CTG Interviews: Daniel Pembrey author of Harbour Master II: The Maze


Author Daniel Pembrey

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Daniel Pembrey to the CTG blog. Hot on the release of his latest novella, Daniel kindly agreed to allow us to grill him about his writerly habits …

So, Daniel, your latest novella/Kindle Single – Harbour Master II: The Maze – is out now. Can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s the second novella in a Dutch detective series (you don’t need to have read the first). Protagonist Henk van der Pol, a maverick Amsterdam cop, confronts a maze-like set of cases involving diamonds, fine art, drugs and high-class prostitution. As his investigations gather pace, he has to fend off powerful, vested interests while unravelling the connections between the crimes.

The Maze is one of the first crime books I’ve read set in Holland, what was it that inspired you to write a series about a Dutch detective?

I have a close sister living in Amsterdam so I’d visit often and struggle to find good crime fiction set there, which surprised me. I felt that Amsterdam lent itself as well to the genre as the neighbouring Scandinavian capitals, where of course crime fiction is huge! So finally I decided to write some …

Your novellas have a really strong sense of place, how do you go about researching them?

Thank you! I lived in the docklands area of Amsterdam for three months to capture the voice of the main character and his physical world. I spent a lot of time in bars and cafes listening to locals and watching how they interacted. It wasn’t all bad, but getting up at dawn on wintery mornings to peruse the harbour (as my central character does) took some getting used to!

What attracted you to writing crime fiction?

I read social history at university and I find that crime fiction is a fascinating way to explore themes in society. All crime results from some failure in relationships. Plus, it has a pace and a structure that makes for a very satisfying read, when done well.

How would you describe your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

I try to have a hypothetical ending in mind and then let the characters come alive. Novellas do need to be well-structured because there’s so little space, so I carefully keep track of things going on at the sub-plot level, and it’s important of course to try to provide that satisfying yet inevitable ending!

The Maze cover image

The Maze cover image

What advice would you give to new writers aspiring to publication?

I think it’s important to write on a regular basis, if only for a small amount of time each day. Writing ability is like a muscle, I feel; they more you use it, the more it can do. With fiction especially, it’s important to write about what inspires you and what you like to read. I also feel that a certain fearless honestly is a hallmark of much great writing, so it can help to write while imagining that no one will ever read it!

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

I’m working hard on the third book in the Harbour Master series, which comes out on December 5th. It’s about a high-profile kidnapping that has parallels with the 1983 kidnapping of Freddy Heineken. We’re all potentially hostage to certain things, psychologically. Then I hope to bring out a collected edition of the first three books in print and e-book formats.

For updates on those releases and my other books (including an exciting film adaption project), please sign up at http://www.danielpembrey.com to receive my monthly author newsletter.

Also, I’ll be speaking on a panel at Bouchercon in Long Beach on November 15th; if anyone happens to be in the Los Angeles area, it would be great to see you!

Thank you so much for having me.

Our pleasure!

Make sure to hop on over to Daniel’s website to get all the info on his books and, if you’re in Long Beach next month, be sure to go and say hi at Bouchercon.

CTG Reviews: The Maze by Daniel Pembrey

The Maze cover image

The Maze cover image

What the blurb says: In the latest Harbour Master story, maverick Amsterdam cop Henk van der Pol roves further afield, to Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels – investigating a maze-like set of cases involving diamonds, fine art, drugs and high-class prostitution. What connects the cases, and what risks must Henk run to uncover the criminals? Impeding him is his rival and boss Joost, who has an equal but quite separate interest in the investigation’s outcome. Upon discovering the connection between the cases, Henk must confront challenges at a higher and more dangerous level of the Dutch state.”

The Maze is the second story in Daniel Pembrey’s popular Harbour Master II novella series, and the first in the series that I’ve read.

It’s also the first crime book with a Dutch detective lead character that I’ve read in a very long time and I really enjoyed reading a story set in different cities to those I often read about.

Henk van der Pol makes for a great lead character – he’s strong willed, courageous and determined to unravel the cases he encounters and serve justice – no matter how complicated they might be. Which is good, because The Maze sees him challenged by a spate of seemingly unrelated cases. As Henk digs deeper into the evidence he begins to see a pattern, but encounters trouble and obstruction where he least expects it – within the police service. As he connects the cases, and sees the potential political implications, he has to call in favours from those in his past in order to bring those responsible to justice – and to stay alive.

Henk’s wife, Pernilla, and daughter, Nadia, feature strongly within the story as Henk tries to balance his family responsibilities with his work and his wife becomes anxious as their daughter becomes increasingly distant. As the investigation takes him from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels, and his wife becomes increasingly concerned, Henk is torn between his competing priorities.

A fast paced, page-turner of a story – this crime thriller a fabulous read. At 108 pages it’s perfect to read in one sitting on a lazy Sunday afternoon or a long train ride, or to enjoy in daily instalments.

Highly Recommended.


To find out more about Daniel Pembrey’s books hop on over to his website at http://danielpembrey.com/books/

You can also follow him on Twitter @DPemb


[many thanks to Daniel Pembrey for my copy of The Maze]