A Q&A with Steven Hague
How would you describe your debut novel ‘Justice For All’?
Justice For All is mainly about society’s perception of justice. It’s US noir, tough as old boots, and dark as a serial killer’s soul. If you like your crime thrillers violent, cinematic, and action packed, then this one’s for you. It features Zac Hunter, an ex L.A.P.D. detective whose just been kicked out of the department for whaling on the lead suspect in a string of child murders. When the suspect beats the case against him on a technicality, Hunter turns vigilante to take him down, but his decision ends up putting him bang in the cross hairs of a ruthless Russian assassin, and unless he can work out what he’s stumbled into, Hunter could wind up paying with his life.
What gave you the inspiration for the story?
I always had a clear idea of who my lead character was – Zac Hunter, a maverick ex-cop who’d walk through walls to bring down the bad guys. But the actual inspiration for the story came from one simple thought that had been bugging me for a while – namely how do criminal defence lawyers defend the indefensible? How do they look themselves in the mirror each morning when they pretty much know that their latest client is guilty of a heinous crime? From that one thought the character of Rebecca Finch was born – Justice For All’s high-powered female attorney who specialises in defending the scum of the earth. When I put her together with Hunter I knew there’d be fireworks as their thoughts on justice are worlds apart, and the plot began to coalesce from there.
Who do you base your characters on?
For the most part, my characters are figments of my imagination, pure and simple. Sure, they’re a sum of my influences – people I’ve met over the years, people in the public eye, fictional characters from the page and silver screen, but nine times out of ten I don’t have one person in mind when I go to create a character. The one exception to this is my main man, Zac Hunter, who’s kind of an updated version of a young Clint Eastwood. When I first came to write about Hunter, I always had Eastwood in mind – particularly the poncho wearing, cheroot chewing ‘man with no name’ of the iconic spaghetti westerns. Now that’s not to say that Hunter strolls around downtown L.A. dressed like a cowboy – what I wanted to capture was more the essence of the character – the tough, taciturn, sardonic guy who always fought on the side of the angels, despite how it sometimes appeared.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Anywhere and everywhere. Some come from real life events, others from thoughts I’ve been kicking around in my head (like the one regarding criminal defence lawyers that sparked Justice For All), while others develop from my desire to learn about a specific subject. A good example of how this works would be the follow-up to Justice For All, which is called Blood Law, where I initially wanted to learn more about L.A. gangland culture, and in the course of the research plot ideas began to emerge. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again – start with a ‘what if’ and see where it takes you.
What are you writing next?
My next book is called Blood Law, and it’s the second in the Zac Hunter series of novels. When Hunter answers a distress call from a beautiful Latino girl from his past, he finds himself sucked deep into the murky world of L.A. street gangs, where illegal drugs are the major currency and automatic weapons are the main negotiating tool. With a child’s life at stake, Hunter finds himself in a race against time to discover who’s behind the recent upsurge in violence, and why they’re so keen to see the streets run with blood.