Saturday, May 17, 2014

Celebrating Andrew Grant

New Zealand thriller writer Andrew Grant (Grant Shanks) is celebrating his birthday today. I had the pleasure of meeting Grant a couple of times at Christchurch-based crime fiction events over the past few years - he's an interesting, engaging guy, as well as a talented writer.

To celebrate, I thought I'd share an interview I did with him a fair while ago, as well as a review of one of his high-octane thrillers set in Asia. Happy birthday Grant!!

But for now, I'll start you off with Andrew Grant/Grant Shanks himself

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Travis McGee, the late John D. MacDonald character.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?It was an anthology of horror stories compiled under an author/editor by the name of (someone) Wallace if I remember rightly. I was 1st or 2nd year at high school at the time. I ended up ordering each edition as it arrived in-store.

Before your debut thriller novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I had and still have probably a half dozen manuscripts that have never been presented to any publisher. These were written during the learning process I guess, and in potential with a maturer eye and greater skill set they could very well be worth freshening up and presenting. Time of course is the thing. These manuscripts were written in locations as diverse as London, Scotland, Georgia (US), North Carolina and Thailand. Possibly the most ambitious of those was a saga based in Boston involving a wealthy family and a bloody inheritance/revenge theme. I also have a folder of collected short stories written over the years. I may tweak them and create my own anthology one-day.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I am a very keen hunter and fly fisherman. Have been a member of the Christchurch Pistol Club for 25-years and shoot regularly. I do a lot of photography and I love cooking and travelling.

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?Yes, take a backcountry tour! We are fortunate in Canterbury to have genuine high country on our doorstep. A 4x4 trip through the Lees Valley is something I take all our visitors on and they love it. They simply can’t believe that from my home in Rangiora (30-minutes north of Christchurch), we can be in rugged country within another 30 minutes.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Donald Duck. Oh, you mean real actors? Okay, Johnny Depp is out because I’m definitely not pretty. How about Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz)?

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?Mesquite Smoke Dance I think, closely followed by Death in the Kingdom. I think my character in Mesquite, Mac Benton, is a good one. It’s sad that the book never received the promotion I believe it deserved (publishers going under will do that every time of course).

The thing is I have already written the second book in the proposed Mesquite trilogy and the main characters continue to evolve. Maybe one day it will find a publisher. My character in Death in the Kingdom, Andrew Swann is a close second. He’s a complex guy as well. Sexist, borderline alcoholic, unlovable and lovable at the same time, a good mix.

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?
Incredible! Before Hawks, my first novel, I had a ghost written book entitled, A Long Goodnight published. That was the story of Greg Nesbit and Warren Ruscoe, at the time NZ’s most famous case of euthanasia. I wrote it with Warren. It was an incredible thrill seeing it as a reality.

However, holding that first copy of Hawks in my hands was fantastic. My newborn baby! Shortly after that, whilst on holiday in Thailand, I saw a guy reading Hawks on the beach at Patong. That was a real kick. I went and introduced myself. He was chuffed. I did the signing thing then and there.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
In 2007 I went to Singapore to promote the publication of Death in the Kingdom. Amongst signing and other media events, the tour involved appearing on 2 popular radio shows and the crowning glory, ten minutes of breakfast television in front of an audience that numbered many millions. The NewsCorp channel broadcasts throughout Asia and is, I believe, second only to CNN in news coverage for the region.

Anyway, following my appearance, I had people stopping me in the streets to congratulate me and ask where they could get a copy of the book? These were local Singaporeans and tourists. I went into one book shop to check they had it in stock and two Australian tourists were in there buying copies. I signed their copies and the rest of the stock for a very happy retailer. The crowning moment perhaps was when my publisher, Phil Tatham took me to eat at one of Singapore’s famous foodmarkets. As I wandered from stall to stall checking out the amazing food, many of the stallholders came up to me to shake my hand. Amazing reception. The power of the media at work.

Death in the Kingdom
By Andrew Grant (Monsoon, $32.95)
A British secret agent is back in Thailand for the first time since he killed a top underworld boss’s son, ordered by his government to recover a small black box from the bottom of the ocean. But as his friends are beheaded one by one and he’s pursued by the CIA, he realises maybe he can’t trust his own handlers either, forcing him to turn go underground. Canterbury author Grant creates a terrific narrative drive, a nice sense of Southeast Asian setting, and memorable characters; a world-class spy thriller with layers and depth.

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