Tuesday, March 3, 2015

9mm: An interview with Adam Christopher

Welcome to the latest issue of 9mm, where a crime writer answers nine quickfire questions about themselves, giving all of us a chance to get to know them, and their writing, a little better.

Today I'm very pleased to share my recent interview with UK-based New Zealand author Adam Christopher, who has previously published superhero-inspired futuristic/sci-fi thriller stories but has now turned to more clear-cut crime fiction - in fact, one of crime fiction's most famous characters - with his latest novel ELEMENTARY: THE GHOST LINE (Titan Books). Christopher's novel, which was released on Friday, is a novelisation of the hit US television series Elementary, which is a modern and quite distinct take on Sherlock Holmes, starring Jonny Lee Miller as the famed detective and Lucy Liu as his sidekick, Watson.

Christopher grew up in West Auckland, before moving to the UK in 2006. Working as a medical writer, his debut novel, EMPIRE STATE (Angry Robot, 2012) featured a private detective going up against some superheroes in a parallel-universe, Prohibition-era version of New York City. Christopher has said he was inspired to write the tale after reading Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, and combined a noir atmosphere with his love for sci-fi and comics. He particularly loves mainstream superheroes, and is also a big Doctor Who fan, editing the New Zealand Doctor Who Fanclub's Time-Space Visualiser fanzine from 2003 to 2009, winning a Sir Julius Vogel award for best fan publication in 2010.

EMPIRE STATE went on to be named SciFiNow’s Book of the Year and a Financial Times Book of the Year for 2012. That love for noir and New York has circled back around with ELEMENTARY: THE GHOST LINE, where Christopher is given the opportunity to write about another world-famous fictional character, Sherlock Holmes. But for now, Adam Christopher stares down the barrel of 9mm.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
I’ll have to pick two, in two different media: Batman, and Sherlock Holmes. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, let’s not forget, but I’m sure Holmes would have something to say about that (and they have actually met a few times). I also have a soft spot for Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, an occult detective who stars in the short stories of Edwardian writer William Hope Hodgson.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?  
I suspect it must be one of the many Doctor Who Target novelisations by Terrance Dicks. Growing up in the 1980s, my primary school had a very up-to-date collection of them, which I devoured almost the exclusion of all other books. It’s hard to pinpoint one book in particular but the one that sticks in my mind is The Abominable Snowmen. I can still remember individual lines from the book!

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles 
Up until now I’ve written mostly science fiction and urban fantasy - ELEMENTARY: THE GHOST LINE is my sixth published novel. I tend to stick to novel-length fiction as I find short stories so hard to write! I’m also co-writing a comic, The Shield, with Chuck Wendig as part of Archie’s new Dark Circle Comics imprint.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I’m a total TV junkie. I tend to stick to genre shows and my current favourites, aside from Elementary, include Person of Interest, Justified, Arrow, The Flash, Agent Carter. But I’m also a fan of the classics - Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, The Avengers. I’m also not ashamed to admit I adore Nashville.

I’m also a bit of a casual console gamer, but most of my time outside work I spend reading. And reading. And reading. And reading.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider (ie is not a famous, Lonely Planet kind of thing)? 
Well, my hometown is Auckland, and I’m pretty sure most things are in a tourist brochure of some kind. Whenever I get back there I like to go to Mission Bay and sit on the beach and… do nothing. And then get ice cream. And keep doing nothing for as long as possible.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Adam West.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why? 
I like THE AGE ATOMIC, because it was my first sequel and it was my chance to fix a bunch of little niggles in the first book, EMPIRE STATE. But I’m currently juggling three favourites in my mind - ELEMENTARY: THE GHOST LINE, and also MADE TO KILL, which comes out in November. I love MADE TO KILL, and I love the novelette prequel, BRISK MONEY. These kick off The LA Trilogy, three books about a robot detective in 1960s Hollywood. They’re lots of fun.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf? 
Getting published was a dream come true, and I got “The Call” for my first novel on my birthday. So that’ll be a day I’ll remember forever! It’s always a thrill when someone says “yes” - the default state of the writer is one of rejection, and no matter how many books you have had published or stories you have had accepted, people will still say “no”, and they’ll say it a lot. So any acceptance is worthy of celebration!

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
I have to say the events I've done have all run smoothly—so far, anyway! For the launch of my novel THE BURNING DARK last year, my publisher made jello shots with a very strong strawberry liquor. That was a fun night—there I was, reading from this horror science fiction novel while the audience scooped jello from little plastic shot glasses. And the thing about the shots was that you really didn’t realize how alcoholic they were until you’d had way, way too many…

Thank you Adam, we appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch. 


You can read more about Adam Christopher and his writing here: 


What do you think of the idea of sci-fi blended with crime fiction? Superhero noir and futuristic thrillers? What about novelisations of television shows or movies? Comments welcome. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Julie Thomas turns page on crime (Waikato Times feature)

Julie Thomas turns page on crime
By Nancy El-Gamel

Best-selling Waikato author Julie Thomas is taking a risk with her second novel. She's left historical romance behind in order to kill people. On the page, of course. And never has killing people been so much fun, especially since she's managed to tie up the blood with chocolate and wine. Research, clearly, was a blast.

Indeed, being a published author is a blast, especially since she almost wasn't. She produced her first novel as an ebook. When it sold 40,000 copies, a publisher noticed and sent her an email.

Her computer marked it junk and sent it to spam. "I nearly didn't open it at all," Thomas says.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE (front page story in Waikato Times, 23 February 2015)

Julie Thomas's blackly comic murder mystery, BLOOD WINE & CHOCOLATE (HarperCollins, 2015), will be officially launched at Paper Plus in Cambridge at 5.30pm on Monday 9 March 2015 (next Monday). Chocolate and wine available. BYO blood.  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Indie publishing: why screenwriter turned traditionally published crime writer Alex Sokoloff loves it

Post by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

Even after being published several times, author Alexandra Sokoloff decided to step out of her comfort zone by taking the indie publisher path.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: THE LAST CHILD by John Hart

THE LAST CHILD by John Hart (John Murray, 2009)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

North Carolina attorney-turned-author John Hart had a meteoric rise to kickstart his writing career; earning an Edgar nomination for his first novel, KING OF LIES, before winning the whole shebang with his sophomore effort, DOWN RIVER. If that wasn't enough, his third book, THE LAST CHILD clean-swept both the Edgar Award (making Hart a rare dual winner) and the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

In THE LAST CHILD, Johnny Merrimon is a thirteen-year-old boy who looks ten but has seen and endured more than most sixty-year-olds. His twin sister disappeared a year ago, his father cracked under the pressure and left, and his mother has given up; turning to drugs and a relationship with a rich but abusive man. A burnt-out cop tries to help but has his own issues, and Johnny finds himself alone on a vigilante mission. Then another young girl goes missing, and a dying man’s last words fuel Johnny’s long-held hope.

Sometimes when I read a novel that has received so much praise, I can be left a bit underwhelmed, even if I enjoy the story. It's almost as if the expectations are raised too high, and the author has to knock it far out of the park to even make par (okay, mixed sporting metaphor there). But put simply, THE LAST CHILD is an exceptional novel; a literary crime thriller that is as much about its rich cast of layered, authentic and damaged characters as its intelligent and engrossing storyline. Hart writes beautifully, evoking aspects of the human condition alongside echoes of the Southern Gothic tradition, building his tale towards a surprising yet most fitting conclusion. Huckleberry Finn meets James Lee Burke, all in a strong and unique narrative voice.

THE LAST CHILD is a masterpiece, and Hart deserves all the acclaim he’s received.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

9mm: An interview with Jeffrey Siger

Welcome back to 9mm. This week I have another new interview with a great author I met for the first time at the excellent Iceland Noir festival late last year. Two former corporate lawyers, one New Zealander now living in London, one East Coast American now living on the Greek island of Mykonos, meeting in Reykjavik. You've got to love the crime writing and reading community!

Jeff was born in Pittsburgh, and for many years was a Wall Street lawyer (a 'name partner' in his own firm), before migrating to Mykonos and becoming a mystery writer. Huh - I just realised that Jeff is kind of like the 'Robin Masters' character in one of my favourite TV shows growing up, Magnum PI - a popular mystery writer living on a tropical paradise (random note: though we never saw Robin in the series, we did hear him, and he was originally voiced by Orson Welles).

On his website, Jeff says that when he left law he wanted to "write mystery thrillers that tell more than just a fast-paced story" and that his novels "are aimed at exploring serious societal issues confronting modern day Greece in a tell-it-like-it-is style while touching upon the country's ancient roots". His Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series (six novels so far) has been praised for its evocation of both the picture-postcard scenery and political corruption in Greece. It has even been referenced in Fodor's travel guides.

Jeff is also one of ten crime writers from different locales around the world who regularly blog at the popular Murder is Everywhere website, and serves as Chair of Bouchercon, the world's largest mystery convention, as well as Adjunct Professor of English at Washington & Jefferson College, teaching mystery writing.

But for now, Jeffrey Siger stares down the barrel of 9mm.

Two lawyers turned writers: Jeffrey Siger
and Craig Sisterson at Iceland Noir

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
Many decades ago I’d hurt my back, and while laid-up for two months (I’m all better, thank you), I decided to read Victorian prose that came in relatively manageable chunks. Somehow I’d avoided mysteries until then, but settled upon The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes. As the days of reading wore on into weeks, I found myself thinking like Holmes and solving the mysteries along with him. That introduction to the genre is why I write what I do, and since his father’s first name is SIGER, how could I not consider Sherlock Holmes my favorite!

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
Hailing as I do from the American city where the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers forms the mighty Ohio, I received dozens of copies of Huckleberry Finn as birthday and other special occasion gifts. It was a local tradition. And though memory fails me as to what made that book so special to me back then, perhaps it was memories—both real and imagined—of my grandfather’s horse and wagon huckstering days along those same Pittsburgh rivers that captured my heart.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
I’ve always written creatively, though when I did as a lawyer it was stylistically, not factually so - at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Then fifteen years ago, when I decided to take the leap and commit to serious fiction writing efforts, I produced what are called “drawer” novels. Those are the ones in which you immerse your very being, finish with a flourish of pride, and banish to a drawer… while you struggle on to write a book that might actually get published. Thankfully, I had a very big drawer.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
Free diving, working in the woods around my farm, and washing dishes. Not necessarily in that order, but all for the same reason: Each involves mindless physical work with a fixed beginning and end to any project. You catch your fish and you’re done, you clear away the brush and you’re done, you clean that final dirty dish and you’re done. Very little else in life offers such clear-cut conclusions to the tasks we take on each day.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider? 
I’ll assume by “hometown” we’re not talking about the place of my birth (Pittsburgh) or the place of my professional career (New York City), but the place I call home to my writing career, Mykonos. That Aegean Greek island consistently ranks as Europe’s most desired island destination, ahead of such other magical locales as Capri, Ibiza, and St. Tropez (not an island, though it feels like one). On Mykonos what I like doing most is strolling at sunset along a beach and looking across the sea toward the nearby Holy Island of Delos, the birthplace of Apollo, god of light, and his twin sister, Artemis, goddess of the hunt. As I walk where the ancients had once walked, watching the sun set into the sea as they must have done, I wonder how akin their thoughts at such moments might have been to mine.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Anyone who might win an Oscar qualifies. Second choice would be Cary Grant, in any of his pre-interred states.

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why?  
As glib as this may sound, the truth is, “The one I just finished.”  I say that because I push myself very hard to make what I’m currently working on better than my last; driven no doubt by fear that if I don’t, instead of hearing, “This is your best one yet,” it’ll be, “Hey, what happened to you?”

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf? 
My first reaction on seeing my debut book on a physical bookseller’s shelf was to buy it, so the seller would have to reorder another one. Actually, I was with my daughter in a New York City Barnes & Noble.  She promptly made me pose with a copy of my debut novel, Murder in Mykonos.  It was so obvious what was happening that a kind, thoughtful, elderly lady walked over, smiled, and said that she wanted to buy the one I was holding!  And she wasn’t my mother.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
My most unique experience was at a book signing in Athens for the second novel in my Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, Assassins of Athens. In it, I depicted violent social unrest and political events that later came to pass in real life. When a reporter from a major Athens newspaper attending the book signing asked me what role I thought my novel had played in precipitating those violent riots, all I could think of to say was, “I think the rioters were more into burning books than reading them.”

Thank you Jeffrey. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch


You can read more about Jeffrey Siger and his crime novels here: