Today I’m joined by author Seamus Heffernan to discuss his debut novel about an American private detective looking for a missing woman in London.
When I first read about this new book I was instantly taken by the fact that it’s set in London, and when I discovered the author had lived in my favourite city for several years I was interested to find out his inspiration and old haunts.
Everyone’s experience of London is so individual – I never get tired of talking about it…..
Tell us the basic premise of your book.
It’s a detective story about an American PI working in London. He is making a decent living working infidelity cases but is pretty bored, so when (trope alert) a rich and powerful client hires him to find his missing trophy wife, he jumps at the chance. From there, the necessary twists and (occasionally violent) complications ensue.
It’s a mystery story, and while I certainly wouldn’t describe it as high literary art, it is a book that explores some tough themes: Loneliness, class, love, sex and loyalty. The protagonist, Thaddeus Grayle, never really fits in. He’s an American navigating life in a strange land, and then takes a case that plunges him into a part of his adopted city he has never seen before. For him, the story is about being an outsider in worlds you don’t really understand.
What made you choose the locations you use in London and do they have any personal significance for you?
Oh God, yes. I spent five years in London and loved it. I grew up in a pretty small place and since I was a kid I wanted to travel and live in a massive city. London was perfect—it’s truly a world capital and there are only a handful of those on the planet, so I felt pretty fortunate to be there.
That said, the end of my time there was tough. My marriage broke up and I went through a pretty long period of loneliness and self-doubt. There’s nothing worse than feeling alone in a massive city—I adored London but I could feel the city and its temptations swallowing me up whole. I moved back to my hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland, for a hard life reboot and I’m pretty sure it saved me.
A few years after relocating, I started knocking around ideas for a book and my narrator needed a voice. I could hear my own loss and that awful sense of urban isolation creeping into his, and decided to stop fighting it and let it happen.
The book looks at the underbelly of the city – where did you take inspiration from for the darker side of London?
Too many long nights in too many dive bars.
I’m pretty sure a fair few Londoners can relate to that…..What made you want to become a writer?
I don’t know if anyone “decides” to become a writer—you either want to do it or you don’t. That said, I had always been a pretty decent professional hack, hence having worked in marketing and communications for a long time. But fiction was always my goal. Eventually I just stopped making excuses not to do it, and started getting more serious about it.
Do you have a favourite author?
For sure, but I think it’s safer (and more fun) to list a few that have stuck with me through the years. Outside of crime fiction, some modern writers I like include Bret Easton Ellis, Douglas Coupland, Michel Faber and Lee K. Abbott. Raymond Carver and Anton Chekhov for the classic short stuff. I used to be heavy into comic books and find Brian Michael Bendis and Warren Ellis interesting.
Within the genre: Ian Rankin, Richard Price and Dennis Lehane. Finally, any of us who dare put “crime fiction writer” anywhere near a résumé must willingly genuflect to Chandler and Hammet, of course. And they totally deserve it.
Which famous people (alive or dead) would you most like to have a few drinks with?
OK, I’m going to cheat a bit here and force myself to not pick any writers.
My background is in criminology, so I would enjoy chatting with Fred Abberline and John Douglas. Abberline was the lead investigator for the Jack the Ripper murders and Douglas pioneered psychological profiling for the FBI, so I imagine they’d have a lot to talk about.
I’m also a sports fan, so I would ask Dennis Bergkamp (former Arsenal footballer) and Bob Gibson (former pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals) to hang out sometime. They were both geniuses in their respective games, but also delightfully cranky.
Finally, I’m really fascinated by people’s creative processes and how they make what they make, so I’d love to just be able to sit in on the recording of one of my favourite albums and talk to the musicians and producers involved. I’d spin a wheel and land somewhere between Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Big Black’s Atomized.
What are you working on next?
In no particular order:
• The follow-up to NAPALM HEARTS.
• A TV pilot script, a dramedy about the day-to-day grind of working in government from the point of view of the people who serve the public every day. A somewhat kinder, gentler The Thick of It, perhaps.
• Meeting agents.
• Getting by with a little more exercise and a little less sleep.
Huge thanks to Seamus for stopping by, I’m really enjoying the book so hopefully a review to follow if I can tear myself away from house renovations….
You can (you should) order Napalm Hearts here
And get in touch with Seamus here –
About the Author;
Prior to his writing career, Seamus Heffernan worked in education, journalism, marketing and politics. He currently works for a Member of Parliament. Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, he has called several places home, including a lengthy stint in London, England. He presently resides in British Columbia, where he splits his time between Abbotsford, Mission and Vancouver.
His short fiction has previously appeared in The Raspberry and Louden Singletree. NAPALM HEARTS is his first book.