Author of the Month

Name: Simon Kernick

First Novel: The Business of Dying

Most Recent Book: Deadline

'... an excellent, breathless thriller ride from a writer whose stature is growing with every new book Ė and rightly so!'

Andrea Devern has been given some devastating news. Her teenage daughter, Emma, has been kidnapped and a ransom has been asked for her safe return. Andrea has forty-eight hours to get the money together. If the police become involved then the girl will be killed immediately. Not only has Andrea to deal with this news, but her husband of two years, Pat has also gone missing. Is he in on the kidnapping?

In the short time given, Devern calls up an old acquaintance, Jimmy, who she claims is the father of the missing girl. Despite harbouring misgivings about Jimmy, his presence makes Andrea feel slightly better as she gets together the ransom needed for Emmaís release. When she is given the details of the drop off, the two go into action but the whole thing becomes a disaster and soon Andrea is with the police having to explain what has happened.

Enter Mike Bolt of SOCA. Bolt and his team now have to clean up this mess, but there is something that he is not telling his colleagues. And that could jeopardise the whole operation. Soon it is a race against time to find the girl and find out who is telling lies and why. And Bolt finds out that he canít believe anything anyone says, even his closest friends.

Much was expected of Deadline Ė and boy does it deliver!

Kernick has garnered himself a great reputation for writing very British versions of the classic rollercoaster thriller. Starting with Relentless - a hold-on-to-your-seat book picked up by the Richard and Judy Reading Group - Kernick then went on to Severed which I felt was even more intense and a fantastic, gripping read that simply demanded to be read in a day. Now with Deadline, Kernick seems to have gone for an equally desperate scenario, but he has also taken the heat down a couple of levels in places. However, donít despair. This new style works brilliantly because in Deadline we have all the pace that Kernick is now known for, but it isnít all about fast and furious action. We actually also get to know and understand the characters a lot more this time around as they have been substantially fleshed out by Kernick. And this has to be a good thing as they are a motley crew of characters to know!

Andrea Devern is not the innocent mother she seems to be and this gives her an edge, especially when we discover that her past is caught up with other characters in the novel. Deadline is another sure fire hit for the summer, but it is much, much more than a trashy beach-read. This is an excellent, breathless thriller ride from a writer whose stature is growing with every new book Ė and rightly so!

So, read it on the beach, on the bus or tucked up in bed Ė but read it you must. Itís simply essential reading for any crime and thriller fan worthy of the name.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) How would you classify your writing, and do you consciously try to write to a certain style or genre?
Iíd call my books crime thrillers. Thatís my genre and I write in a deliberately sparse style, keeping description and other narrative-slowing devices to a minimum, so that I can keep the plot and the story rocketing along from start to finish. My aim is to provide a real read-in-one-sitting read, and I hope Iím successful in that.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
Iíve always been the kind of person who writes what he likes reading so, not surprisingly, my favourite novels are thrillers, and I tend to prefer standalones to series as, for me, they feel fresher. Two of my all time favourites are EVERY SECRET THING by Laura Lippman and CLOCKERS by Richard Price. Both very different. Both very good. Having said that, I love Lawrence Blockís Matt Scudder series and Dennis Lehaneís Kenzie and Gennaro novels.
3) Deadline deals with the kidnapping of a child. What drew you to this sensitive and emotive subject matter?
I like to write at a fast pace and a kidnapping for ransom is the kind of crime that lends itself to that kind of style. Youíre right, it is a very sensitive subject which was why I was determined to make sure that the rationale for the crime was to extort money rather than anything more sinister, and that the victim was a teenager rather than a young child. Although action-packed, I donít think the book is overly violent. Itís more of a race against time to rescue the girl before the deadline for paying the ransom runs out. I want to entertain my readers not depress them.
4) What research material did you use to understand how the police deal with a child kidnapping in todayís world Ė and did the plot deviate from the correct procedure for dramatic effect at all?
The police are necessarily very cautious about giving away too much regarding their procedures for dealing with kidnapping, since by definition, itís always an ongoing operation rather than an investigation after the fact. But I do have some very good contacts in the Force whoíve dealt with this type of crime before and two of them were good enough to read the book through and check that I didnít make any glaring errors in my depiction of what happens. However, having said that, Iím not a stickler for total realism. In the end, Iím telling a story, and I want it to be exciting, so if it needs a few added tweaks for dramatic effect, Iíll always put them in.
5) There are many unanswered questions about Bolt and his team at the end of Deadline. Does this mean these characters are likely to reappear in future?
I never write characters thinking theyíre going to keep appearing as a series, but sometimes they seem to work well and I get the urge to bring them back again. Thatís whatís happened with Bolt and his team, particularly Mo and Tina. I enjoy writing about them and they seem to muscle their way into more and more of my stories so, yes, theyíll definitely be appearing again. Bolt and Tina both get a good-sized role in my new book (still only half-written!), TARGET. I think they both quite fancy each other but Iím not sure whether theyíre going to get together or not. Iíll have to see how they feel about it as the story progresses.
6) What impact has the exposure of being chosen by Richard and Judy in 2007 had on your writing career? Are you now writing for a wider audience as a result, or has your style stayed essentially the same?
I donít think my styleís changed, but clearly my audience has widened dramatically because with a Richard and Judy recommendation, you reach far more people. Being chosen for their summer reads has been absolutely fantastic for my career, no question.
7) You are becoming very well known for writing in a breakneck style - even veering towards the classic thriller genre. Is it hard keeping up the pace of the storylines and writing to suit this pace?
Yes. What Iíve learned since I started out on this career path is that the writing never gets easier. I think one of the hard parts is coming up with the idea. When youíve got that, you can usually build the pace to match. I try to have at least one spare idea at any time but like a lot of writers I live in fear of them drying up.
8) Has being Chair of the 2008 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate opened your eyes to aspects of the crime scene at all? Now, with almost 20/20 hindsight as the event approaches, what would you do different?
What Iíve noticed is, not only are there some fantastic books out there (and also some great authors who maybe donít get the kind of attention they deserve), but itís so much more of a wider genre than I really appreciated. Iíve discovered some excellent new writers because of my involvement as Chair, and thatís been a huge bonus. If I could have done anything different with Harrogate, it would have been to have had more panels and, as a result, get more writers involved, because I hate having to leave good people out. Unfortunately, though, weíve only got limited numbers and limited time.
9) Without giving away the plot, which book - yours or another by another author - included your favorite plot twist of all time?
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. To come up with a twist like that in 1926, when that kind of literary sleight of hand was still in its infancy, was sheer genius.
10) What is your favorite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
The Godfather and Godfather Two. Both the original book and subsequent films are magnificent.
11) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
Definitely. I think you have to be a big fan to write successfully within the genre. I love Lawrence Block because the Scudder series is so evocative of New York, and continues the tradition of American noir started by Chandler, Hammett and James M Cain. I love Lehane because he writes gripping thrillers with a beautiful flowing style that you canít help but admire. Other writers I always read include Harlan Coben, John Connolly, Ian Rankin, Robert Crais, and the late, great and hugely underrated Lawrence Sanders.
12) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
Get Carter by Ted Lewis (original title Jackís Return Home), easily the finest example of British noir that thereís ever been. Sparsely written, grimly atmospheric and featuring one of the most unpleasant yet compelling central protagonists of any crime novel to date, its full of the kind of bone-dry humour youíd expect at a public execution. It also contains the most simple yet evocative description of a person Iíve yet read: ďHe was the kind of fat man who fat men loved to stand next to.í What a great line! I wish Iíd thought of that one.