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Author of the Month

Name: Chris Ewan

First Novel: The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam

Most Recent Book: Dead Line

'...‘Dead Line’ is a fantastically intense and pacey novel, worthy of a space on any bookshelf.'

Synopsis:
What do you do if your fiancée goes missing, presumed taken? If you’re Daniel Trent, a trained hostage negotiator then it’s a no-brainer. You find out who took her and you make them talk.

But do you do when your chief suspect is kidnapped? How do you get him back in a fit state to talk? Daniel’s frantically tries to rescue Jérȏme Moreau from his ruthless kidnappers so he can interrogate him. When things don’t go according to plan, Trent has to use all his skills and instincts to find the answers he so desperately needs.

Review:
Following up the phenomenally successful ‘Safe House’ was always going to be a tall order for Ewan, yet with ‘Dead Line’ he has penned a novel which will continue his meteoric rise. The plot is very clever without being convoluted and I loved the basic premise – a hostage negotiator fighting to rescue his client so he can kidnap him for his own ends.

In some respects, Trent’s early demeanour reminded me of some of Alistair MacLean’s characters. He is in possession of specialist knowledge which allows him to dominate the situation and other characters, yet he is a fully rounded person with an honourable agenda rather than a bully trying to get his own way. His journey is a spectacular one which sees him enter territory he can never return from. Other characters are all perfunctorily well drawn but none other than Alain really caught my eye such was Trent’s domination of the story.

The prose is neater than an obsessive compulsive’s desk and I loved the second person point of view used for the prologue. As the plot progressed, Ewan’s grip on my attention tightened to the point of near suffocation as he kept ratcheting up the tension. All in all I would have to say that ‘Dead Line’ is a fantastically intense and pacey novel, worthy of a space on any bookshelf.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) Why did you choose to write crime fiction?
The honest answer is because I loved reading it. I’d been writing other stuff before, mostly literary or mainstream novels, but the genre that excited me most was crime. I held off trying to write crime fiction for a long time, mostly because I didn’t think I had the plotting skills to pull it off. Eventually, though, the idea for ‘The Good Thief’s Guide To Amsterdam’ came along and it was something I felt I had to try. Now, I’d find it hard to think of writing anything else. The best crime fiction does so much with story, character, place and prose that it’s a tough combination to beat.
2) ‘Dead Line’ has a very defined character arc for Daniel Trent. Why did you have him cross so many lines?
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of good people doing bad things for the right reasons. I came up with the fix Trent is in to explore that, and then in the process of writing the novel, I pushed him more and more towards the dark side of things. I hope it makes for a good story, but I also think that Trent’s need to transgress, despite his nobler intentions, allowed me to understand more fully what makes him tick, and hopefully that makes the novel more involving for readers, too.
3) How did you research the role of a hostage negotiator?
I read some books. I researched some articles. And then, I made it all up! Perhaps that sounds glib but I tend to think it’s the best way to go. To my mind, so long as a novel has its own logic and internal credibility, I can take the story in any direction I like, and in an ideal world, some of those directions are ones that will surprise readers.
4) I noticed Trent had comparisons with some of Alistair MacLean’s characters. Is this something you deliberately wrote in? If not, who do you count as your influences?
It’s not I’m afraid, although now I’ll have to check out some of Alistair MacLean’s work. As for influences, I always put together a shelf of books next to my desk when I start work on a new novel – it works sort of like a mood board. For ‘Dead Line’, some of the books on the shelf next to me included A VERY PRIVATE GENTLEMAN (republished as THE AMERICAN) by Martin Booth, TELL NO ONE by Harlan Coben, a couple of Lee Child’s brilliant Jack Reacher thrillers, THE VANISHING by Tim Krabbe, THE PRONE GUNMAN by Jean-Patrick Manchette, a bunch of guide books about Marseilles, Cassis and France and, well, many other books, too.
4) I noticed Trent had comparisons with some of Alistair MacLean’s characters. Is this something you deliberately wrote in? If not, who do you count as your influences?
It’s not I’m afraid, although now I’ll have to check out some of Alistair MacLean’s work. As for influences, I always put together a shelf of books next to my desk when I start work on a new novel – it works sort of like a mood board. For ‘Dead Line’, some of the books on the shelf next to me included A VERY PRIVATE GENTLEMAN (republished as THE AMERICAN) by Martin Booth, TELL NO ONE by Harlan Coben, a couple of Lee Child’s brilliant Jack Reacher thrillers, THE VANISHING by Tim Krabbe, THE PRONE GUNMAN by Jean-Patrick Manchette, a bunch of guide books about Marseilles, Cassis and France and, well, many other books, too.
5) Once again you have set your latest novel in a new location. Why do you always move your novels around instead of setting them in one location?
It’s partly a consequence of the nature of the Good Thief series – the idea of writing a mystery series with each book set in a different international city. But I think it also stems from an unfulfilled ambition I had as a teenager to become a travel writer, combined with wanting to set myself new challenges and keep things fresh in all my books. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I get to visit everywhere I write about for research purposes … Spring in Marseilles is really nice, by the way!
6) Your previous novel ‘Safe House’ was a No.1 bestseller and has received much critical acclaim. How much has its success both pleased and applied pressure upon you?
The success of ‘Safe House’ has pleased me more than I can possibly say, and I’m hugely grateful to everyone who bought a copy, read the book, talked about it, posted reviews – just everyone, really. I’ve been fortunate and it’s something I’m very conscious of. But at the same time, I don’t feel any pressure. Perhaps part of that is because I’d completed ‘Dead Line’ before sales of ‘Safe House’ really took off, but it’s also – truthfully – because I’ve approached every novel I’ve ever written in the same way. I give it my best shot. I work as hard as I possibly can. As for the rest, it’s not something I can control, so why stress about it?
7) You write the Good Thief’s Guide series as well as the standalone novels. Which gives you the most satisfaction, series or standalone?
A cop out, I know, but they’re both satisfying in different ways. I’ve really enjoyed researching the Good Thief novels and developing the characters of Charlie and Victoria during five novels – particularly as many of those developments are ones I could never have imagined when I was starting book one. But I love the fact that in a standalone title absolutely anything can happen. My protagonists can face the ultimate peril – they can die – and that’s hugely liberating in terms of suspense, story and the possibilities I can explore.
8) What is your writing routine? Are you a 9-5 writer or do you burn the midnight oil?
I’m very much a morning writer, at least in terms of the first draft of a novel. When things are going well, I write five pages every morning until I get to the end of a script. After that, all bets are off – I work as much as I can, for as long as I can each day, which isn’t quite so easy now that my wife and I have our eight-month-old daughter, Jessica to care for, but still results in me probably working harder than I used to in my previous career as a lawyer. Mind you, it never feels like work. Once I’m lost in a story, I’d happily sit and rework material all day if I could.
9) What are you currently working on?
Well, after talking about my pattern of setting each of my novels in a new location, I’m revisiting the Isle of Man with my new – as yet untitled – thriller. One of the cultural quirks of the island is that instead of Halloween, Manx people celebrate Hop-tu-Naa, which is similar to Halloween in some ways but also quite different in certain key areas, too – for example, kids on the island don’t go trick or treating but call from house to house singing traditional nonsense songs. As for the pitch, think I Know What You Did Last Summer, set on the Isle of Man during a series of Hop-tu-Naas. Oh, and it’s my first novel written with a female lead protagonist.
10) Which three crime novels have made a lasting impression on you?
Only three? Wow, it’s hard to narrow it down to that, but right now, I’ll go with Raymond Chandler’s THE LONG GOODBYE, Patricia Highsmith’s THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY and anything by Lawrence Block (cheating, I know!).