The TripFiction Book Club July/August ’19 reads ‘A Summer Reunion’ by Fanny Blake
Talking Location With author Anna Smith – Glasgow and Costa del Sol
24th May 2019
#TalkingLocationWith... Anna Smith, author of Fight Back – Glasgow and the Costa del Sol.
To walk the city centre streets where the designer shops and chic cafes and bars is to feel that you could be in any modern European city.
But as a young journalist, it was the backdrop to this smart city centre that always intrigued me. Working for a tabloid newspaper, most of the stories I would be sent on, would be lurid tales of murder, violence, drug dealing and robbery.
Probing these stories took me to the darker underbelly of Glasgow, to the sprawling housing schemes on the fringes of the city, where among the ordinary, decent people trying to eke out a living, there lurked hoodlums, a loan sharks, drug dealers on too many corners. And for some families, living in socially deprived conditions with little hope, sadly some of their teenagers turned to crime.
Over my lengthy career at the frontline, I sat with hearbroken parents of heroin addicts, lost and swallowed up in the drug culture. And I listened to families who were doing everything they could to keep their children out of crime. But it was not always possible. Because among the good people were the small time hoodlums offering their kids a chance to make a quick buck, and the promise of riches to come. Too many people fell foul of it, ended up in jail, or on drugs themselves in a vicious cycle of selling heroin to pay for their habit.
In the seedier side of Glasgow city itself, I listened to the stories of teenage prostitutes, emaciated and drug addled in city centre doorways touting for business – sex slaves to the pimps and hard men who waited in the shadows for their pay off.
It was this harsher side of the city and the gangsters who ran it that always attracted me, because behind every story, there is a character to study, whether it’s a hood or a kid with a story of a wretched start in life.
In Fight Back, I use this experience when I bring in the shady characters involved in the kidnapping, and I feel I can make them smell right, because I’ve been there and I’ve seen it all at first hand.
And on the other side of the coin, there is the hardmen, the gangsters, defending their turf on all sides of the city. I’ve spent time with them on many levels, in their homes and sometimes visiting the ones lower down the food chain in jail.
In some of the swish city centre bars and restaurants on any given night you can find the men who run these gangland empires, holding court with their minions. I’ve seen this over a lifetime, and even yet, every time I go into these places, I can spot a mobster at fifty paces, despite his champagne Armani suit.
Which brings me to the Costa del Sol, where a good part of Fight Back is also set. Dubbed the Costa del Crime because it was the place where gangsters fled to years ago to avoid extradition, and the name stuck with it. It hasn’t changed much.
You can wander into Puerto Banus and walk along the quayside, you are knee deep in the most ridiculous wealth you are ever likely to encounter. There are multi-million pound yachts nestled in the port, and you’ll never know who is self made from legitimate and who robbed and shot their way to the top. But when you’re in Puerto Banus it would not be smart to ask too many questions of what someone does for a living! Among the tourists there are British gangsters, and thugs from Columbia, Albania, from Russia and across Eastern Europe, flashing their money because there is plenty more where it came from. And across the area gangland money is hidden and laundered across bars and clubs and shops along the coast.
In Fight Back, this is where a lot of the action is among the Columbian cartel and when the Caseys find that they intend wiping them out of the game.
I spend a lot of time in Spain, and everywhere I go, my imagination is seeking out locations, bars and restaurants where top level meets take place in shadowy corners. In my imaginations, there are hits being planned, drug smuggling runs being worked out, robberies being plotted.
For all I know, these people are just getting on with their lives and the crime is all in my vivid imagination! But I thrive on people watching and making up stories and scenarios for my next book.
Thank you so much to Anna for sharing her locations and how you go about creating a vibrant and credible setting for your book (which you can buy through the TripFiction database from your favourite bookseller!)
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