Thursday, March 12, 2015

"With fiction, you can tell the truth": Paul E. Hardisty

Crime writers often have intriguing, varied backgrounds, coming from all walks of life, and juggling multiple careers and interests. They are renaissance (wo)men in the literary world, and thriller writer Paul E. Hardisty, author of the astonishing debut THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING, exemplifies this beautifully.

Canadian by birth, Paul E. Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a cafĂ© in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, ironman, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and now lives in Western Australia. Yes, I got tired just writing all of that, let alone living it.

I've recently read THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING, which is an exceptional geopolitical/eco-thriller, and will be attending an event with Paul at Waterstone's Trafalgar Square in London tonight. For now though, Paul E. Hardisty becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I guess the first recurring character that made a serious impression on me was Hemingway's Nick Adams.  Okay, it's not crime, but those short stories take us across a whole life, from awakening to war and aftermath. I like Chandler's Marlowe.  I've always been much more into the action - adventure side of the 'crime' genre, though.  To me Ludlum's Bourne is probably the all time best - the prototype for the Mitch Rapps and the Jack Reachers. Edward Wilson's Catesby is an intelligent and refreshing protagonist.  A lot of new writers are doing great stuff with the genre.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I've read my whole life, since I was young. My mother and father were both avid readers (still are) and the house was always overflowing with books. But there is always that one book when it really hits you, when you realise that life is right there, in those pages, lives, actually, so many of them, real and breathing. For me it was my dad's old tattered copy of The Way of a Transgressor, by Negley Farson. Farson was the original adventurer in the most complete sense of the word. That book, for me, opened it all up. I still have it. Thanks, Dad.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything): unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles, academic pieces?
Before The Abrupt Physics of Dying, I'd had two technical books published, both by CRC Press in New York.  The first one was highly technical and arcane, and the second a little less so (economics, environment).  I've also published pretty widely in the peer-reviewed scientific literature (water, environment, geology, decision-making science) and in conference proceedings worldwide. I wrote a newspaper column on environmental issues for the English language daily in Cyprus for about 5 years.  Fiction is much harder to write than non-fiction, that's sure.  And the other thing I've found is that with fiction, you can tell the truth.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I'm a triathlete. Mostly I do long distance races, swim-bike-run. I've just completed a challenge to raise money for World Wide Fund for Nature (the Panda), completing 7 Ironman 70.3 races (1.9 km open water swim, 90 km bike and 21.1 km run (half marathon) in 18 months. Feeling pretty tired now. I really love the outdoors. That's where my family - Heidi, my wife, and my two sons Zac and Dec, and I - really like to be.   Hiking, mountain-biking, sailing, skiing.  We did a great heli-mountain biking trip in New Zealand recently.  If we have money, we spend it on doing things, not having things.

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?
I live in Perth, Western Australia. The most isolated city in the world. There's a great hike near the Beliar wetlands in the South of the city, through some beautiful native woodland. The Southwest of WA is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, and has been recognised as such by the UN. Unfortunately, most of the original native bush in and around Perth has been cleared.  This hike, in the middle of the city, is sublime. The reason it was preserved is that it was part of an old road reserve.  It's about to be bulldozed.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Geepers.  Steve McQueen? (dead). Vic Morrow? (dead).

Of your writing so far, which is your favourite, and why?
My new novel, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, is the only fiction I've had published so far. The sequel, The Evolution of Fear, is out next year, and I reckon, right now, I like it better. I think I've learned.  To me, theme is very important.  I work hard on it.  In both books, I think I've captured some of what I hoped I could.  I want to do better.

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?
The night I got that call from London, long distance, telling me that someone wanted to publish my book, I went for a long walk around the lake near my house and looked up at the Southern hemisphere stars and thought about one of my best friends who died in a car crash a few years ago and just wondered about how life goes.  It wasn't till almost a year later that the whole thing finally felt real, when I got a couple of advance copies of the paperback in the post from my publisher, Karen. I just walked around sticking my face in the pages and breathing in the smell.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
My most recent technical book came out in 2010 (Environmental and Economic Sustainability, CRC Press, New York).  One of the execs in the company I worked for showed up at the launch.  He had always been very dismissive of me, largely because he does not believe that the environment matters.  After the event, he came up, shook my hand, and told me it was the best presentation he'd ever seen.  I'm still not sure if he was blowing smoke or not.  He probably was.

Thank you Paul. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch


You can read more about Paul E. Hardisty and his writing here:


Comments welcome 

No comments:

Post a Comment