Friday, May 13, 2016

9mm interview: JM Gulvin

Welcome to the latest issue of 9mm, our long-running author Q&A series here on Crime Watch. Today I'm pleased to welcome an intriguing crime writer to the fold, JM Gulvin, who this month launched his first book in what looks like it could be a fascinating new series, THE LONG COUNT.

Gulvin is a British author (half English, half Scottish) who now divides his time between Wales and the American West, a region that seems to have burrowed its way into his soul. THE LONG COUNT introduces Texas Ranger John Quarrie, who is called to the scene of an apparent suicide by a fellow war veteran. Although the local police want the case shut down, John Q is convinced that events aren't quite so straightforward, especially as the man's son - recently returned from Vietnam - believes his father was murdered. Together the pair start looking into a series of other violent incidents in the area.

While THE LONG COUNT is the first novel from 'JM Gulvin', Jeff Gulvin has a long publishing pedigree, having debuted twenty years ago with SLEEP NO MORE, a crime novel centered on maverick detective Aden Vanner. In the years since Gulvin has written around 20 books, ranging from further Venner tales and FBI thrillers to assisting with James Corden's autobiography and ghost-writing the Galaxy British Book Awards winning LONG WAY DOWN, an account of Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman's motorcycle journey from Scotland to the southern tip of Africa.

Over the past decade Gulvin has largely concentrated on non-fiction works, but by the look of THE LONG COUNT, it's certainly great to have him back in the crime fiction fold once more, and I'm looking forward to seeing where he takes the character and the series.

But for now, JM Gulvin becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
This is actually quite a difficult question to answer as I don’t read a lot of crime fiction. That’s largely because I don’t want to be influenced by any similar author’s work and tend to read literary novels in order to improve my craft. That said, if I had to pick one, it would be Dave Robichaux. James Lee Burke is a writer’s writer.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
“The Song of Hiawatha” (Children’s version). I was at Gillespie’s boys school aged five in Edinburgh and I’ll never forget the image of the angel of death rising from the flames of the Tipi fire to claim Minnehaha. I cried and cried and cried. If I think about it now I still could. That was closely followed by “Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims”, which I later found out was true.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I wrote 15 books from the age of 18 to 33 when SLEEP NO MORE was accepted. They covered everything from the troubles in Northern Ireland to a PI, to a book called OLIVERA STREET set in 1950’s New York. The best was THE GHOST DANCER about a modern day Native American living as he would in the old days in the deserts of Nevada.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I go to America to visit my friends. I live and breathe my work and the people I’ve met down the years are a massive part of it. If I had enough money I’d live full time in Texas or New Mexico maybe. I’d write in the mornings and cowboy for a local rancher in the afternoons. They’re always crying out for help and I can’t think of a better reason for being on a horse. I cowboyed in Idaho for a summer and the seven times state rodeo champion said I was a natural.

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?
My hometown is Crickhowell in Wales, which was featured on the BBC recently as “The Town that took on the Taxman”. I’d invite a visitor to come to my house and look out of any window at the most fantastic views.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I don’t think my life would make much of a movie. I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone to play me. If they had no choice and I could drag them kicking and screaming, I’d insist on James Woods because he talks almost as much as I do. 

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
My favourite book so far is THE LONG COUNT because I was born to write John Q.

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?
That’s a brilliant question. I can tell you exactly. 4:30pm on Monday July 31st 1995 I receive a phone call from Robert Kirby my agent. He tells me they said “yes” after I’d been suffering rejections for 15 bitter years. I got in my car and drove. One song on repeat: “Better Days” by Bruce Springsteen. 

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
A variation on part two of your last question. I was at Norwich airport about to fly to the US for the summer of 2000. I bought a copy of HANNIBAL by Thomas Harris, I recall it had a shiny red cover. Sitting across from me as we waited for the plane, was a soldier who was almost through a copy of what I thought was the same book. Leaning over, I asked him what he thought of it. Without looking up, he told me it was good.

How good? I asked him

Bloody good, he told me.

Really, I said. I’ll look forward to it then.

At that his concentration was lost and he glowered at me.

It’s really that good? I asked him.

I tell you what, he said, it’s this good.

Opening his rucksack he brought out what he said was the sequel. There was no sequel that I could recall. The book he brought out was called NOM DE GUERRE. What he was reading wasn’t HANNIBAL at all; it was my novel STORM CROW.

No word of a lie. Of course I showed him my passport.

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


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