Monday, August 22, 2016

Teenage poetry and picking locks: an interview with Chris Ewan

Welcome to the latest issue of 9mm, the long-running author interview series here on Crime Watch. At the end of May we hit the 150 interviews mark, and I took a moment to reflect on all the authors who have been interviewed thusfar (full list here), and where I could take 9mm in future.

Thanks to a number of great crime authors giving their time during last month's Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, and on other occasions, I have a lot of new interviews 'in the can' which I'll be publishing over the coming weeks. Lots to look forward to! If you have a favorite author you'd love to see interviewed here, please let me know.

Today, I'm very pleased to welcome #1 bestselling British thriller writer Chris Ewan, who has been described as a leading light among a new generation of thriller writers. Ewan began his crime writing career with his 'Good Thief's Guide' series starring a globetrotting thief. His debut, THE GOOD THIEF'S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM (2007) won the Long Barn Books First Novel Award and went on to be published in more than a dozen countries. Further instalments have been based in Paris, Las Vegas, Venice, and Berlin, and American production companies expressed interest in a TV show.

Ewan's big breakthrough was SAFE HOUSE (2011), a standalone thriller which sold half a million copies and was shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. That year Ewan was also voted as one of America's favorite British authors.

His latest thriller, LONG TIME LOST (Faber, 2016), was published in May, and has been said by critics to cement Ewan's reputation as one the most exciting and original crime writers around. But for now, Chris Ewan become the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
If we’re talking an all-time favourite, I’d have to go with Philip Marlowe but I always catch up with Jack Reacher each time a new Lee Child novel hits the shelves.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, which I must have read when I was ten(ish). It’s a wartime adventure story that I got completely wrapped up in – I can still vividly picture a scene where the three children at the heart of the story make their escape from Nazi stormtroopers by climbing over a series of rooftops.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
A lot of bad teenage poetry. A lot of short stories and novel openings. The first thing I ever got published was a short story in a book magazine called INK that, funnily enough, went out of business shortly afterwards. I also wrote three novels (one literary, two mainstream) that landed me my first literary agent but didn’t find a publisher. It was painful at the time but I’m glad of it now – I think it’s best for everyone that those three novels are hiding somewhere on some old floppy disks.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
All the normal stuff. Spending time with family and friends. Taking our dog for a walk. I like to travel, but really that’s just a fancy way of saying that I like to go on holiday and laze around reading books.

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?
Although I moved away recently, I’m going to claim the Isle of Man as my home for this one and tell any visitor to sample the local delicacy – chips, cheese and gravy.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Ryan Reynolds (though he’d have to hit the gym pretty hard).

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
It’s hard to overlook how SAFE HOUSE changed things for me – it gave me the opportunity to write full-time and I’m hugely grateful to everyone who bought a copy. Of the Good Thief novels, my favourite is probably THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO VENICE. LONG TIME LOST, though, was easily my most challenging book to write and I’m happy with how it turned out.

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?
Back in 2006, I was working as a film lawyer when my phone rang at work and I answered it to hear Susan Hill tell me I’d won the Long Barn Books First Novel Award and that I was going to be a published writer. The call came a week before my 30th birthday and it’s the best phone call I’ve ever received. I went to the pub with a bunch of my colleagues. My boss bought us all champagne. It was a pretty special moment.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
After THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM was published I received an email from a reader whose “hobby” was picking locks. They wanted to meet me and show me some tricks of the trade. It wasn’t an opportunity I was going to pass up so we arranged to meet in a coffee shop (somewhere public seemed like a good idea at the time …) and within a couple of minutes I could shim a padlock and use a raking tool. I was feeling pretty smug about it until I took my new lock picks home and tried to crack the lock on my front door. Turns out, it’s a lot harder than it looks …

Thank you Chris. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

You can read more about Chris Ewan and his thrillers at his website, or follow him on Twitter

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