Sons of Spade Q&A

Q: What makes Zac Hunter different from other (unofficial) PIs?

With Hunter, I’ve tried to create the kind of lead character that makes the reader question whether the end justifies the means.  He’s not your all-American hero – he’s a good guy to have in the trenches but a bad guy to have on your case.  A maverick ex-cop who’ll walk through walls to bring down the bad guys, his desire to see justice served stems from the fact that his father’s murderers were never identified.  He’s tough, taciturn, and sardonic, and he’s not afraid to cross the line.  Plus he’s a loner – someone that’s self-reliant and unencumbered by the day-to-day baggage that a wife and family can bring.  And most of all, he’s a man of action – someone that’s focussed on where he’s going rather than where he’s been.  That way, the reader learns about him as they see the world through his eyes.  

Q: How does music influence your work?

I’m seriously into rock music, and I like to work mentions of some of my favourite bands into my novels.  I use music to help set the scene – it can provide an insight into a character’s thoughts or feelings, and it can give the reader a sense of the familiar to help ground the plot in reality.  I try to use a mix of instantly recognisable bands and some that are less well known, as in this way I feel that I’m doing my bit in bringing a wider public audience to some deserving acts!

Q: How did you get published?

Before I put pen to paper on Justice For All, I undertook a fair amount of research then set about creating a plot outline.  Some authors plunge straight in and see where the journey takes them, but that approach isn’t for me – I like to have a rough idea of where I’m headed before I set out.  Once I had a first draft, I decided to hire a freelance editor, as I wanted my manuscript to be as honed as possible before I submitted it to agents.

I then drew up a hit list of agents that specialised in crime thrillers, and two days after sending out a handful of submissions, I got a call from Broo Doherty of the Wade and Doherty Literary Agency, who offered to represent me.  Broo then set about finding me a publisher, and a few weeks later I’d signed a two-book deal with MIRA books.  The final stage in the process was to work through some editorial suggestions from MIRA, which helped turn Justice For All into the lean, mean, and moody beast that it is today.  The whole process – from writing the very first line to seeing the book hit the shelves – took around two years to complete.

Q: What’s next for you and Zac?

Next up for Zac is the follow up to Justice For All, entitled Blood Law, which will be released in summer 2009.  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.  As for myself, I’m currently hard at work on the first draft of book three in the Zac Hunter series, provisionally entitled The Beholder.

Q: How do you promote your books?

By using any method I can think of!  I have a publicity firm, MIDAS PR, working on my behalf to generate column inches in the press, as well as getting me invites to appear at literary festivals, book signings, etc.  For my part, I’m trying to build up my on-line presence, as this seems to be the most cost effective way for new authors to reach a large audience.  I have a website – - where you can keep up to date with my writing, as well as pages on Facebook and MySpace.  But the most innovative thing I’ve done thus far was to go to two of the UK’s biggest rock festivals – Reading and V – with nine of my friends and family, each of us wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the cover of Justice For All, which created a fair bit of interest as you can imagine!

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?

I’m a big fan of John Connelly’s lead character, Charlie Parker.  He’s tough, damaged, and driven by the desire for vengeance, plus he’s got two of the best sidekicks in the business in gay assassins Angel and Louis.  I also love Burke, the lead character in most of Andrew Vachss’ novels, as he operates as far outside the law as you can possibly get!

Q: In the last century we’ve seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, MacDonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation and in what way?

Harlan Coben has achieved a lot of success by becoming the modern day master of the plot twist, while Michael Connelly’s attention to detail and sheer realism is unsurpassed.  Both authors are adored by readers and critics alike, thus I wouldn’t be surprised if they influenced the next generation of crime writers.

Q: Raymond Benson came up with the following question: Would you want to be a PI yourself?

In the course of three novels the following things have happened to my lead character, Zac Hunter: he’s been shot at, drugged, beaten, tortured, caught in the crosshairs of a sniper, involved in two car crashes, and even forced to fight off the amorous advances of a love crazed octogenarian.  Would I want to be a P.I.?  What do you think?

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?

If you had to choose to write in a genre other than crime, which one would it be and why?  I’d like to have a crack at horror one day, as it has many of the same traits as the crime genre – suspense, action, sex, violence, etc – while also allowing you to make stuff up without fear of being corrected!