Football Association (FA), who were desperate to save face and reclaim the trophy, and a rendezvous organised where the trophy would be exchanged for cash. But the exchange never happened, one man was arrested for demanding the ransom but was never connected to the actual theft, so the identity of the thieves remains a mystery. Bizarrely, the trophy was discovered under a bush in a suburban street in Norwood a week after the theft by a dog named Pickles, who subsequently became a national hero.

I wanted Chasing the Game to be very much a fictional novel before anything else (not a documentary-style review of the crime etc), so the make-up of the gang of thieves and their particular characters and motivations were all driven by my imagination and I had a blank canvas to work on there. I used elements of the real-life tale (the ransom demand, the exchange set-up) and created extra conflict by having my FA chairman as a steely character who is determined to recover from the global humiliation the theft caused him and his organisation, and hell-bent on making the criminals pay. I had a theory early on about how I believed the trophy ended up under that bush, and basically worked back from there to create a gripping story.

In Chasing the Game, a real-life event – the theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy (the football World Cup) in London in March 1966 – is integral to the story. What was it about this event that sparked your idea for the novel?

I was drawn in by the fact that the crime has so many unanswered questions to it. The actual theft appears to have been carried out with a fair degree of good planning and professional expertise, so it seems a group of people did it rather than someone alone snatching an opportunity. But then the trophy – their only asset in getting something out of their efforts – ends up under a hedge a week later. Something must have gone dramatically wrong between that group of people during those seven days, as the pressure mounted with the case attracting international publicity.

I’ve always been fascinated by the internal structure of organised criminal set-ups and the personality clashes that rise to the surface. I’d been toying with a theme for a crime novel about leadership – about how some people have the natural skillset to be an effective operations man in a number two role but not necessarily the abilities to handle the wider scale responsibilities that come with being number one – and thought it would be good fun to drop this theme into the midst of a dramatic story such as the 1966 theft.

How did you go about researching the time period and the real life events?

I’ve always been into 1960s-set gangster stuff such as the Krays and the Great Train Robbery, so I read a lot of books surrounding those characters and looked into the pressures they faced in their lives at that time; what kind of lifestyles they were living and what they were aspiring to. I also watched a number of television documentaries about everyday life in Britain in the 1960s (thank you BBC4 et al) because I was determined to make that period a character of its own in the book. I love the music of that era but have always felt the way the 1960s is often portrayed to people like me who were born after then (Swinging Sixties, everyone flocking to a vibrant Carnaby Street to spend a fortune on the latest fashions etc) is a little skewed from reality. I wanted people consumed with the grind of their jobs, their money problems, their marital problems, their parenting problems and so on – characters burdened by the harsh challenges that life always throws into people’s laps.

That’s where the ransom demand in Chasing the Game proved really handy as a motivation driver within the narrative. I deliberately placed my ‘firm’ of criminals in west London, a few miles away from the central Soho scene they ultimately want to get to and grab a stake in – and the ransom cash is their leg-up to this world, their ticket to a brighter future. The trophy theft is also a chance for my ageing, old-school FA chairman to hit back against the thieves he sees as a stark representation of an increasingly insurgent society, and leaves him questioning his place in the world.

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

Chasing the Game is my first novel to be published but I’d written a few before that and with each one the process was slightly different. With this one I had the end of the story in place first, and worked back from there, carefully mapping out the characters and the various conflicts they would face, then drawing up a detailed chapter breakdown before getting into the actual writing. With other books I delved into the writing a lot quicker – happy with the overall concept and where things would finish, I went for it, adopting the ‘car headlights in the dark’ approach (writing away knowing what is immediately in front of you as well as the end destination, but never seeing what is a little further down the road). This approach allows the detail of each chapter to develop more organically and is an enjoyable way to write, but is probably more suited to character-driven work rather than plot-driven material. Either method (and many more besides) is fine and can be successful as far as I’m concerned, as long as the writer has a burning passion to explore the themes they want to unravel, and has created mesmerising characters who have plenty at stake within a tension-riddled story.

Author Paul Gadsby

Author Paul Gadsby

Who are your favourite crime writers – which books and authors have inspired you?

I have tended to prefer standalone books rather than mass-volume serials; I love it where the writer has the freedom to take his main character down any dark alley and the reader really doesn’t know how bad things will get. With the serials, we always know the main character is going to be fine and any injuries sustained will not be too serious because they’ll be back in another adventure next summer. That said, although I’m no great fan of those formats, there have been some tremendous writers who have gone down that path and deserve every credit – Ian Fleming for one, while Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham are delightful writers and I’ve enjoyed many of their books. Ray Banks’ mini-series following PI Cal Innes was fantastic and wrapped up with great humility, while David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet inspired me to explore mixing fact with fiction.

I love noir classics as well as slick contemporary thrillers. Elmore Leonard’s ear for dialogue is, in my opinion, unmatched. James Crumley is a big hero of mine as are the likes of Ken Bruen, James Sallis, Patricia Highsmith, Jake Arnott, Graham Greene, Jim Thompson, Adrian McKinty and James Ellroy. Eddie Bunker’s No Beast So Fierce is a glorious standalone book and one of my all-time favourites, as is The Ice Harvest by Scott Phillips.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

I have written the first draft of another novel, a tale about a recently-retired boxer who is forced into a life of crime by his former manager, and look forward to editing and polishing that soon. But in the meantime I’m enjoying promoting Chasing the Game – reviews from crime fiction sites have been fantastic so far, while I’ve been asked to speak about the book at this summer’s Festival of Football Ideas in Bristol, a literary-music-art-themed event, which I’m really looking forward to.

A huge thank you to Paul for allowing us to grill him! 

If you’d like to find out more about Paul Gadsby and Chasing the Game pop on over to his website at http://www.paulgadsbyauthor.co.uk/

CTG Reviews: The Accident by Chris Pavone

The Accident cover image

The Accident cover image

What the blurb says: “Isabel Reed, one of the most respected and powerful literary agents in New York, is in possession of a time bomb and she’s about to give it to her good friend and trusted editor at one of the top publishing houses in the US. Anyone who begins reading the manuscript is immediately struck by the importance of its contents. They can also see that publishing it could be dangerous, but it could also be the book that every agent, editor and publishing house dreams of … What they don’t realise is that reading it could get them killed.

Veteran CIA Station Chief, Hayden Gray, is a man not to be trifled with. At his beck and call is a vast artillery of CIA personnel and he’s prepared to use every single one of them to stop that manuscript from getting into the public domain. He has twenty-four hours to do so.”

Set in the world of publishing, this book takes what starts out as an everyday occurrence – a new manuscript delivered to literary agent Isabel Read’s office – and turns it into a twist-filled story with danger lurking around every page turn. The book – entitled ‘The Accident’ – is filled with secrets so explosive, about a media tycoon so well-known and influential, that there are people prepared to do anything to stop the book being read.

So Isabel’s day turns into a 24-esque chase, with lots of running, hiding and dodging. As the body count rises, she knows that someone, or some people, are trying to kill her and the manuscript, but she doesn’t know who. So she turns to the one person she’s sure she can trust: Jeff Fielder – her long-time friend, and editor at a major publishing house – to help her get the book published, and to stay alive.

The book alternates between character point-of-views, primarily Isabel, Jeff, Hayden Gray, and the unnamed author of the book. With each character’s narrative you get a glimpse of the history that led to the book being written, and the impact it having been written, allowing you as the reader to piece together the complex web of secrets that have been hidden for so long.

This story has intrigue and mystery in spades. As the plot unfolds, and more about each of the key characters is revealed, you start to understand the complex relationships that connect so many of them.

A gripping read, with an artfully crafted plot and fabulously engaging characters, the story includes some major twists towards the end – several of which I really didn’t see coming. The Accident is an engaging, entertaining, page-turner of a thriller.

Highly Recommended.

 

[with many thanks to Faber & Faber for my copy of The Accident]

 

Author Interviews: CTG talks to Quentin Bates

Quentin Bates - Cold Steal

Quentin Bates – Cold Steal

Today I’m delighted to welcome crime writer Quentin Bates to the CTG blog for a chat about his fabulous Nordic crime novels and new book – Cold Steal, the atmospheric setting for his books – Iceland, and to find out more about his writing process …

As well as writing the fabulous Nordic crime novels featuring police officer and single mother, Gunnhildur Gísadóttir, you’ve had successful careers as a trawlerman, a teacher and a journalist. What was it that attracted you to becoming a novelist?
I wasn’t actually a teacher for very long and abandoned it as quickly as I could… But I’ve been writing for a living for a long time now, journalism and a few non-fiction books, mostly extremely dull technical stuff about shipping. I had always seen fiction as something of a mug’s game, extremely hard to get published and maybe even harder to stay published, so it was a challenge I couldn’t resist. I didn’t seriously expect the first Gunna story to get published, and certainly didn’t expect it to turn into a series.

Your new book, Cold Steal, is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?
This one involves a fairly disparate group of characters, including some of Iceland’s immigrants who I find interesting – having been in that position myself along time ago as an expat living in Iceland. There’s also a burglar who has been a thorn in the police’s side for a long time as he is exceptionally careful and leaves very few traces and is very successful until he breaks into the wrong house one night and finds himself facing far more than he had bargained for. Then there are a few killings, including a businessman and a few people placed in the difficult positions that call for desperate measures.

Your Iceland-set books always have a fabulous sense of place about them, what’s your secret to creating this?
I think it’s weather. Icelanders may live in centrally-heated houses, but they still live on the edge of the habitable world and weather has always been crucially important to survival in the past when it was a nation of fishermen and farmers, and a hard winter could mean not making it through to spring. So people are extremely conscious of weather; it’s in the blood, and Icelandic weather is extraordinarily changeable as it can rain, snow and hail all in one day, interspersed with blazing sunshine. I’m infected with this weather consciousness as well so I always have weather at the back of my mind and especially when I visualise a scene. One of my first questions to myself will always be what was the weather like?

Could you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?
I’ve done both, the seat-of-the-pants method and the intricate plotting, and neither of them suit me. I’m somewhere between the two and have a fairly loose outline of what I want to touch on, like as series of waypoints, but not necessarily with a direct route between them. I don’t get on with over-plotting as I like the flexibility of using a good idea as it crops up along the way, and I don’t normally know quite how things are going to end until I get there.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to publication as crime writers?
This is purely personal advice, and everyone’s experience is different. I’d say just get on with it and stay with it. Don’t wait for a muse to strike, as if you do that, then she won’t. Try and do something every day as that keeps things ticking over in your mind. Unplug the router if that’s what suits you. And just enjoy it, laugh at your own jokes. If you don’t enjoy your own work, then probably nobody else will. Don’t go to anyone who loves you for an opinion. People who know what they’re talking about will give you advice, and it’s very much worth listening carefully to what they say, but also take notice of your own instincts and stick to your guns when the moment is right.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?
I’m not sure at the moment. There’s a kindle-only Gunnhildur novella planned for later this year although I’m not sure yet when that will appear, probably in the summer some time. There is more Gunna in the pipeline but I’m still mulling over ideas at the moment and I really do need to pay the day job more attention. November this year is also Iceland Noir, the tiny crime fiction festival in Reykjavík that I’m involved in organising with Icelandic crime writers Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir. It’s something of a labour of love, but we did the first one last year and it was just great – because when crime writers get together they do tend to be a lot of fun. They’re not precious or pompous, and they can be extraordinarily irreverent – these are people it’s just great to be around. That’s what happens when people who spend their days sitting over a laptop dreaming of murder get let out into the daylight. There’s an interesting line-up for this year, including rising stars Johan Theorin and Vidar Sundstol, and some more intriguing writers, and hopefully we’ll be able to add more between now and November.

Sounds great.

Thanks so much to Quentin Bates for dropping by. To find out more about Quentin and his Gunnhildur Gísadóttir Iceland-set crime series pop on over to his website at http://graskeggur.com/

And to learn more about the wonderful Iceland Noir crime fiction festival click here http://www.icelandnoir.com/

CTG Reviews: The Killing Season by Mason Cross

The Killing Season cover image

The Killing Season cover image

What the blurb says: “When Caleb Wardell, the infamous ‘Chicago Sniper’, escapes from death row two weeks before his execution, the FBI calls on the services of Carter Blake, a man with certain specialised talents whose skills lie in finding those who don’t want to be found. A man to whom Wardell is no stranger.

Along with Elaine Banner, an ambitious special agent juggling life as a single mother with her increasingly high-flying career, Blake must track Wardell down as he cuts a swathe across America, apparently killing at random.

But Blake and Banner soon find themselves sidelined from the case. And as they try desperately to second guess a man who kills purely for the thrill of it, they uncover a hornets’ nest of lies and corruption. Now Blake must break the rules and go head to head with the FBI if he is to stop Wardell and expose a deadly conspiracy that will rock the country.”

First off, I have to say that this is hands-down my favorite read of the year so far. It has everything I love about action thrillers – the intrigue, the danger, the chase and the multi-layered characters. And, it’s Mason Cross’ debut novel, which makes it all the more impressive.

The main character, Carter Blake, is something of an enigma – charismatic, highly skilled, and at the top of his game. But he doesn’t let power and politics get in the way of his investigation, and he makes sure justice is brought, whatever the personal cost. So pairing up with Elaine Banner makes for an interesting working relationship – she’s career-driven and has her eyes on the next promotion, working with a talented maverick like Blake gives her a set of problems she can well do without.

The antagonist – sniper Caleb Wardell – is a smart and cunning adversary, engaging Blake and Banner in a deadly game of cat and mouse. The tension is high from the get-go and just keeps on rising.

So as Banner and Blake pursue Wardell, following the evidence, trying to find a pattern and anticipate his next move, the body count continues to rise. Blake’s the only person who is able to get close, and Banner starts to realise that sometimes the only way to get the job done right is to step away from procedure and follow your instinct.

As Blake and Banner get closer to the truth, they become targets – in the sights of Wardell and someone in the Agency itself – question is, can they get to them both in time, and get out alive?

I cannot sing this novel’s praises highly enough – it’s a joy to read, utterly engaging and kept me hooked right from the first page to the last. There’s high stakes and high tension, and the chemistry between Blake and Banner sizzles off the page.

If you love action thrillers, if you love crime fiction, go and read this book. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Highly Recommended.

 

[with thanks to Orion for my copy of The Killing Season]

CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition – shortlist announced

Margery Allingham Competition logo

Margery Allingham Competition logo

Time for another competition shortlist, this time it’s for the Margery Allingham Short Story Competition.

Earlier this week the CWA announced the shortlist, and the authors on it are …

Stuart McLean
Alexandar Altman
Alan Orchard
Gail Williams
Paul Curd
Helena Edwards
Ian White
David Buckley
Susi ‘SJI’ Holliday
Martin Edwards

Over 200 entries were received and read by a team of readers from the Crime Writers’ Association and the Margery Allingham Society. The judges are Imogen Robertson, Barry Pike and Anne Zouroudi.

The lucky winner will be revealed at the CWA Dagger Reception being held at CrimeFest on Friday 16th May 2014.

To find out more about the competition hop over to http://www.thecwa.co.uk/ShortStory/index.php

 

eBooks by Sainsbury’s May promotion

 

If you like your books in the eBook format, this could be an offer for you …

eBooks by Sainsbury's logo

eBooks by Sainsbury’s logo

A little bird tells me that during May, lucky Sainsbury’s customers can be in with a chance of winning Nectar points galore, as part of a massive giveaway on the eBooks by Sainsbury’s website.

Throughout the month, prize draws will be take place every day in which up to four customers who’ve bought ebooks from the site will receive 10,000 Nectar points each.

To find out more about eBooks by Sainsburys, the Nector point promotion, and a load more, hop on over to: www.sainsburysebooks.co.uk

 

CTG Reviews: My Criminal World by Henry Sutton

My Criminal World cover image

My Criminal World cover image

What the blurb says: “In awe of his wife, hounded by his agent and ignored by his editor, crime novelist David Slavitt finds his life is spiralling out of control. As his wife grows increasingly distant and his agent insists that his new book needs more violence – a lot more violence – David is getting worried. He needs to do something if he is to save his career, and his marriage. But just how far is this most mild-mannered of crime writers prepared to go? And who is the person really pulling the strings in his story? In this ingenious crime novel, there is more than one mystery to be solved.”

I think the first thing that attracted me to this book was its cover – bright and funky with a rather retro-cool design. So, I picked it up and starting reading, and the story was just as fun – quirky and really intriguing.

It’s like two crime books in one. The first story is of crime writer, David Slavitt, whose career is stalling and knows he needs to pull a bestseller out of the back to keep his publisher, and his agent, on board. The second story is the crime book he’s writing, based in a small, coastal location near his home and seemingly part-based on the strange experiences he begins to have in his day-to-day life.

As he battles to get to his daily word target, and his anxiety about his future reaches break point, events conspire to make him take his head out the sand and face up to the fact that his beloved wife could be having an affair. He uses the confusion, the paranoia, and the fear she’ll leave him, pouring it into his novel and using it as fuel to write some of the more violent, more gory scenes his agent has constantly urged him to. But, just when the novel is going well, disaster strikes in his personal life and it seems that his fiction and real-life could be more connected than anyone around David had ever expected.

This book was great fun to read, packed with mystery and intrigue, and kept me, as the reader, on my toes as it switched between the fictional book David is writing and his own personal life. I loved how he used the things he saw and experienced in daily life, changed them a bit, and put them into his novel, and the endearing, self-doubting inner monologues he often had while writing. Packed with larger-than-life characters, this is a perfect novel to devour in a weekend, or take on holiday to read poolside.

Highly recommended.

 

[Many thanks to Vintage for my copy of My Criminal World]