Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bermuda scooters and Cambridge cemeteries: an interview with Peter Swanson

Welcome to the first Crime Watch post of the new year, and the latest issue of 9mm, our long-running author interview series. I apologise for the unexpected hiatus. I was back visiting friends and family in New Zealand, and Google's automated security measures seemed to think I was a hacker - new country, new device etc - locking me out while I was abroad (even though this blog was operated from New Zealand for several years).

Thankfully, everything is sorted now, so expect normal service to resume, including an exciting revamp of Crime Watch on the near horizon.

Today though, we're back with a bang! I'm very excited to welcome a truly outstanding crime writer to the 9mm ranks: Peter Swanson. I first met Peter, a Massachusetts native, in London two years ago when THE KIND WORTH KILLING, his Highsmith-esque sophomore thriller, was Book of the Month at Goldsboro Books. Although a relatively new crime writer then, he'd received plenty of acclaim and accolades for his debut, THE GIRL WITH A CLOCK FOR A HEART, which had been a finalist for the LA Times Book Award.

There was a great buzz about Peter as a writer worth watching (and reading), which has only grown since. THE KIND WORTH KILLING was a finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, won the New England Society Book Award, was translated into 30 languages, and has been optioned for film adaptation. It's an exceptional thriller. Here's a snippet from my review:
This modern take on Patricia Highsmith's famed STRANGERS ON A TRAIN is a pulsating thriller of betrayal and love skewed, with plenty of extra twists to its tale. Swanson keeps the tension high, even as he switches perspectives between characters, and throws in some exquisite curveballs, taking the story beyond where you think given its set-up and initial hook. 
But this isn't just a well-plotted high concept book full of action and suspense - Swanson threads in some lovely prose and nuance, along with good depth of character to elevate THE KIND WORTH KILLING above most other big-name 'domestic suspense' and psychological thrillers out there.
A couple of years later, Peter Swanson returns with HER EVERY FEAR: a London art student who's suffered horrible trauma tries to find escape by house-swapping with a distant cousin in Boston, only to find herself caught up in a murder investigation that threatens her sanity, and perhaps her life.

Another intriguing set-up, and a book that's jumped right to the top of my TBR pile. But for now, Peter Swanson becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Travis McGee, in the series of novels written by John D. Macdonald from the 1960s through the 1980s. He's a very unique hero, a salvage consultant who will help anyone get back what they've lost or had stolen from them in return for half of it. He lives on a houseboat in Ft. Lauderdale, drinks a lot of gin, and pursues a lot of women, but he is also philosophical, and toward the end of the series, almost melancholy.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
The House With a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs. It was a very creepy book about a boy who goes to live with his uncle in an old house, and discovers many secrets. It wasn't the first book I read, but it was probably the first book I read and re-read many times.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
This would be a very long list, filled with all of the above. Many short stories, hundreds of poems, and three complete novels, two of which were whodunits that featured an amateur sleuth who was also a struggling poet. The third unpublished novel was about a bridal party that are kidnapped and kept in a sealed garage on the day of the wedding.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love to walk, either in the country or in the city. My ideal day would be a long walk, a couple of hours spent reading, then drinks and a really nice dinner.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I live just outside of Boston. Even though it's fairly popular with tourists, a walk down Charles Street to the Public Gardens is my favorite section of the city. A little less known is Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, which is the first garden cemetery in the country, and a great place to visit.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
It would have to be someone very good because my life is quite dull and they would need to make it interesting. How about James McAvoy.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
My favorite is Her Every Fear because it's my most recent, although my favorite character I've ever written is Lily Kintner from The Kind Worth Killing.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I was actually in Bermuda with my wife on a vacation when I got the call from my agent that he'd sold my book. It was an amazing moment. We skipped the champagne and went straight to the Dark'n Stormys. I also turned in the scooter that I had rented because I was scared I was going to kill myself on it, and I didn't want to die right after getting a book deal.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?

Listening to a woman tell me how a character I'd written was exactly like her. What made that particularly strange (and frightening) was that the character she was talking about was a serial killer.

Thank you Peter, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

HER EVERY FEAR by Peter Swanson is out now (Faber & Faber, £12.99)

You can read more about Peter at his website, or follow him on Twitter.

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