We asked Severn House authors Eric Brown, Michael Gregorio and Michael Jecks to tell us a little more about the background to their new books. All three books are available now in the UK, with Eric Brown’s Murder Take Three out in eBook, and in hardback in the USA, on 1 August. Michael Gregorio’s Lone Wolf and Michael Jecks’ A Murder Too Soon will be published in eBook, and hardback in the USA, in September.
MURDER TAKE THREE by Eric Brown Murder Take Three, and the other books in the series, came from my fascination with the 1950s. I wanted to write a series that would be murder mysteries but also, as it were, documents of the time. Many things were changing: the certainties and values of the thirties and forties were crumbling, and many people feared another war, with the Cold War between Russia and the West ramping up. I found that the best way to research the period – as well as reading non-fiction books on various aspects of the time – was to read novels set in the fifties. In fact I found these a better source of the ‘feel’ of the time than many factual books. Novels by the likes of Graham Greene, C.P. Snow, Robin Maugham, Rupert Croft-Cooke and many others gave me a sense of the prevalent social mores, were a great insight into cultural and personal attitudes, and showed intimately how people thought at the time. Also, everyday speech was very differently then, and the novels of the fifties are a treasure trove of fascinating modes of dialogue. Above all, however, with the series I want to provide the reader with thrilling mysteries, interesting characters, and intriguing puzzles.
LONE WOLF by Michael Gregorio In 2007, our next-door neighbour was arrested. Just twenty years old, he and four friends were charged with terrorism. It was the lead story on Italian tv, front-page news in America. We were convinced that the charges were false, and we testified in their defence. After four trials, the case was finally dismissed in 2014. A carabiniere general had fitted the boys up ‘to further his career,’ the judge declared. A small Italian publishing house asked us to write a fictionalised account of the story in 2011. Our agent advised us not to, but we did it anyway. Their story had to be told! We decided never to publish ‘Boschi & Bossoli’ in English, however. The tale was too ‘Italian’ – political corruption, building speculation, innocent lives shredded to further the ambitions of a bent copper, possible mafia involvement… The truth was uglier than any fiction. There was a story there, but no narrative development. “Not even a hero,” as our agent noted. And that was when Seb Cangio came to life. A park ranger hiding out in London, a target of the ’Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia, Seb returns to Italy and finds the ’Ndrangheta in rural Umbria. We had a story, we had a setting. Most of all, we had a hero. We’ve been writing about Seb Cangio ever since.
A MURDER TOO SOON by Michael Jecks Jack Blackjack, professional pickpocket, was enjoying his life among the thieves, whores and vagabonds of London’s underworld when the Wyatt Rebellion began. In the first book about his adventures, Rebellion’s Message, he found himself thrown into the middle of the rebellion, with the three warring factions – the Queen, Princess Elizabeth and Wyatt – all seeking his head. Surviving that, he is perceived as a competent, deadly assassin, and now, in A Murder Too Soon, he has been hired by one of Princess Elizabeth’s men to be a lethal aid in her cause. He is instructed to kill a lady-in-waiting who has been installed to spy on the Princess imprisoned at Woodstock Palace. Although Jack is a reluctant assassin, there is a cuckolded husband in London who wants to discuss the sacred nature of marriage vows with him. With luck, Jack can escape London for a while, pretend to try to kill this lady, and then escape at the first opportunity with a profit. But when he arrives at the royal prison he has a shock in store: the woman has already been murdered. Jack himself finds the body. Which is fine, but with his reputation Jack is also the obvious suspect. So now he has to find the person who was responsible for the murder, while also not allowing his master to think him incapable.