Graham Smith writes gritty real crime fiction. He delivers hardnosed and tightly structured stories that have the feel of night clubs and late night boozers. DI Harry Evans is a renegade detective in his debut thriller, The Ironmongers’ Error. Graham met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about crime fiction and the E Book revolution.
Tell us about your novel.
My debut novel is a police thriller which has the working title of The Ironmonger’s Error. It is about a middle class couple whose children are kidnapped against the father’s gambling debts. They have one week to raise the £95,000 ransom. Penniless they turn to crime to fund their children’s release.
Hot on their heels is DI Harry Evans a renegade detective who is trying to escape enforced retirement while coming to terms with his own personal tragedy.
With the kidnappers sending them perverted images of their teenage daughter as cruel motivation, the couple have to work together to beat the deadline before they are apprehended for their crimes.
The novel has red herrings, false leads and various sub-plots to keep the reader guessing and I have used multiple viewpoints to showcase each character’s perspective.
While The Ironmonger’s Error is not yet complete I have already had interest from a couple of highly respected agents.
Who are your literary influences?
That’s a really tough question to answer as I count every author I’ve ever read as an influence. They’ve all taught me something about writing and storytelling whether it’s what works well or what is terrible.
To be specific I would have to say that the author whose style I most admire is Stuart MacBride as his writing is pared right past the bone and down to the marrow. Early influences would have to include Lee Child, Alistair MacLean and Simon Kernick. Matt Hilton also deserves a mention as he is a good friend who has given me some great advice on writing.
How important is Scotland to your writing?
While Scotland is very important to me as a country it bears little importance to my writing. I have actually set The Ironmonger’s Error in Cumbria rather than my native Dumfries and Galloway, as Cumbria has a city ( Carlisle ) and some spectacular scenery which is well known to the public. I’d have loved to have used D&G but it is not as well known as Cumbria . D&G has stunning scenery like the Devil’s Beeftub and the Grey Mare’s Tail but they are not as well known as the Lake District.
In essence really I’ve copped out and went for the well known area which is easier to describe to readers. I do have a Scottish detective in the novel though to fly the flag.
However I have set numerous short stories in Scotland and will undoubtedly set future tales in God’s own country.
What do you make of the E Book revolution?
I love traditional books and cannot ever image life without them. However eBooks are so damned convenient that they will be around to stay.
I believe that there should be a fair price set for eBooks though as too many authors are giving their work away either free or for pennies. Amazon et al should build some parameters into their algorhythms which control pricing to make sure the authors get a fair price and cannot undercut each other. For example books of 5,000 words or less are £1. 5-10,000 words are £2 and so on. Just don’t ask me what the thresholds should be.
Tell us about your involvement with Crime Squad.
My involvement with Crimesquad.com started back in 2009 when I attended the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at Harrogate . I was outside taking a break from drinking to have a smoke and I got talking with a guy doing the same thing. He was with Crimesquad.com and when I discovered what Crimesquad was about I sent myself a text so I’d remember in the morning.
I cheekily asked if there were any jobs going and he introduced me to the editor who asked me to write a review of a book I’d recently read so he could see if I was any good. In between panels I wrote out a review of Mo Hayder’s excellent Pig Island and then I sweet talked the hotel receptionist into typing it up for me. The rest as they say is history.
As a Crimesquad reviewer I am supplied with more great books than I can possibly read and through them I have been lucky enough to meet and interview some of the top names in crime fiction.
Tell us something about yourself that other people do not know.
As a schoolboy I played rugby for Dumfries and Galloway schools. I was part of the team which beat both the Ayrshire and Borders teams for the first time in the same year. I have also played Jocky Wilson at darts. On this occasion it is little surprise I wasn’t on the winning side.
Graham Greene wrote ‘There is a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer.’ What do you make of his observation?
I think the answer to that question lies in the perception of the individual. Personally I think that all serious writers have a steel core which provides them with the focus and discipline necessary to complete a novel. In the instance of crime and horror writers then yes I guess that there will be a splinter of ice or two in the cardiac area but I doubt the same coldness exists in romance or literary novelists.
How important is Basil Fawlty to you and what do you think of hotel inspectors?
I am a massive fan of Fawlty Towers and use Basil as a sanity barometer. If a situation arises at work and I have to stop myself going into a Basil style rant I know I’m ready for a holiday.
Hotel inspectors do not worry me at all because I have a great team who all do a wonderful job. Environmental Health Officers and the like are only doing a job and if your standards are kept high then their visits become routine occasions. It is always advisable to foster a good relationship with inspectors of any kind as like traffic wardens, if they are antagonised they will simply find more ways to punish you.
Due to the advent of review sites like TripAdvisor every guest now has the potential to be a hotel inspector so keeping standards high is an absolute must for me. I’m very proud of the fantastic reviews The Mill Forge has had on TripAdvisor and the fact that we are ranked in the top five hotels in Dumfries and Galloway. Our TripAdvisor page can be found at http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g2281332-d593910-Reviews-Mill_Forge_Hotel-Kirkpatrick_Fleming_Dumfries_and_Galloway_Scotland.html
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a re-write of The Ironmonger’s Error and am around the 75,000 mark. Once this re-write is complete (which will hopefully be in the next couple of weeks.) I’ll be sending it off to beta readers and then will action the parts of their feedback I feel will improve the novel. I already have the major plotline in mind for a follow up and I have a few short stories in mind that I am desperate to write.
Which part of writing do you most enjoy?
I love throwing down the first draft. When it’s going well, I almost seem to go into a zone where my fingers just type away while I sit back and read what’s appearing on the screen in front of me. When this happens I can type much faster than usual and there’s a damn sight less typos in my writing.
Thank you Graham for an insightful and great interview.