Author of the Month

Name: Tom Bale

First Novel: Sins of the Father (David Harrison)

Most Recent Book: The Catch

'I loved its intense pace, top notch characterisation and moralistic questioning.'

How far are you prepared to go for your friends? That’s the question Daniel Wade is left trying to answer when doing a simple favour goes horribly wrong. For the sake of his old schoolmate, Robbie – and more importantly his sister, Cate – Dan agrees to not expose a lie. Before he knows it he is sucked into a conspiracy that may consume them all.

How far would you go to earn a fortune? For Gordon and Patricia Blake, a dead man holds the key to future riches. His death has cast their future wealth into doubt. They want to know why and then they want revenge.

With a deadly predator on their trail, Dan and the others realise that evading justice must take a back seat to simply staying alive.

On page one I was gripped by Bale’s faultless narrative, by the final page I was left in a state of awe at his storytelling skills. ‘The Catch’ is a marvellously pitched tale of dishonour, greed and self-preservation triumphing over duty and obligation. Each of the three central characters has a different moral compass and the depiction of these varying viewpoints not only adds to; but makes the story.

The characterisation throughout ‘The Catch’ is incredibly strong. The Blakes, Robbie, Cate, Dan, Louis and the magnificent Stemper are all drawn with an artisan’s eye for detail. What elevated Bale’s characterisation even higher was the interaction with family members and friends. This heightened the suspense while simultaneously grounding the action in everyday normalcy.

The plot weaves you back and forth, leaving you wondering if Dan and Robbie will get away with their deception, whilst making you ask yourself if they should. The prose is masterful and I particularly enjoyed the way that Bale gave multiple character viewpoints. This gave the reader the chance to familiarise themselves with each of the main characters.

All in all I have to say that ‘The Catch’ is an everyman novel with an acute difference, instead of offering forward a potential hero, you are offered characters trying to get away with murder. I loved its intense pace, top notch characterisation and moralistic questioning.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) What first prompted you to write a crime novel?
I tend to be drawn towards whatever I most like to read. That started out as science fiction and horror, and from my mid-twenties onwards it’s been predominantly crime fiction. The great appeal of the genre is that it offers almost unlimited scope to explore human behaviour.
2) In ‘The Catch’ you raise the moral question of reporting a crime you didn’t intend committing, and thereby doing the right and honourable thing. Where did this idea come from?
I’m fascinated by that kind of moral dilemma. I don’t think any of us can say for certain how we would react if we found ourselves in the situation that Dan faces, especially if doing the right thing means causing a lot of pain to our family. And I’m still not sure whether I approve or disapprove of the decisions he makes in the book!
3) Robbie and Dan are polar opposites when push comes to shove. How hard was it to get the dynamics of their relationship right at the start of the novel to make what happens between them later on believable?
It was quite a challenge. With this book I had the characters before the story. The initial inspiration was to write about two young men who’d been best friends at school but hadn’t faced up to the fact that they didn’t particularly like each other anymore. It’s the sort of oddball partnership that you see in real life and in fiction – think Mark and Jeremy in the sitcom PEEP SHOW. Then I placed them in a predicament that not only exposed the differences between them, but also forced them to work together for self-preservation.
4) In ‘The Catch’ you went a lot further than most authors do when creating peripheral characters such as Hayley, Joan and Mr Denham. Why did you flesh out the lives of these characters?
Well, firstly, thank you for the compliment. It might be because I tend to write enormous first drafts and then cut them back a lot – trying to put Hemingway’s theory of omission into practice. It could also be the influence that Stephen King had on my writing during my formative years. I love the way he makes you care about his characters, no matter how briefly they appear in the story.
5) You have used several different characters to tell the story instead of focussing on one or two. What prompted you to tell the story in this way?
I suppose it comes from that love of characterisation. If a novel has a large and interesting cast, I want to know what they’re thinking. That is, after all, the great advantage that books have over film, TV and video games – so why not use it?
6) Your last two novels featured Joe Clayton. Will we see more of him in the future or will you be writing more standalones?
Right now the focus is on standalones, because I no longer have a publisher. I doubt if there would be much interest from a new publisher in continuing the series, given that the previous books made very little impact. But I still want to find out what happens to Joe – does he manage to trace his estranged family? – so it might be something I’ll have to write and self-publish at some stage.
7) Which do you prefer as A) an author and B) a reader, series or standalones?
As an author, I tend to favour standalones. As a reader, I love both. Like most crime fiction fans, I have my favourite characters whose progress I have followed in book after book. Oddly, although I enjoy reading police procedurals, it’s a sub-genre that I’ve deliberately steered away from writing.
8) In the acknowledgments you pay reference to the cafes you write in. Why do you choose to work in a place where there may be so many distractions?
I think it’s because I spent years working in busy offices, so I got used to focusing on my work with phones ringing and conversations going on around me. When I first began writing full time I found it a struggle to adjust. Being at home on your own all day is very isolating, and the internet is a dreadful distraction (or a wonderful distraction, depending on how you look at it). A cafe environment gives me a pleasant background buzz which is usually quite easy to tune out – except on occasions when there are toddlers running around screaming!
9) Can you tell us a little bit about what you are currently working on?
I’ve almost finished a young adult fantasy novel with something of a ‘Midwich Cuckoos’ feel to it. The setting is an idyllic Sussex village, sealed off by the authorities who are using the cover of a security alert to try and retrieve something very precious, and very secret...

I’m also working on a standalone thriller about a young family terrorised by intruders in the middle of the night. The husband is convinced that it’s purely mistaken identity, but in fact his wife has done an innocent favour for someone that threatens to destroy their lives.
10) Which three crime novels have made a lasting impression on you?
That’s a cruel question, because I could name dozens. Off the top of my head, ‘Birdman’ by Mo Hayder, ‘Flight of the Stone Angel’ by Carol O’Connell and ‘Gorky Park’ by Martin Cruz Smith have all had a profound impact, in terms of making me realise just how high the bar can be set.