Here's the interview in full...
How Long is a Piece of Rope: Simon Swift
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It’s a genuine honour to feature Simon Swift, an author I’ve admired for years, whose Black Shadows has just been launched for Kindle.
A bit about Simon
Simon Swift has been writing for as long as he can remember…
A voracious reader from an early age, he fell in love with the adventures of hardboiled detectives Sam Spade and Mike Hammer. A Humphrey Bogart season of black and white movies introduced him to film noir.
After reading Politics and Philosophy at The University of York, he embarked on a 12 month odyssey of adventure, traveling the world. Alongside his odd pair of clean clothes and his stack of paperbacks, his most treasured possession was the notebook, which contained the chrysalis of his own hardboiled novel.
Many years later, the result was Black Shadows, a crime novel which blends fact and fiction. It attained a gold star on Harper Collins’ Authonomy in January 2010, on the way to becoming the all time top ranked crime novel and generating a record 1000+ reviews.
He is currently putting the finishing touches to the sequel, The Casablanca Case. In the meantime, Simon Swift passes the time trying to improve the lives of young children as an Assistant Headteacher at a primary school, playing football with his two young children and being a dedicated husband to his lovely wife.
As well as his family, his amazing job and writing, Simon loves most sport and giraffes.
New Jersey1935: When private detective, Errol Black and his fellow agents, are protecting an Irish mobster they get mixed up in the killing of Dutch Schultz. A gunfight leaves bloody chaos.
Ten years later, Black’s past is about to catch up with him. A young lady hires Black for a seemingly routine surveillance job, former partner Dyke Spanner is shot to death and Black is drawn deeper into a violent and bloody quest.
The search for the priceless Blue Tavernier Diamond throws Black into the line of fire ofNew York’s ruthless Tongs. To even hope to solve the mystery, Black must journey into his past where both the secret to Dyke’s killer and the clues to the hidden diamond lay.
Black Shadows is a crime novel blending fact and fiction. In the finest hardboiled tradition, it is filled by gangsters, beautiful dames, colourful villains and red herrings galore – this is the world of private eye Errol Black.
BLACK SHADOWS is a tightly written piece of noir fiction, inviting obvious comparisons to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. – Harpercollins
Black Shadows is Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy reinvented for the 21st century. There’s a real authenticity about the period; the setting – New Yorkin the 1940s – the characters – all coming together in a detective story that really hits the heights.
From the dramatic opening onwards, the reader is hooked. It’s a proven formula: a wisecracking detective, exotic female characters and shady gangsters, but here everything works so well. The sense of pace is perfectly judged, the short, snappy sentences adding to the excitement. Simon Swift is a clever, inventive writer with the ability to take the detective story to new heights.
I’ve read all the ‘greats’ in this genre over the years. There’s a spareness, a facility with dialogue, a method of developing a plot that makes them timeless. This book takes these elements into the modern age. Very impressive writing.
The acknowledged masters of the genre:Chandler, Hammett and their ilk are long gone. Make way for a new star in their firmament, Simon Swift, and his exceptional novel, Black Shadows.
Jake Barton, author of bestselling Burn Baby Burn
AND THOSE QUESTIONS…
1. Black Shadows is far better than anythingChandler, Hammett or Spillane wrote. Shit, I needed to add …in the bath to the end of that sentence. However I heard that Ellroy wrote most of his best shitkicking noir, with a rubber duck floating round his gonads and a radiant radox aroma, so I gotta leave him off the list!
2. You will just love my book if you like Max Allan Collins’ Nate Heller historical mystery series. At least I hope you will, that is where I aspire to be! You won’t like it if you read Katie Price biographies, although she would be a great character in it!
3. A barnstorming prologue comes from the barrel of a gun…
The shooting started as I was tucking into a nice, bloody porterhouse steak…
4. How do you see the role of food in the contemporary thriller and where does Black Shadows fit into the spectrum?
Food should always play a huge role in any novel. Errol Black spends most of his time in and around eateries. In fact scrap that, food plays a huge part in life, right? Without food we die, without strawberries we have a less exciting love scene, without porterhouse steak we have a less gritty hero!
5. How would it affect the direction Black Shadows takes if the action were moved wholesale to the set of Glee in chapter 7?
It would be great! I would love to write about a massacre in the set of Glee! Big Dan Washington would have a field day, with his two pearl encrusted pistols, firing away, whilst Errol seduces the leading lady!
6. When you’re writing, would you rather look out at the sea, or in at your thoughts?
Gotta be the sea every time. If the two can merge a little that would be just swell, but the sea is a powerful tool, just like the rolling hills and beautiful countryside I do look at!
7. When writing, do you start at the beginning and keep going, or start at the end and work back?
Neither! I have the germ of an idea and I just write. Quite often I have a whole stack of ideas that just need to be written in the order that they do. The editing and pulling together stage is a hell of a lot harder this way, but the whole thing is more fun! I love writing a mystery and not really knowing where the hell it is going myself until the end!
8. A great villain or a great hero?
Gotta be villain. Think Dudley Smith in James Ellroy’s LA Noir Quartet. There never was a finer anti-hero in the history of mystery / crime fiction!
9. Black Shadows will change the way a reader looks at…
Golf balls and nipples, female nipples that is! And hopefully traditional, clichéd private dicks. Errol Black is a new breed, without losing any of the old magic and appeal!
10.How long is a piece of rope?
Depends who’s throwing it!