Plenty has been written about the Scandinavians, while the likes of France's Fred Vargas had a lock on the International Dagger for a while, but it's not just novels in translation where gems are found. Friends, look to the antipodes: Australian and New Zealand authors are penning tales amongst the best in the world. We're often the harshest critics of that with which we're most familiar, but stepping back a little, I'm continually impressed by the depth and breadth of the crime, mystery, and thriller storytelling from both countries.
So today, I'm very pleased to welcome Alan Carter, a crime writer who calls both Australia and New Zealand home, to Crime Watch. Alan was born in Sunderland (northern England), but immigrated to Australia twenty-five years ago. He announced himself on the crime writing scene in 2011, with PRIME CUT, which introduced fascinating investigator DS Phillip 'Cato' Kwong, an Australian of Asian heritage. Kwong's on the outs with his superiors, demoted to the Stock Squad, digging into animal deaths on farms in Western Australia. He discovers a juicier case when an unidentified torso washes up onshore - no one else cares, they're too caught up with all the troubles in a mining town.
The book went on to win the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Novel, and Alan has since continued the series with GETTING WARMER (2013) and BAD SEED (2015). I recently met Alan at Crimefest Bristol, and today he becomes the 125th author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.
1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
DC Paul Winter from Graham Hurley's Portsmouth-set 'Faraday & Winter' series. From the moment he's introduced in Turnstone, one of the best character introducing paragraphs I've ever read, I was hooked. He's amoral, funny, resourceful and very effective. But no matter how far over the line he steps you know he's ultimately on the side of the angels - even if they'd prefer it if he wasn't.
2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Alistair MacLean's When Eight Bells Toll. I read it when i was about 11 or 12 and saw the movie with a very young Anthony Hopkins in the lead role. Thrown straight into the thick of things from page one with a bloke describing in detail the history of the big gun being pointed at him.
3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Nothing. Although in my day job I'd been writing narration for two decades worth of TV documentaries, some cheesy, some less so.
4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I do a fair bit of ocean swimming, not fast but dogged, and I'm recently cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats - it's a mid-life crisis thing. A Dwight Yoakam song comes to mind, "a thousand miles of misery".
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?
Hometown? Home in WA is Fremantle: take a six-pack or a nice bottle of red up on to Monument Hill and watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean and glance off the dockside cranes of the port. In New Zealand, it's Havelock - get an inner tube and jump into the Wakamarina River and float down to the Trout Hotel at Canvastown.
6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
It'd be pretty tough, they'd have to pull off a Geordie (Northeast England) accent, but I hear Sir Ian Mckellen is quite good. He might need to buff up a bit though. And eat a few pies.
While I'll always have a soft spot for my first, Prime Cut, I have to choose my latest – Bad Seed. As well as digging deeper into my hero's character and getting kinda deep, I've also had a whole lot more fun with some of the support characters, So much so that I’m thinking of a spin-off series based on one of them.
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?
It was a blast hearing first of all I was to be published as I'd never written it with that expectation. And then seeing it on the bookshelves in the shops, I still have to check myself from doing something really sad and pathetic like going up to the shop assistant and saying - hey, that's me! Celebration? I think alcohol might have been involved, in moderation.
9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Like many authors, I draw some of my inspiration from real life people or events so inevitably that's going to come home to roost at some point. For both Prime Cut and Getting Warmer I've had people come up to me and say they know the person upon whom the fictional killer is based, and I’d thought the original cases had been pretty obscure. The Bad Seed killer is a complete fabrication so fingers crossed.
Thank you Alan. We appreciate you taking the time to chat with Crime Watch
Have you read Alan Carter's Cato Kwong novels? Please share your thoughts with a comment.