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Thriller set in Marseilles and The Calanques (Where’s Aimée? K & R + Author Interview)

10th November 2013

Dead Line by Chris Ewan: thriller set in Marseilles and The Calanques

A tense, slow-burning thriller from master storyteller Chris Ewan, a novel that glides around Marseilles and environs, gradually unfolding with menace and foreboding.

0571299571.01.ZTZZZZZZFluent French speaker, Daniel Trent, strategically happens to be at the scene of a staged traffic accident in which wealthy tycoon Jérôme Moreau is kidnapped. He is a K & R (Kidnap and Ransom) specialist, a hostage negotiator who, in the chaos of steaming bonnets and battered metal announces to the two remaining passengers in Moreau’s car (his wife and his bodyguard), that he is ‘The guy you need now’; they buy into this and Trent inveigles himself into their daily routine, as he investigates the disappearance and kidnap. He guides them through the negotiation process, but his motives are not solely about bringing Moreau back to his family…. Can Trent stay true to himself, how far is he willing to go?

Running parallel to his quest to secure Moreau’s release is his search for Aimée, his business partner and lover, who is carrying their child. One day, not so long ago, she suddenly disappeared without trace. How do the two unfolding storylines fit together? To find out, you must buy the book.

As we have come to expect of the author, he truly immerses the reader in the location, he can transport you to the sweltering countryside of southern France in just a few sentences. He escorts you around Marseilles like someone who is very familiar with the city, over to the Calanques, and from Notre-Dame de la Garde, past Cathédrale de la Major and on into the fragrant hills above the teaming city…’the high-rise office buildings and hotels to the west of the city…to the dark waters and industrial docks of Joliette, the eastern sky had splintered into pale pinks and misty yellows and warm copper tones…”

And now we will hand over to Chris, who has kindly answered the questions we put to him:

TF You clearly love to set your books in locations (the Good Thief’s Guide series, for example, see below). They almost become another character in the book. What made you choose Marseilles as the location for your latest thriller Dead Line?

CE Location is really fundamental to the way I write. When I begin work on a new book, the location for the novel is the first thing I have to decide upon once I’ve thought of a basic premise. With Dead Line, I wanted somewhere in southern Europe for the climate (especially the heat and the light) and I also needed somewhere that felt a little dangerous, where a kidnap thriller could credibly take place. I settled on Marseilles for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s a beautiful city that (very selfishly) I wanted to visit again. It’s also a port city and because of that I was able to write about some of the spectacular coastline around Marseilles, including the stunning coves and inlets of the Calanques. Crucially, though, it’s also a city with a known criminal underworld, where a high-stakes kidnap wouldn’t be entirely out of the realms of possibility.

TF In this novel you have entered the very dark world of Kidnap and Ransom. How did you go about researching the nebulous activities, which I am sure most of us know nothing about?

CE As with all my books, I try and strike a balance between research and making things up which sound plausible. Include too much research in your novel and you risk it becoming a bit dry. Don’t do enough research and chances are your readers won’t buy into the world you create.

I find the Kidnap and Ransom industry fascinating (not least because it’s completely unregulated) and I read a number of magazine and newspaper articles that I found online. I also read James March’s terrific memoir of his life as an international hostage negotiator called, aptly enough, The Negotiator. After that, I watched some kidnap movies and read some terrific kidnap thrillers, and then I let my imagination take over.

TF How did you choose your names for the characters in this book?

CE It’s a hard one to answer, since I’m never entirely sure where character names come from. Usually, the right ones just seem to fit. Take my lead character, Daniel Trent. He’s mostly referred to by his surname in the book and I wanted something clipped and no-nonsense, much like the man himself. That said, Dead Line features a number of French characters and to settle on their names, I googled French first and family names until I found ones that sounded appropriate for the characters I had in mind.

TF What are you currently working on and where will it be set?

CE I’m writing a new standalone thriller which, like Safe House, will be set in the Isle of Man, where I live. It features a lead female character and all the action takes place during a series of Hop-tu-Naas (the Manx equivalent of Halloween). All going well, it should be published in October 2014.

TF What is your typical work day like?

CE It varies! Just at the moment, I’m working hard trying to get the new book finished in time for the end of the year, so I have my head down at my desk whenever possible. I’m also visiting primary schools on the Isle of Man for a couple of afternoons each week as part of an Author in Residence scheme for the Isle of Man Arts Council’s Island of Culture 2014 initiative. Usually, though, I’m a morning writer, so I like to get up early and write five pages before lunch. Afternoons are for family, reading, walking our dog or anything else that crops up.

TF What books to you tend to take when you travel? And where will your next trip be?

CE I’ve just got back from a brief family holiday to Switzerland, where I was reading an early copy of Eva Dolan’s terrific debut, Long Way Home. Most of my reading tends to be crime fiction these days, which I love. Where possible, I like to try and read a novel that’s set in the place I happen to be visiting. I’m not sure where my next trip will be just yet, though the very early idea I have for my next book would probably include a section in Switzerland, so I may be heading back!

Thanks to Chris and you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. And you can join TripFiction on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and when we have some interesting photos we can sometimes be found over in Instagram too.

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