So, what you pushing right now?
My debut novel ‘The Killing of Emma Gross’ which was released as an ebook from Blasted Heath press in November.
What’s the hook?
Based on the true story of notorious serial killer Peter Kürten and the unsolved murder of Düsseldorf prostitute Emma Gross.
Düsseldorf, 1 March 1929, the dying days of the Weimar Republic. A prostitute is found dead in a cheap hotel room, over a dozen stab wounds to her chest and belly. But her death is soon forgotten as the city’s police hunt a maniac attacking innocent women and children. A killer the press has dubbed the Düsseldorf Ripper.
Detective Thomas Klein’s career is going nowhere until he gets a tip off leading to the Ripper’s arrest. But the killer’s confession to the hooker’s murder is full of holes, and Klein soon comes to believe this is one murder the killer didn’t commit. Motivated by spite, ambition, or maybe even a long-buried sense of justice, finding out who really killed Emma Gross becomes Klein’s obsession. Particularly when the evidence begins to point closer to home…
And why’s that floating your boat?
When I lived in Berlin a few years ago I wanted to write about the place, especially as it was in the 1920s. By the time I finished writing my Berlin novel it had morphed into one about Düsseldorf, of all places. Never the less, the book’s my hymn to 1920s and early ’30s Germany, a place full of glorious possibilities that ended about as badly as anything can. The German tragedy is the great noir narrative of the 20th century.
When did you turn to crime?
It was gradual, and probably started with my parents’ seeming obsession with crime TV. Taggart and Columbo were big favourites. And of course when I was a kid Sunday night Poirot was what got me ready for school the following day. Those David Suchet Poirots were like the last taste of weekend freedom.
In terms of crime literature, the trajectory of novels that led me here consists of: ‘And Then There Were None’, ‘Dr No’, ‘The Black Dahlia’ and ‘Red Harvest’. And then probably ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’. Each of those novels knocked me sideways, and in that order.
Then Al Guthrie’s ‘Kiss Her Goodbye’ came out with Hard Case Crime, and I realised there could be a modern British angle to all this. Ironically I ended up going backwards into history and across to Germany for my inspiration, but there you go.
Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
Everything, as long as it’s a good story well told, as they say. The last crime novel I picked up was a cosy, one of the Hamish Macbeth series. I was curious and just started to turn the pages and before I knew it I’d got halfway through the damn thing. Also, a friend who’s obsessed with Russia got me into those Boris Akunin novels recently, which I’d always assumed I wouldn’t like. Seems I was wrong.
And, what’s blown you away lately?
Sandra Ruttan’s latest novel, ‘Harvest of Ruins’. I’m not crazy about the title, but it’s a hell of a book. Sandra’s thing is writing about imploding families, and this novel is the pinnacle of her achievement so far. Deeply unsettling and suspenseful and full of egoless good writing, it’s a cathartic treat.
See any books as movies waiting to happen?
All of them, given the right director, producer and adaptor. Get these elements wrong and not even the greatest novel can survive the transition to the screen. De Palma’s ‘Black Dahlia’ anyone?
Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
All of it. I like both. I still prefer the feel of paper, but some of the best writing is only available electronically right now – Sandra’s ‘Harvest of Ruins’ being a prime example.
Shout us a website worth visiting …
Un:bound. It’s mainly a sci-fi site, which isn’t so much my thing, but the guys over there sweat enthusiasm and love for writing and writers, and not everyone can say that.
Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
When I was a baby living in Libya in the late 70s, I apparently met King Hussein II of Jordan during a parade held in honour of his visit (I don’t remember this). My mum tells me the king patted me on the head and commended her on my cuteness. Until the day the king died (nothing to do with catching anything off me that day, I hasten to add), my mother would always tell people that he was her favourite Arab, and then proceed to tell them why. So, I’ve been touched by a king, which must make me destined for some kind of greatness, I reckon.