A Messy Business – I have been blogged!

Jason Beech was kind enough to interview me for his fabulous blog Messy Business!

If you haven’t read this super blog before then you have missed a treat. It’s not the usual stuff.

The questions were a little crazy – or maybe that was me  :). The interview is part of a sequence in which some very imaginative writers talk about what inspires them, and why they do it. But the best bit is where Jason creates a  really cool story featuring the writers themselves – a scary gangster lady – who me?

 You have the right to remain silent … here goes…

I’m at the pelican crossing, Madness’ Shut Up loud through the car speakers, the rain in competition with the beat. I drum the steering wheel and if I had whiskers I’d twiddle them and slurp some cream. The woman walks slow, her tartan shopping trolley rickety and bound to get stuck in the road’s shallowest cracks. I reach back to touch the bag on the back seat and grin.

The windscreen wipers thud dull and work to ruin Suggs’ cheeky excuse and I realise the old woman is too slow, even for an octogenarian.

Too late, and I should have known. The woman slides out a shotgun from the trolley and points it at me. I slam the accelerator and she swings and arcs her body to avoid my car’s bullhorns. She fires and a tyre bursts. I slip, slide and do an unintentional one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn. The airbag punches my face and sends my nose to the left.

I shake the fuzz away and check the rear view for Sonia Kilvington. She holds the shotgun over a shoulder and swaggers all Joan Jett my way. I grab the bag and slide out the passenger side. I stumble and slip as privet leaves are scythed by shotgun pellets behind me. I hear the reload and the click as she fires again. Read more

 

 

 

 

Women’s Work – New Story at NTTK!

I am excited to have my new story Women’s Work up at NTTK today! It is the first time I have had a full length story up on that wonderfully edgy site, and I am delighted to be there, amongst  some very prestigious company!

The story is a classic, ‘don’t go down into the basement tale’ – especially if you are working for a sadistic psychopath such as Mr. Tinder. I wanted to write a tale in which my elderly female protagonist was trapped in a situation in which she knew that no-one could rescue her. I think at times many of have felt trapped in seemingly hopeless situations and have had to dig very deep to find some undiscovered resource to get us through. I hope to have captured that feel and atmosphere in this story- why not check it out for yourself?

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“Is this your wife?” I tried to sound polite. Take an interest. I wondered if she was still around. In truth, my money was already staked on a nasty divorce. I reckoned that Tinder could not be an easy man to live with.

He didn’t answer. A sick feeling cut into me, racing over my arms, leaving trails of goose bumps in its wake.

His expression was almost grotesque; his eyes glazed over, as if lost in another world. He seemed to completely forget that I was standing there. I coughed, cleared my throat. I was paid by the hour and didn’t have time to waste on his self-indulgence. Read More

 

Many thanks to Craig and Oliver at NTTK, especially for their very kind support and patience with me and my writing! And not forgetting my good friend CHenry Roi, for his creative inspiration and help with editing.

 

A Writer Behind Bars∼An in-depth interview with Author Chris Roy

A surprising number authors have written while in prison (Alaric Hunt, E. E. Cummings, Jean Genet, Oscar Wilde, O. Henry, to name but a few) and the genre of prison literature is very well established. Many would argue that it reached a peak of reader popularity with the groundbreaking novel Papillon by Henri Charrière, which was published in France in 1969. But interest is still, very much alive and well today, especially in the crime fiction genre.

This is my interview with Chris Roy, who is currently serving a life sentence in maximum security Unit 29 of Mississippi State Penitentiary (also known as Parchman) for the murder of a drug dealer in his youth. Chris is 37 years old and has written two exciting crime trilogies, Sharp As A Razor and Shocking Circumstances published by New Pulp Press.

 

You didn’t have an easy childhood, were brought up in a trailer park; was there a lot of crime surrounding you at that time?

I grew up in Fountain Bleau, an area right outside of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. My neighborhood, Gulf Park Estates, is a large one. The south side of it (when I lived there in the 90s) was mostly trailers on small lots, narrow roads winding next to bayous. Woods and trails everywhere. Paradise for a kid with a go-cart or dirtbike; no city police to stop you from driving on the streets.

There was crime, but not much. Folks smoked too much weed, drank way too much beer. But no one was selling crack on the corner or doing drive-bys. The adults I knew were hard workers, mostly roofers, framers, etc., that built houses in the subdivisions going up everywhere. When I was about 11 a friend and I were stealing weed from his parents and selling joints for a couple bucks each. It was nice to have gas money for the go-cart, a new clutch; things like that. A few dollars for bicycle parts.

I believe you were in trouble with the law for stealing from an early age?

Occasionally I stole things. I went to military training school when I was 13, for numerous accounts of grand larceny… and escape from the detention center. The only good that did was put some muscle on me and make me quit smoking. I remember one day at the local beach, not long after getting out, an old redneck told me, “Don’t steal where you live.” That made great sense to my undeveloped mind. Later, I adopted other rules. Only steal from people that can afford it. One day I realized that was wrong, and a new rule came about: only steal from those that deserve it. That last one was tough to follow. I broke all 3 rules a few times, each time deeply regretting it.

When did it become more serious – did you experience any warnings about the dangers of adopting a criminal lifestyle?

When I was about 13 I started buying weed from an older couple that lived around the corner. By then I was known at school as a weed dealer and was even selling it to older kids. When I was 14 I was robbed at gunpoint for a quarter-pound of grass. Right in my mom’s living room. That experience changed the way I thought about the drug business. I didn’t quit, despite my mom telling me too. I was making money at something I was good at. Something that made me, a kid living in a roach-infested trailer, popular in Ocean Springs. I was proud to be known as a guy that did good business.

Do you believe that having your father around, or another credible role model, would have made any difference to what happened to you?

My mom, teachers, aunts, and grandparents – there were plenty of adults in my life that cared and warned me to stop getting in trouble. But there were no examples; I was the first in my entire family to go to prison.

I don’t blame my father for my imprisonment. Though, on reflection, I know I wouldn’t have gone so far that it became life or death if I had a mentor. Someone that didn’t just say, “Don’t do that”, but actually made an impression, showed me where my talents were best used. Hell, maybe that person doesn’t exist.

With hindsight, do you feel that you were always on a collision course with a life in prison?

I experienced a juvenile detention center a few times for brief periods, no more than a couple months each time. Training school for 10 weeks. I knew that stealing would get me time there. I never thought about going to prison for drugs or whatever, because I had never experienced it. Teenagers don’t possess the capability to fully process the consequences of their actions. For myself, I only internalized a lesson once I learned it the hard way.

In October 2001 you were accused of capital murder. What happened at your trial?

At my trial, no one knew what to expect because no one had experienced criminal court. The public defender convinced my folks he knew his business then tried to sell them a life sentence plea. Told them I would get life without parole if I went to trial. The public defender actually swindled my mom and aunts into attempting to get me to sign for a life sentence. That didn’t work. So he had me transported to the Public Defender’s Office in downtown Pascagoula and ambushed me with my dad. Dad reeked of vodka, telling me to take the life sentence and plead guilty. I had never known that level of anger. I was embarrassed, furious, and tried my best to learn law so I could fire the PD. The judge ignored 2 motions I filed, a letter directly to him asking about the motions, and presided over a lopsided trial; my inept PD beaten soundly by the assistant district attorneys. There was so much wrong with my trial.

Mississippi State Penitentiary is an extremely tough place, renowned for its harsh conditions. How do you maintain your own sense of identity?

The #1 activity a person can do for their mind is exercising. Besides all the incredible physiological benefits, consistent exercise develops mental toughness that carries over to other activities. I got into fitness as a kid, but never knew what I was physically capable of until I was thrown in general population with a bunch of cons fresh out of Unit 32 supermax. The #2 activity you can do for your mind, is keeping it sharp by writing letters, though people avoid writing like they avoid exercise.

This is a primitive environment, a tribal one, where guys are constantly vying for status. If you are known for something, that means you are very good at it and have status among those that respect that particular ability. The more talents you have, the more you are known for, the more status you have. There are always people of lower status that hate your reputation and seek to sabotage it.

Have you found a way of protecting yourself from feeling institutionalized?

Staying updated on events in society, enjoying science or car magazines, Men’s Health-type periodicals – and socializing about them – prevents a mind from becoming institutionalized. In Parchman’s maximum security units there are no educational programs. And no incentives to educate yourself. Prison life consumes most; young men grow old as products of a chaotic environment. Many of my accomplishments have been done while under threat; imminent shakedowns, raging fires and floods, inmates throwing feces, urine, trying to kill one another.

How do you manage to stay sane and productive in this environment?

I’ve evolved the ability to block out the dissonance and keep working, whether it’s a writing project, an art piece, promoting my work on a radio show, or just pushing through a workout. There can be incredible pressure at times – knuckleheads “disrupting the orderly running of the institution”, antagonists that hate me and want to see me fail, or administration putting me on a daily shakedown list for being an escape risk (I’m not an escape risk any longer, though have failed to convince the warden…).

Do you have any sayings or mantras which help you get through the tough times?

Have you heard the expression, “You’re either living or dying. Get busy living”? Guys kill a little bit of themselves in here every day. Drugs. Meaningless, life-consuming behavior. Gang activity. Mindless television. Administration allows it to occur, gives them leverage during negotiations with the government for more money: violence, contraband, etc., are security problems that can only be solved with more staff. They need more money to hire, train, and attract more prison staff. Parchman has a brutal, corrupt economy. Being aware of my situation, the machinations of this place and what it means relative to the rest of the world; this retains my sanity and work ethic. Which preserves my reputation. Who cares what the mutts are barking?

Your current series, Shocking Circumstances, features one of the toughest and most resourceful female protagonists in modern crime writing. Are Clarice Ares’ experiences an expression of your own frustration at prison life?

shoking2Thank you for that. Such ranking makes me feel like penning another Clarice “Shocker” Ares novel! Her experiences throughout the series are largely fictional. While in prison she does things like make hiding places, build a tattoo machine and trains for fights (I never participated in a fight ring, though trained a lot of guys that did) that are from my own experiences. Her escape is loosely based on my second escape in January 2006. The convict characters are completely fabricated, though their actions and language come from this prison culture.

 

Did you find it difficult to write from a feminine perspective?

Writing in first person female was very challenging. I got the idea after reading LA Outlaws by T. Jefferson Parker. Shocker is what I imagined having a twin sister would be like. A far more talented, non-criminal twin that could out-box me, do better tattoos, and maintain the work ethic of a dozen overachievers. She makes over the top, easy. And she’s a freaking lunatic. Avoiding cliches and stereotypes was so hard! My subscription to Psychology Today helped.

You are currently in maximum security for two escapes in 2005 and 2006, what happened during the first escape and why did it go wrong?

My first escape was in October 2005. A friend and I made it to Tuscaloosa Alabama. A prison guard helping us used their credit card and the US Marshall’s tracked us to a motel. I warned the guard to use cash and a different name. When she came out of the motel office she said, “I used a different name. We have 2 days.” We thought it would be safe.  So, I left in her car to go shopping while they had sex. The grocery store, Dollar Tree and a thrift shop were new adventures. I bought clothes and food, toiletries, and wore the biggest smile. I must’ve said hello to 20 people. They probably thought I was on drugs.

The Marshall Service hit the room around 2am with a tactical team. My partner and I had no idea how we were caught until we were discovered, and saw the credit card receipt. The guard was sentenced to 3 years probation.

How did freedom feel after 6 years inside – do you still believe it was worth it?

The simple act of holding a door for someone, walking through a produce aisle and seeing/smelling the displays, opening the mini fridge in the motel room, were wondrous, fascinating experiences.

Before the escape, I was in general population at East Mississippi Correctional Facility and was doing very well for myself. I worked for the Education Department, building props for plays, painting things for classrooms, and tutored math and English. My cell was set up like a tattoo studio. I got all the medical supplies I needed from the clinic nurses, had free world inks and plenty of customers. I had 2 cell phones, bought pizza or gin whenever the mood struck. I even had a few real friends around that had my back. And I still went out the window. No matter how good prison can get, it’s still prison. That was 12 years ago and my time will never be that sweet again. Part of me says, Hell yes, that brief taste of freedom was worth it.

And the second escape attempt in 2006?

3 months later I escaped again, from K9 transport in downtown Meridian. I used a homemade key to get out of my restraints and ran. I got away from 4 officers chasing me, jumped in the back of a truck and changed clothes – I had homemade shorts on under my striped pants. Leaving my jacket and pants in the truck I walked down the crowded sidewalk with the other pedestrians. Police were everywhere looking for a guy running in stripes and a jacket. Some lady came out of a business and pointed me out. It was fun up until then.

Were there any consequences that you hadn’t foreseen?

In my 20s I was deluded with the fantasy of escaping and starting a new life somewhere. I’m 36 now, half my life spent in this dungeon. I think I mentioned I learn lessons only after experiencing them. I was shot at and nearly killed during my second escape. My family’s homes were raided. Things I didn’t plan for. I won’t take risks like that again.

Your latest fiction is taking a much darker turn; do you have any plans for devolving this aspect of your writing further in the future?

Fight scenes, high-speed chases, and technology fill the pages of my thrillers. Action and tension are my strong points. Writing dark fiction has helped me improve in other areas, especially character development and overall storyline. Telling a story without a build up to a fight or heist of some kind has added more to my box of fiction tools. Thinking up a vicious psychopath and telling the story with them as the protagonist has tapped into a level of emotional creativity I didn’t know I possessed. Scary joy.

At the moment, there are no plans to make a permanent transition to the horror genres. In fact, I have another thriller coming out in May 2018, a novella titled Her Name is Mercie.

You teach boxing and are known to be generous with your time and expertise with other writers – including me. What do you gain from doing this; does it help motivate you in any way?

I teach boxing fundamentals to guys, explaining and demonstrating weight distribution and leverage. Tell them how to stand: weight centered, hands up, elbows in, chin down, rotate shoulders, roll fists out, tighten up on the end of the punch. How to turn heels out, twist hips, step in time with the punches. How to throw perfect hooks, uppercuts. Every punch is different. Then I’ll make them tell me how to do it. Teaching someone else how to do it helps them learn it. Writing is like that for me. Just like I can spot poor boxing fundamentals I can recognize where a piece of writing needs improvement. The more experienced I get, the more intuitive it’s become.

It’s incredibly rewarding to see a guy throw a perfect combination after a ton of work I coached personally. I don’t like helping slackers. I’ll make an effort to motivate guys and if they quit then I’ll move on. Same with writers. I’ll help those willing to put the work in. Because I consider their achievements my own, like a coach whose boxers are winning.

If you could reinvent yourself like a new character in one of your stories, who would you be, where would you live, what would you do with your life?

Well, in my previous life I was a rodeo bull. If I could reinvent myself I would be a Burmese Python in the Everglades. They seem to be taking over the animal kingdom.

HmmSeriously Chris?

Okay, that’s a bunch of crap. Seriously, I wish I had gone to tech school as a teenager and maybe become like Ace in Shocking Circumstances. Few things in life hold my interest like the workings of electronics, the capabilities of computers. The science of it, applied and theoretical. I wouldn’t need a home. I would go where the work is. Where can I go to learn this, get experience in that? I dream of being part of teams that develop state of the art technology.

 

More information on Chris

Amazon Author Page

You can find Chris on Facebook 

Twitter @AuthorChrisRoy

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An interview with Renato Bratkovič ~ creator of Alibi International Crime/Noir Festival!

As you may know, I have just spent a wonderfully creative weekend at the amazing Alibi International Crime/Noir Festival in Slovenia, which was the hosted and created by the very talented writer and creative advertising director,  Renato BratkovičThe festival is unique in its concept and originality, and so I was it was a real  pleasure to catch up with Renato, to ask him he felt about this year’s event…

Alibi is a unique, noir festival, set in the beautiful Slovenian mountains. What was the initial inspiration for its creation?

Nino, our friend photographer, and I made the film about Gora pod lipo (http://www.gorapodlipo.com) back in July 2015. When the film was finished I realised, what a lovely place this was. I could imagine a bunch of writers writing there, eating, drinking, having fun … I told Lena (she runs the place with her boyfriend Primož) about the idea and she said, “Yeah, sure, create a concept and we’ll do something about it.” After two weeks I had this idea about inviting five writers for a weekend, let them draw titles for their stories, write them and present them in the end. The last weekend in September the first guests arrived.

This is the third year of the festival, how has it has evolved since the beginning?

We try to add little bits every year – the writing workshop concept, where participating writers get their titles and have to write the stories, is unique I believe, but I wanted a film night as well. The first Alibi happened so fast and the film I wanted to present (the first official Slovenian film noir Case: Osterberg)  but I was travelling from festival to festival at the time, so we ended up with Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me.

We hosted Case: Osterberg with the screenwriter and the producer last year, and this year we presented a film based upon my story and we invited my favorite director, Damjan Kozole, with his film Night Life.

What are your feelings about this year’s event?

Well, it seems I’m lucky to choose writers who form a brilliant team. And this year was no exception. But most of all, I’m happy I had more women than men this year. Women tend to write even darker stories then men, I think.

Alibi differs from many other literary festivals as the writers create their stories while in attendance – do you believe it is important to celebrate spontaneous creativity?

I believe we need this sense of accomplishment in the end. I mean it’s great if you’re able to visit a festival where you read your own work, but when you find yourself with a task of having to create something on the spot and present your work, you win twice: you get this beautiful feeling of having created something and you have one more story that year. I guess this is what drives my guests to come here and I’m happy about it.

How has the festival evolved over the years, and what are your future aspirations for Alibi?

Well, the workshop concept will definitely remain the core of the festival. In the future I’d also like to have Slovenian publishers as guest – maybe some collaboration between them and our participating writers might come out of it.

My story began with Bistrica Noir literary evening at our local library a couple of years ago, so I’ll try and find a way to get them involved in the festival. And I feel one film night is not enough.

As this was the third year, my plan is to have an anthology with 25 stories published every five years. So in three years, all the writers from the first five years are going to be invited to join us again for the sixth edition when we’re going to promote the book and have some real fun. But we’ll have to find some additional sponsors.

Thank you for your interesting insights Renato!

For more information on the festival why not visit the Website and Alibi FB Page?

For further information on Renato please visit:

 Radikalnews

Artisan advertising and publishing house.

Renato at Amazon

 

 

Cooling in the Troodos Mountains & Free murder mystery book!

We decided to take a break in the Troodos mountains to escape the heat of Oroklini, and my husband and I also were celebrating our wedding anniversary the previous week so this was a special trip for us! We had been to the Troodos mountains In Cyprus before but never to the very charming village of Kalopanayiotis. It is so beautiful and peaceful up here – I have included a photo of our apartment balcony, which overlooks the river and has an amazing unrestricted view of the mountains. Kalopanayiotis village is very traditional in style, with cobbled narrow streets and pathways picturesque balconies and courtyards. It is surrounded by beautiful green forest vegetation and stunning landscapes.

The village is very attractive and there is a lot to see for such a small place, including several small churches as well as the Ayios Ioannis Lampadistis Monastery (courtyard photos below – you are not allowed to photograph the interior) which is literally on our doorstep. There are many restaurants and traditional taverns serving delicious food (some of the best we have tasted in Cyprus – I would definitely recommend the Old Cinema- the mezze was gorgeous!).

To celebrate our trip into the mountains in Cyprus, my kindle book Buried in the Hills which is partially set in the Troodos, as well as my own village Oroklini, is FREE on all Amazon sites at the moment. If you would like to have your own mountain adventure, then please follow the links on the Amazon photo below! It’s

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An interview with Tom Vater ∼ writer& publisher

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Here is my interview with the multi-talented Tom Vater!

Tom is a crime author, journalist, documentary writer and the co-founder of Crime Wave Press. If that wasn’t enough, he can write in two languages and his work has been published in an impressive variety of cool places such as: The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Guardian, The Nikkei Asian Review, Marie Claire, Geographical and Penthouse, as well as being The Daily Telegraph’s travel’s destination expert for Thailand!

Although his publishing imprint is based in Hong Kong, Tom is always on the move somewhere in Southern Asia; his last known whereabouts being Cambodia, where it was great to have the opportunity to catch up with him and ask a couple of pertinent questions!

You first travelled to Asia in 1993, to document indigenous music for the British Library’s International Music Collection, and have remained there ever since writing novels, documentary screenplays, and travel features and guides; why do you find Asia so fascinating?

I suppose, after fifteen years in the UK, where I studied and then played guitar in punk rock bands, I felt it was time to move on. Two friends invited me and my then partner to India and I was hooked from the minute we touched down in Delhi.  Everything I’d learned in school and life could be upended here. I realised that one could think about reality and live life in a way that was diametrically opposite to the way one lived in Europe. I also understood that as a European one could live outside of Europe however one chose to. Of course that is part illusion but when you are in your mid-twenties, it’s very real. We stayed five weeks in India. I think I never slept. We returned to the UK, sold all our belongings and hit the road for five years, traveling around India, Pakistan, Nepal, Iran, Turkey, The Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia. Of course I needed something to do beyond recording music for The British Library who graciously supported me with a small grant, so I started writing. I needed to deconstruct and then reconstruct my new reality to make sense of it, but also to celebrate it. I fell in love with India and by extension with Asia, with its people, its outlook, its culture, its bright and its dark side, and it has never let me go.

When you had your first article was published in 1997, was it a pivotal moment for you as a writer, maybe a sense of being in the right place at the right time?

Absolutely. I was living in Kathmandu and had met a couple of cyclists who’d ridden their bikes from Switzerland to Nepal. They were writing about their experiences but needed help to get the stories into good enough shape to sell them. So I accompanied them to the offices of The Rising Nepal, the government daily. I edited their work and watched the editor pay them for their efforts. A light went on in my head. I asked the editor if he’d take one of my stories and he agreed if I had anything interesting to say. I knew a little about Nepali music, so a month later I was back with text and photos and they gave me the weekend supplement and I never looked back. I’ve been making a living from writing ever since. Definitely an epiphany.

You seem to live a nomadic existence, travelling far and wide across Southern Asia – is this purely for work projects or does this ‘on the road’ lifestyle fuel your own writing?

After some twenty-five years on the road it is both work and life style, it has become second nature. It is for work of course. I am writing these lines in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Last week I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Next month I will be back in Thailand, then in Hong Kong, then on to London, France and Germany. From there back to Cambodia. And so on. I have my usual stomping grounds but I also live exploring new destinations. I was in Sri Lanka for the first time last year. In January 2018 I hope to be traveling to Colombia. Most of the travel is work related but as I have friends in lots of corners of Asia, the travel has become life. I don’t think I have been anywhere for more than three months in the last two and half decades.

Your detective novel, ‘The Cambodian Book of the Dead,’ is incredibly atmospheric and engaging, how were you able to create such an amazingly authentic sense of place and time in your book?

I first came to Cambodia in 1995, illegally on a speed boat from Trat to Koh Kong. Someone wrote that Cambodia is the most dangerous country in the world, first you fall in live with it and then it breaks your heart. Someone else had told me that a kilo of weed was one US$ in Cambodia. I wanted to find out whether either was true. And it was, and there was more… the realities of forty  years of conflict infused with the superficial, trivial cultural reference points I brought with me – Apocalypse Now, the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields movie.

When I had returned to Had Lek, on the Thai side of the border, a man called out to me from the Cambodian side, asking me if I was going to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh and whether I might be able to deliver a letter for his wife whom he had not seen for years. We talked through the wire until the Thai soldiers shooed me away. One fate in millions, terrible, broken by war and life that has reverberated with me to this day. I could not help him.

I returned in February 2001. I made a film with my brother about the future of Angkor (we were too conservative in our imaginings) and began to write about the country, the people, the politics. I travelled everywhere and sucked up as many stories as I could for a few years. I was at the current king’s coronation and the grave of Pol Pot. I saw Khieu Samphan (since convicted for mass murder and crimes against humanity) in the street in Pailin. I interviewed the sons of the elite about their hobby – gang raping impoverished sex workers. Because of the Khmer Rouge history and the subsequent venal government that rules the country to this day, the appalling were and are common place and I was mesmerised by this for a long time. Everything one could point to as corrupted and unjust in European society was amplified by a thousand times in this beautiful and terrible country.

And I am writing these lines in Cambodia. More than fifteen years on, there are roads and a couple of hospitals now but by and large the venality has not changed. My eye has changed and I am more detached now. But I still think Cambodia is a very special place, full of lovely people. And some right bastards. So all that sucked me in and enabled me to write The Cambodian Book of the Dead.

One of your collaborations with the renowned photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat produced the bestselling book ‘Sacred Skin’ – what drew you to this unusual project and did you discover anything that you hadn’t expected to find?

Having been based in Thailand for years, I wanted to write a book about the country that was not about monks, beaches or elephants. I also wanted to write a book about working class Thais who almost never get a voice in their own country – the elite dictates the cultural discourse and looks down on darker skinned people, indigenous people, foreigners, really anyone who’s different from the top 5%. Sak Yant, the country’s sacred tattoo tradition was the perfect subject and with Aroon, I submerged myself in this mystical world of mantras, hidden meanings and blood for a year.

You are the co – founder of Crime Wave Press, an indie publisher based in Hong Kong – this seems like a brave move as the area is not best known for its crime fiction – has your publishing imprint proved to be as successful as you had originally hoped?

Well, we are still here after five years. We have published 31 titles to date. We have sold thousands of books. The company keeps itself afloat. One of our books The Curious Corpse by Nick Wilgus, will be made into a feature length movie. But selling books is a hard slog and we can’t compete with massive advertising budgets of the five large publishing conglomerates. And of course most people read terribly conservative crime fiction pap. The days when incredible writers like Raymond Chandler, Chester Hymes, Jim Thompson or Ross MacDonald shifted copies have given way to shallow authors like Jo Nesbo which I find simply mind-numbing. There are some exceptional crime fiction authors around today. I am a big fan of Philip Kerr for example. But the publishing business is so totally profit oriented and readers by and large want to be comforted, not challenged, so a lot of real talent is not published or ends up with tiny imprints like ours. And me and my partner Hans Kemp are quite eclectic in our choices of what we publish. But I love publishing exceptional crime fiction and am very proud to have provided a platform for many writers who might otherwise not have been published at all

 Are all of the crime books on your list about Asia or written by Asian writers?

Initially we wanted to publish only titles set in Asia. But we could not find enough good titles and did not want to publish bar girl novels or Vietnam War reminiscences – that’s what most of the submissions we initially received boiled down to. There are an awful lot of retired white men living in Southeast Asia, most of them insufferable conservative bores, who feel the need to put their rather modest fictional ideas to paper.

So we branched out and now sign authors from all over the world. That said, our two most successful writers, American Nick Wilgus and Kiwi Brian Stoddart both write crime fiction series set in Asia. We currently only have one Asian writer in our catalogue, Kalyan Lahiri from Kolkata, who writes wry whodunits set in West Bengal.

In ‘The Man with the Golden Mind, which is the second in the Maier detective series, the story originates in Laos, where you filmed a revealing documentary about a clandestine CIA War; are there more secrets for Maier to discover in this new novel?

Indeed, the research for The Man with the Golden Mind was largely derived from a documentary I co-wrote with director Marc Eberle called The Most Secret Place on Earth about the CIA’s largest clandestine mission at the time in the 1960s in Laos. The film, broadcast in thirty countries to date, demonstrates how the US committed crimes against humanity on the sidelines of the better remembered Vietnam War and whether this has informed US military adventures since. The novel is a meditation on foreign intervention but it is also, as it turns out, a father son story as Detective Maier encounters his long lost dad and is confronted by very serious personal questions – what does it mean to be adrift in this world without home or roots for example. And Henry Kissinger gets a cameo.

That was interesting! Any closing thoughts Tom?

Thanks very much, Sonia, for the opportunity to answer your thoughtful questions.

My pleasure – I feel a little closer to exotic Asia, after this interview!

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