The Furies contains two short novels - what are they both about?
They’re both linked. When I began publishing many years ago I was quite a purist, I thought I wanted to write 70,000 word novels - go back to Russ McDonald and Agatha Christie - and I never really did that, so I was curious to explore the short form. But at the same time I wanted the stories to be thematically linked, and linked by place. So there are resonances between each of the stories. So the first concerns a coin collector who is trying to track down a series of coins which have been stolen from him - one of which he believes is keeping him alive by staving off disease. And then the other was a return to Agatha Christie basics. When you look at a classic crime novel, the environment is contained. It’s a house on an island, a ship on the Nile, whatever it might be. And the first locked scene seemed a bit like that. The idea of a pair of criminals who were engaged in a horrible act of blackmail only realising they have 24 hours to sort it all out and get away with it all. Both stories are linked by a hotel, a strange hotel where lowlifes, criminals and deadbeats end up because it’s the cheapest place to stay. Each story is also about men underestimating women. Underestimating their cunning, power, intelligence and the men in the novels coming to regret it deeply by the end of it.
What was the writing process like putting two short novels together?
The problem lay with the first one, written during the first lock down - when my publication was postponed. And I realised a lot of people will be looking at their phones. And I realised, I think like a lot of writers, there was this feeling of ‘what can I do? how can I distract people and take their minds off what’s going on?’ in what was, a really frightening time. So the idea of giving people part of a story, a section every day - limited to 500 or 600 words - because you don’t want to read any more than that one your phone occurred to me as something I could do. I thought it would be really simple but it was horrendously difficult. We ended up translating it into 5 lounges, and had to set up a dedicated website - and my poor son, who is in web design, had to get up at some ungodly hour to post these stories every morning. And then when I came to write the book, I put these 500 word extracts together and I realised it didn’t work as a novel. I’d thought at the beginning ‘oh great I’ve got half a novel for next year’ - but it was effectively a first draft and I had let people see the machinery - and I would never usually let that happen. So, then began the revision period which lasted for a whole year, of tearing it apart and putting it back together, and turning it into something closer to a novel and it doubled in length.
Then the second one by contrast was really easy compared to the first one I think anything short of nailing nails through my head would have been easy!
Is there a future beyond this for the the Charlie Parker thriller?
Yeah definitely. The next one is effectively done but I’ve shelved it, because I want to public the sequel to Lost Things first. It’s not that my heart isn’t in the Charlie Parker book, but that’s ultimately done now and for various reasons for my own schedule it suits me better to publish The Land of Lost things rather than the Parker book. So there is another Parker book that’s ready to go but it won’t be out until 2024.