Book chains is my author Q&A with a twist.
I am placing this feature entirely into the hands of my guests and asking them to nominate the author I should interview next (and they need to supply a question I ask on their behalf). Last time around Steph Broadribb nominated Daniel Pembrey. Before I get to Steph’s question for Daniel I had a few questions of my own…
First Question is never actually a question. This is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the opportunity to get a couple of plugs in early.
Hello, Gordon. I was born in England but have lived much of my life abroad. My character is a Dutch copper called Henk van der Pol, who works a harbour beat in Amsterdam. The debut novel launches in print on 10th November but is available at a special introductory price on Kindle right now, till 8th November, here: http://amzn.to/2dxMIZN Also my publisher has created a snappy & atmospheric website for me, www.danielpembrey.co.uk, where you can see some of the feedback and more about my background. I guess I’ve used up my two plugs!
I wanted to ask about The Harbour Master, a story which you set in Amsterdam. Is this a city you know well or did the plot necessitate the location?
I started visiting the Dutch capital when my sister and her husband moved there. My visits became more frequent after they had a daughter. My niece is growing up speaking Dutch! I actually moved there for a while too, but couldn’t find the kind of crime fiction I love reading. It struck my as odd given Holland’s proximity to Scandinavia (and the prodigious output of those less populous countries), plus how well Holland lends itself to the genre – those incredible port cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the rest.
In fact there was Nicolas Freeling’s Van der Valk series, written in the ‘60s, which is perhaps better known here for the mass audience TV show. Freeling was very interesting to me as a Brit living most of his life in the Benelux region, writing characters native to languages different from his mother tongue. Without getting too academic about it, he’s an example of a ‘born translated writer ’, and if that intrigues, I’m doing a couple of events on that subject at UCL with a professor of Dutch studies on 30th November and 11th January: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dutch-detectives-book-club-tickets-28552161283 Oh dear, that was another plug!
Can you introduce us to Henk van der Pol?
Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to explain that I’d specifically been looking for a John Rebus, Harry Bosch or a Kurt Wallander-type character set in Amsterdam – the maverick, flawed yet highly effective copper – and when I couldn’t find him, I strove to create him in Henk van der Pol. I’ve actually interviewed both Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly (Henning Mankell being dead of course), and pointed out the similarities in their characters, but they all evolved separately to one another apparently. My realisation is that this is an archetypal character that we keep wanting to return to, and which I certainly wanted to write.
I am not fishing for spoilers so I need to phrase this carefully. The description of Harbour Master suggests that Henk is approaching retirement – is he a character you will revisit? And will his forthcoming retirement limit how many future titles he may feature in?
Yes, this point has been brought to my attention by my publisher! (series longevity). I can only write what fascinates me and what I myself want to read, and for me, the interest of the older police character (John Rebus, Harry Bosch or my own) is that they are carrying ever more history and operating within ever greater constraints. They are increasingly complicated and challenged. For example, John Rebus – an imposing man, once in the SAS – can no longer use his physical strength to overpower an adversary. He has to use his wits, his guile. But gangster “Big Ger” Cafferty will talk to him and not some upstart copper because of their shared history, and so the complications and intrigue build in Rankin’s books. That’s was what I was after, early on in my books, with Henk van der Pol.
It is something of a rarity for me to meet one of my guests, however, we did actually get to meet last month at Bloody Scotland. You were there in a rather special capacity, can you explain a bit about your weekend?
It was my first Bloody Scotland and I loved it. And it was great to meet you in person! I was also a spotlit author – one of a number of debut authors invited to speak for three minutes ahead of a main panel. One of last year’s spotlit authors was Graeme Macrae Burnet! We all formed a little gang this year. Let me just mention them briefly now if I may, because they’re all amazing creators and wonderful people: Eva Holland, Amanda Fleet, Shelley Day, Liz Mistry, Stephen Watt, Sandra Ireland, Lesley Kelly, Michael Grothaus, Les Wood, Jackie Baldwin and Tom O’Keenan.
Did you get to attend any of the panels at Bloody Scotland? Can you share any highlights?
The highlight was Val McDermid’s panel, because I was interviewing her the following morning. (Also Eva Holland’s reading at the start was amazing!). It’s always risky to arrange such an interview after a Saturday night at one of these events! But Val McDermid was so generous with her time and advice. It’s so striking because, someone like her – she’s sold 11 million books now and won innumerable awards – she doesn’t have to do this. But she told me that she got help of this kind early on in her career, and she strongly believes in giving back, and this is the other reason why Bloody Scotland 2016 was so special for me. You can read the interview here by the way: https://medium.com/@CrimeTimeUK/you-997c62056d71#.g7aaqmpl7
Can I ask what you are working on next?
The Harbour Master was conceived as a six part story saga; the first book (just out) comprises the first three parts, and the concluding parts will be out in e-book edition in January under the title Night Market, so I am furiously doing final edits for that!
Now Some Quick Fire Questions:
o What is the greatest song ever written?
Happy Birthday. So simple yet effective
o You hit the pub after a book launch, who is most likely to beat you to the bar?
I pride myself on being fast, but watch out for that Susi (SJI) Holliday, she’s quick on the draw when peach schnapps are in the offing
o Can you play a musical instrument?
I can: piano. I played keyboard in a garage-psychedelic band in my late teens … the less said about that the better, in case there are photos/recordings floating about!
o Do you have a favourite book that you re-read over and over again?
Actually I don’t. There are so many books I want to read, I’d rather turn to something new than go back to a book I’ve already read.
o Halloween is coming, do you turn out the lights and pretend you are out or do you go overboard on pumpkins and candy?
In fact this year we’re doing a Halloween special event at Waterstones King’s Road on Tuesday (1st November at 6:30pm). Please come along if you’re in London and you read this in time! –
https://www.waterstones.com/events/compass-points-in-crime-panel-event/london-kings-road. It’s free if you know the authors, so if you come, please say Hello. And there’s free wine!
o What book(s) are you currently reading?
I just finished Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead, which is a great read and highly recommended. I’m now turning to His Bloody Project.
o Steph (who nominated you) puts pineapple onto pizza – are these the actions of a sane woman?
Ha, sweet and savoury works for me too. Bacon with maple syrup when hungover? No?
o City Breaks, The Great Outdoors or Sunny Beaches?
Definitely city. I can’t help recommending Amsterdam, but Berlin, Luxembourg , Oslo, … these are the places I love to visit. That said, I did recently write a novella about a yoga retreat gone bad, set at a Mexican beachside resort. It’s called Vanishing Point. Now where’s that gone? *looks around in vain*
Finally, the Book Chain question – As you know, Steph Broadribb nominated you to keep my chain going and I asked her which question I should ask on her behalf: Steph wants to know – Whose drink would you most like to hold?
Well of course Steph’s, first and foremost. But perhaps then Tom Cruise’s, because my guess is that he’d want a selfie with Steph on his phone as well. Here to help!
Finally – to keep my chain going I asked Daniel to nominate an author that I should approach next…Susi Holliday, I may need a little of your time – Daniel has a very important question for you to answer!
The Harbour Master is published by No Exit Press and is currently available in digital format with the paperback arriving on 10 November.
Daniel’s Amazon page is here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daniel-Pembrey/e/B00D1WC6IS/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1