Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Drug-dealing ad execs and parental fears: an interview with Rod Reynolds

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 24th instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 196th overall edition of our long-running author interview series!

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had a lot of fun talking to some amazing crime writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. What a line-up. Thanks everyone.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been part of the 9mm series, please do let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. We've got several further interviews with cool writers 'already in the can' that will be published soon, so lots to look forward to over the coming weeks and months.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome British crime writer Rod Reynolds, the author of the Charlie Yates historical crime novels, to Crime Watch. Although Rod is a Londoner, he sets his crime novels in the United States close on the heels of the Second World War. Charlie Yates is a disgraced former New York journalist who gets caught up in crimes in the American Southwest.

Rod wrote his debut, THE DARK INSIDE, while completing a Masters in Crime Writing at City University. Before the course had even finished he'd nabbed an agent and a publishing deal - in fact the first student in the history of that new degree to do so. The series, which has been described by top reviewers as "pitch-perfect American noir" and "subtle, original, and enthralling", has continued with BLACK NIGHT FALLING, and Rod's new third novel, COLD DESERT SKY.

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


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Clete Purcel - the sidekick in James Lee Burke's Robicheaux novels. Robicheaux himself is a bit too much of a prig for me, but Clete wears his heart - and everything else - on his sleeve. He is a human wrecking ball, and he gets all the best lines.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I was addicted to Enid Blyton's stuff as a kid - Famous Five, Secret Seven, all of her stuff. But the first adult book that really grabbed me was THE PELICAN BRIEF by John Grisham. I hadn't seen the film and I remember just being completely gripped by the storyline and the action sequences.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
The first book I had published was the second novel I'd written. My first was a thriller about a drug-dealing advertising executive set in London. It was the first thing I'd ever written and I finished it in three months. I sent it out to loads of agents and got the requisite wall of rejections back - but a few took the time to comment and the common theme to the feedback was that although the story and the characters didn't work, I could write and should keep trying. That was encouragement enough for me at the time. Looking back now, I can see I made every mistake under the sun with that first book - but it was a hell of a lot of fun to write.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I've got two young kids, so free time is at a premium! I'm a keen runner, so I try to get out two or three times a week for 45 minutes or so. It's really important to me, especially when I'm writing, as I find it clears my head, and I usually get some good ideas while I'm doing it - how to fix a plot problem, something to add to a character, a line of description. 

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?
I'm from London and my top tip would be to go for a run over Hampstead Heath on a Saturday morning, ending up at the farmers market at the bottom of Parliament Hill. Then grab a sausage bap, and a doorstop wedge of cake, and take it up to the top of the hill, so you can scoff it all down with the best view in the whole of London.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
My choice: George Clooney. Most likely: one of the Chuckle Brothers.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
My new one, COLD DESERT SKY. It's my third book, and, in my mind, the end of a loose trilogy featuring Charlie Yates - so we've been on a long road together. It's also my most personal, as some of what happens was inspired by the horrible fears you get as a parent - not based on anything I've been through, more a kind of 'What the hell would I do if this happened...?'

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?
When I first got the call from my agent to say she had three offers for my book, I remember a feeling of disbelief - that something I'd imagined for years, but which you never truly know if you can achieve, was going to come to pass. I was at home with my wife and one of my daughters, so I think I just had a couple of glasses of wine that night, and I was in shock the whole time - but I do remember a bit more of a rowdy curry the next night with friends.

My book came out in trade paperback first, so it wasn't widely stocked, but I made a trip to Foyles in Charing Cross Road to see it on the shelf - that was pretty surreal. I didn't want to touch it in case someone saw me and thought I was standing around trying to hand sell it!

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
At a library event in Scotland with two other authors, one guy in the crowd took issue with the fact that we were talking about the overseas research trips we'd been on for various books. The event was predominantly for sixth-formers, and he kept interrupting and saying, how was this relevant to working-class kids from Scotland, who couldn't afford to swan off around the world on a whim, and would never be able to get published because they weren't posh like us. I mentioned that I grew up on a council estate, in a single-parent family, and that none of us were from privileged backgrounds, but he wouldn't let it go. It got quite heated until the librarian in charge very deftly moved things on.

The surreal part was, talking to the kids afterwards, when I asked if he was a teacher or something from their school - and they said to me they had no idea who he was. Shortly after, he came up to us, all smiles, thanked us for a great event and asked if he could take some pictures of us! We left there bemused...

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

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