Author of the Month

Name: Tom Bradby

First Novel: Shadow Dancer

Most Recent Book: Blood Money

'This isn’t just a crime novel, but a window of that extraordinary time and the despair that affected everyone across the States.'

Joe Quinn is a police detective in New York. The year is 1929 and Wall Street is on the point of collapse. Many people who invested in the stock market are facing total ruin. Now Joe has a stockbroker who is lying face down on a sidewalk after plummeting from the roof of his office building. Has someone got very angry that they have no money and decided to take it out on the man they believe is responsible? Why does the Assistant Commissioner want the body cleared away and the case closed as a suicide?

Quinn and his partner, Caprisi who has his own problems - labelled as a snitch on his fellow officers - journey through a labyrinth full of dead-ends and even deadlier foes who have been playing a deadly game for many, many years. Quinn begins to realise that this isn’t a simple case of a disgruntled speculator taking his revenge, but has inroads leading to his own police department as well as City Hall which is on the cusp of a Mayoral election. Quinn faces pressure from on high to drop the case, but he perseveres, especially as he discovers that his family are more deeply involved than they would like him to know. Little does Quinn realise that this case is going to change his life forever...

Blood Money begins with a dull, rainy day and a corpse that literally dropped out of the sky. With a beginning like this, it is a well paced, well written thriller that grips you like a speculator with his last dollar grasped in his hand. Bradby brings this period of American history vividly to life with the backdrop of the collapse of the American Stock Market. The tension is palpable with thousands of people looking at a bleak future. Bradby manages to convey vividly this desperately anxious time on to the page.

With Quinn and his partner Caprisi, Bradby has again scored and brought us two characters who are fully fleshed out and given a history along with all their doubts and problems that surface as they wind their way down the treacherous path of this investigation. There is corruption on a major scale within the Mayor’s office as well as the police department and you feel assured that Bradby in his journalistic capacity has researched in depth into the time frame this novel is set in. New York is described and brought to life as a grey, defeated beast that is constantly battered by the wind and rain.

Blood Money is an extremely, elaborate portrait of 1929. This isn’t just a crime novel, but a window of that extraordinary time and the despair that affected everyone across the States. All is bought to vivid colour by Bradby’s pen, right down to the ticker machines running the results hours after Wall Street had closed for the day. You can cut the atmosphere with a knife as people wait to find out how much they have lost that day and they pray for a miracle. A tip to all who embark on this extraordinary novel is to pay attention. There are a lot of characters and names so you have to keep track of who is doing what, but it is well worth keeping up with this sharp novel which has a strong sense of justice being served at its end.

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?
It’s quite hard to put yourself into one style or genre. I think what I can say is that I’ve been hugely influenced by the crime thrillers I’ve most enjoyed over the years – ‘Gorky Park’, ‘Presumed Innocent’, ‘Silence of the Lambs’, to name but a few – and they all have key characteristics in common; great plots, engaging protagonists and a rich sense of time, place and political context. I guess I’ve also made a bit of a career out of setting thrillers in places in time where interesting things are happening – Shanghai in the 1920’s, St Petersburg on the eve of revolution in 1917, a Cairo un-nerved by the approach of Rommel’s Desert Rats – and I’m fascinated by the way in which extraordinary events impact upon the lives of ordinary people. I hope that’s an extra dimension I’m bringing to the table. Perhaps that’s the journalist in me coming out!
2) What type of crime or thriller novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I do read series and often enjoy them. I’ve worked through a lot of Michael Connelly’s books recently and he is up there with the greats. I always used to love Len Deighton and the ‘Game, Set and Match’ trilogy was one of my all time favourite reads. Having said that, part of my enjoyment of a novel is tied up in the journey the central character makes. If you keep a protagonist going too long, it becomes difficult to keep that voyage interesting. For example, I think Arkady Renko was brilliant in Cruz Smith’s ‘Gorky Park’ and ‘Polar Star,’ but I’m not sure he was as memorable in some of the other novels.
3) Blood Money takes place during the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Given the current financial climate was Blood Money written in response to the downturn in the financial market or was the book well underway when the markets crashed around the world?
I wish I’d seen it all coming! I did finish the book a year ago and I can probably say that I was struck by the parallels between the hubris and hullabaloo of the 1920s in New York and what we have been living through over the last decade or so. But I mostly just saw it as a fascinating society on the cusp of change. The timing is weird, though, I have to say.
4) It is always difficult to strike the right note when an author writes from the perspective of our American cousins across the ‘pond’. When reading Blood Money I felt it could have been written by an American. Did you find it difficult to keep the American ‘flavour’ throughout the novel?
I’ll take that as a big compliment, so thank you. I do try to really immerse myself in the time and place I’m writing about. The novels are designed as a piece of enjoyable (and hopefully informative) escapist entertainment and that goes as much for the writer as the reader. For me, settling back into that world each week was a perfect getaway from the stresses of my day job. Getting the atmosphere right is crucial to the overall success of the novel, of course, but it’s also an aspect of the writing I truly love. Having said that, American culture, even of that period, is so familiar to us that some of it was second nature.
5) How much research was needed about the Wall Street crash itself, especially regarding the personal aspects of living during that troubled time?
I did a fair amount of research into the Wall Street crash and what I discovered is looking horribly familiar. I’d draw an obvious parallel between all the societies I’ve researched for my books, which is that any substantial change that undercuts the basis upon which people live their lives is horribly shocking. I think that is where we are now.
6) You seem very knowledgeable about the police force. Did you also have to research in depth about how things worked within the hierarchy of the police department? There is much in the book about corruption. Did you hear tales about police corruption during that time?
I did a lot of research into this and I spent most of my time in New York reading detective memoirs, official papers and newspapers. There was a HUGE amount of corruption. It all came out a few years later in a massive inquiry that led to Mayor Jimmy Walker’s downfall. Corruption was so widespread and deep-seated that is frankly hard to credit today and the novel is ultimately about the terrible human and moral costs of that kind of decay.
7) Do you see many parallels between 1929 and what is happening today?
I think there are obvious parallels (the greed, the hubris, the arrogance) between what happened in 1929 and now, which is yet another reminder to me of the dangers of a herd mentality. Journalists, in particular, should remember that it is our job to continue to play devil’s advocate and ask awkward questions of anyone and everyone. We should never sign up to any prevailing orthodoxy.
8) As a journalist do you have a natural instinct for getting at the truth and finding facts? How much of your journalistic side is put in to the book?
I hope my passion for people and places comes across and I do strive for accuracy. In both TV and fiction I’m striving to be informative and engaging and, at times, entertaining (whether I succeed or not is a different matter). But it’s probably possible to overdo the connection. In fiction, I’m intent on producing high quality thrillers that weave great human stories into fascinating, rich and textured backgrounds. It’s a particular craft all of its own. I’ve been through a parallel and sometimes torturous learning curve for both disciplines. Once in a while they’ll overlap, but not all that often. I’ve also just finished writing a film adaptation of my first novel ‘Shadow Dancer’ (a story about an MI5 officer running an agent within the IRA), which has meant learning yet another new craft. But its fun to keep challenging yourself…
9) Without giving away the plot, which book - yours or by another author - included your favourite plot twist of all time?
I loved the way that, in ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ Clarice Starling eventually cracks the case by working out that the order in which the serial killer’s victims were discovered was not the same as the order in which they were killed. It may seem an odd choice, but it’s just the kind of really satisfying procedural development that looks easy but is incredibly hard to pull off. A close second would be the brilliant end of ‘Presumed Innocent.’
10) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime or thriller novel?
‘LA Confidential,’ by a mile. I loved this film so much. I watched it the day before traveling to Shanghai for the first time when I was based in Hong Kong. I picked up a non-fiction account of the city in the twenties at the airport and was so fascinated by the parallels (sex, drugs, corruption…) that I decided to set a thriller there (‘The Master of Rain’).
11) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction or thriller fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
I absolutely would, though I don’t read nearly as much contemporary fiction as I would like, purely through issues of time. I’ve read quite a few novels by CJ Sansom recently, which I loved, and I’ve also picked up a couple of Phillip Kerr’s Berlin-based detective stories, which were fantastic. He writes brilliantly.
12) What is your favourite crime/thriller read of all time?
That’s a very tricky one. Probably ‘Berlin Game’ by Len Deighton. I just think it’s a sublime piece of fiction on every level, but all the other novels I’ve talked about earlier come a very close second!