As a non-whisky drinker, I’ve never come across Milroy’s before. It’s a whisky bar and shop in Soho, with a hidden secret. At the end of the shop is a hidden bookcase panel that leads to The Vault, a candlelit basement (I apologise now for my not very good photos – I’m blaming the light!). This was the venue for Spirits in Noir Fiction with Steph Broadribb, Rod Reynolds, Michael Grothaus and Daniel Pembrey, chaired by Barry Forshaw. Somehow, in the semi-darkness, I managed to write some notes. As per usual, I’ll give you the highlights.
Barry first asked the authors to say a little bit about their books and their research.
Steph Broadribb’s book, Deep Down Dead, was published earlier this month and tells the story of Lori Anderson, a bounty hunter based in Florida. With medical bills mounting high for her daughter, Dakota, Lori has to take on a high risk bond. As her normal babysitter is away, she has no choice but to take her daughter with her. Steph took her research so seriously, that she went to California to train as a bounty hunter. She knows how to shoot and is planning to go back to the States to do taser training. As well as learning how to taser, Steph will have to be tasered herself. Quite extreme research!
Michael Grothaus’ Epiphany Jones, is set in the murky world of sex trafficking to the Hollywood elite and porn addiction. Having worked in the film industry and witnessed a few suspicious things, it was only when Michael became a journalist that he looked deeper into the subject. Barry Forshaw described Epiphany Jones as a book ‘not to give to your maiden aunt’. Michael said it was a mixture of a thriller and dark comedy.
The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey was published last October and is set in Amsterdam. Daniel lived there for a while and realised that there wasn’t much Amsterdam Noir. So he decided to write his own with Henk van der Pol as his Dutch police officer. He considers Rebus and Wallander as influences as Henk is an older officer, nearing retirement. For research, Daniel was invited to join the Dutch Crime Squad on a raid in the Red Light District. Although this was originally for an article, it soon became the basis for The Harbour Master. The next instalment, Night Market, is out in e-book on the 26th January, with the paperback following in late April.
Rod Reynold’s first book, The Dark Inside, was loosely based on the true life crime of The Moonlight Murderer in America in the 1940s. Once he heard the story, Rod stopped the novel he was working on and immediately began to research and write his own version, having a journalist, Charlie Yates, as his protagonist. He even went to Texarkana in the US, to get a feel for the place. Black Night Falling, his second book, follows Charlie Yates once more. Asked if it was hard to write a book set in America, Rod answered that he probably had the ‘right balance of being naïve and stupid’.
As the panel was titled ‘Spirits in Noir Fiction’ and we were in a whisky bar, the subject of alcohol had to be discussed. Looking back at past great writers, quite a few were alcoholics including Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemmingway and Ian Fleming and often, alcohol featured in their stories. Is it possible to imagine Philip Marlowe without his whisky or Bond without his Martini? So what’s our authors’ favourite tipple? For Rod it’s rum; gin, preferably Bombay Sapphire for Steph. Daniel likes the spirit that his character Henk drinks – genever or jenever – often known as Dutch courage. (In fact, Daniel has a competition on Steph’s blog on January 26th to celebrate the e-book release of Night Market. Click here on the 26th to find out how you can win a bottle of genever). Michael is the only one destined to live until 100 as he doesn’t drink.
And just as some of those great authors in the past needed alcohol to write and ‘unblock’, what do our authors need/do when they get stuck with their stories?
Michael – walking
Daniel – good sleep
Steph – coffee (although she did experiment writing semi-drunk but found it didn’t work)
Rod – running
What a healthy lot they all are!
To find out more about the authors and their books:
And if you read my birthday blog last week then you’ll know that I was giving away a signed copy of Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus. Orenda books has very kindly donated a copy and Alison Belsham is the winner.