Tuesday, July 7, 2015

9mm: An interview with Alex Shaw

Did you hear the one about the British lad who taught drama in the Ukraine before becoming a #1 Amazon Kindle bestseller with his crime thrillers?

Amongst several fantastic 'new-to-me' authors I had the great pleasure of meeting at the recent Crimefest in Bristol, was Alex Shaw, creator of the Aidan Snow thrillers. As an aside, Alex was part of the notorious 'Blue Glove' gang from one memorable night at the convention (including authors Steve Cavanagh, Stuart Neville and Alan Carter, and crime aficionados Peter Rozovsky, Ali Karim, and myself).

Alex splits his time between West Sussex and the Ukraine, a troubled area of the world he knows well after being a drama teacher in the capital Kyiv then a business consultant in the region for many years. He worked on his debut thriller HETMAN, which stars an ex-British SAS soldier who gets caught up in nefarious activities in the Ukraine, for 12 years. On publication it became an Amazon Kindle #1 bestseller, and Alex has followed that up with further instalments in the increasingly popular Aidan Snow thriller series.

But for now, Ukrainian Brit Alex Shaw becomes the 122nd author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I’m going to mention two, Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ and Stephen Leather’s ‘Dan Spider Shepherd’. Both of these characters have evolved in an organic and naturalistic manner which has entertained me as a reader. Reacher of course has his own idiosyncratic way of doing things which never ceases to amaze me. Child said Reacher was an ‘idiot savant’ great at a very specific skill set and useless at others, I think he’s selling Reacher a little short. I’d say that Reacher has an advanced bullshit detector which has helped keep him alive thus far and wouldn't call him an idiot. Shepherd, like Reacher, also has an advanced skill set – honed in the SAS, but what appeals to me is his eidetic memory. His perfect recall has enabled him to operate undercover in the criminal underworld. Neither of these characters are the traditional detective type, which is why they are so effective.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I AM DAVID by Anne Holm. David’s escape from a Nazi concentration camp and subsequent search for his mother really caught my imagination. As I was a similar age to the character I felt a great deal of empathy and imagined myself trekking across the country.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
The first full length work I wrote was a stage-play about time travelling double glazing salesmen, I then adapted this into a YA novel and self-published it. I don’t promote it and it doesn’t sell. I like writing comedy but I love writing crime thrillers, which is what I do now.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love international travel, visiting new places. Travel really does broaden your horizons and I use my experiences of travel whenever I can in my work. In a past life I traveled on business to some far-flung and off-beat places across North Africa, the Middle East and the former USSR. I’ve been lucky enough to travel with my wife and family to some pretty nice places too. Now I feel there is nothing better than relaxing with my wife and two sons somewhere new, or warm. I also go to the gym and run when I can, which is frankly not as much as I should as I tend to eat too much.

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?
Difficult question. If we are talking of my real home town ‘Worthing’ then I would say go and see a film at the Dome Cinema. It’s the oldest cinema in the UK. If we’re talking about my adopted home town of Kyiv, I’d say check out the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. It’s similar (in my mind anyway) to the Arc de Triomphe but bigger and not a tourist attraction.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
A young Timothy Dalton or a dark haired Dolph Lundgren.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
I’m proud of my second novel COLD BLACK, but having just recently published the follow on COLD EAST I’d have to say COLD EAST. I think that as a writer I’m constantly improving and honing my craft and my latest thriller has allowed me to do just that. It connects with my first novel COLD BLOOD and links each of the three novels together yet can also be read out of order. For the first real time I’ve tried to make a social statement – that Russia’s actions in invading Ukraine must not be forgotten or forgiven, without becoming didactic. I hope it works in the sense that the reader can enjoy the book as entertainment, but if I’ve made at least one reader question Russia’s account of events in Ukraine then I’ve achieved my goal. I’ve also thanked a couple of loyal readers by putting them in the book.

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?
I received an offer email from my publisher as I was driving my sons to a tennis lesson. I stepped out of the car and almost fell over when I saw it and for an hour was sitting at courtside grinning like a madman. Once home, and with the boys asleep, I rushed out and got a bottle of whisky whilst my wife opened a bottle of champagne. It was a boozy but happy night.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?

The oddest thing actually happened a couple of years ago at the open day for my local fire station. I was standing in line to board a fire engine when a retired officer pointed at me and said, "I recognise you! I’ve read your book". It was the first time I’d been ‘spotted’ by a paying reader so my chest swelled with pride until he continued, "Your mum lent me her copy".

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


You can read more about Alex Shaw and his thriller writing here: 


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