Thursday, May 14, 2015

Strolling Verulamium Park, in the dark: James Carol

As both a reader and reviewer, one of my favourite things is discovering a new author who really truly grabs me, whose characters I want to follow, and whose stories envelop me in such a way I become fully invested in what is going on, rather than being so aware that I'm reading words on a page. I find you can often tell from the first few pages of a book whether the author is on that 'other level' for you personally.

James Carol burst onto the crime writing scene last year with the thrillers BROKEN DOLLS and WATCH ME. The Scots-born, Hertfordshire-based Carol has an interesting background. Like several crime writers, he's honed his writing chops as a journalist, but he's also worked as a guitarist, sound engineer, guitar tutor and horse riding instructor (music and horses being two of his ongoing passions).

I met Carol at an event in London in March, which doubled as the official launch of Paul E. Hardisty's debut THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING (Carol and Hardisty took part in an excellent panel discussion with William Ryan). I was immediately intrigued by Carol's discussion of his protagonist Jefferson Winter, an eccentric ex-FBI profiler who travels the world hunting serial killers, and whose own father was a killer.

For those attending Crimefest in Bristol this weekend, I'd highly recommend going along to one of Carol's events, and picking up one or more of his books. But for now, he stares down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
It’s got to be Jack Reacher. I’ve always had a thing for antiheroes, and Reacher is the best by a mile. He’s one of those characters who’s still going to be talked about in a hundred years’ time. The thing I find most impressive is that Lee Child is now on book 20 and, if anything, they are better than ever. A lot of writers would have taken their foot off the gas by now. Not Child. He’s got his foot hard down to the floor, and all you can do is hold on for the ride.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. This one sticks in my mind because it was the first adult book I read. I was only eleven at the time, so this was a real wake up call. For starters the hero died at the end. That sort of thing never happened in Enid Blyton’s books. The Dead Zone was the start of a lifelong obsession with Stephen King. Even now, I’ll be first in line when he has a new novel out. King is another of those writers whose books just keep getting better.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I started writing fiction in 2000 and in that time I’ve written all sorts of stuff. Thrillers, horror, spy books. For me, the story is everything. If I’ve got an idea that won’t leave me alone, then I need to get it down on the page.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Music is a big part of my life. I started playing guitar when I was ten. It’s got to be the coolest instrument there is. Plugging into an amp, hitting the distortion and cranking up the volume … it doesn’t get much better. I also ride and train horses. Most mornings are spent writing, while my afternoons are spent at the stables.

5. 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?
If they’ve read BROKEN DOLLS then they should take a walk in Verulamium Park, in the dark. If they haven’t then they should read chapter 3, then head off to the park. The last I heard, the local tourist board had taken out a contract on me for sullying one of the city’s most beautiful places.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I copped out on this one and passed it over to my wife. She said Bradley Cooper. I’m not sure whether I should be flattered or concerned!

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
I’ve enjoyed writing all of them for different reasons. That said, if you put a gun to my head and made me choose, I’d say WATCH ME. With BROKEN DOLLS I was still trying to work out who Winter was, however, by the time I got to WATCH ME, I had apretty good idea. Writing this was like being given the keys to a Ferrari and told to go and have fun.

8. 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?
Like a lot of authors my first reaction was shocked disbelief. I’d spent years sending getting rejection after rejection, so to have someone turn around and say “yeah, I’ll publish that” was just incredible. The day the postman delivered the first copy is still one of the best days of my life. As soon as I unwrapped it, I sat it on the table and just stared at it. All the hard work and disappointment suddenly made sense. It was a wonderful moment.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Last year I was asked to take part in Mord am Hellweg in Germany, which was a huge honour. The event I attended was in this amazingly atmospheric old castle. What I remember most is sitting on stage in front of 300 people, reading the opening of BROKEN DOLLS in English and wondering if anyone had a clue what I was saying. Very surreal.

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


You can read more about James Carol and his enigmatic profiler Jefferson Winter here: 


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