In a fallen London, how far will one man go to save his family - and himself...
... or is it already too late?
Trapped in his top floor mansion block apartment in Denmark Hill, South East London, can The Man escape and pick his way through the crumbling ruins of the city, avoiding the violent gangs that now vie for supremacy, and find his heavily pregnant ex-wife?
Can a belated act of heroism wash him clean of his sins, or is he too far gone?
In a world where civilization has collapsed, what hope is there for the future?
This month, I continue my series of crime and thriller fiction author interviews by welcoming David Arrowsmith to the blog. We discuss his many sources of inspiration, the five important elements which should be in every story, and his three very different, but equally intriguing, books.
I started by asking him to tell me a bit about himself.
By day I work in factual television (documentaries) as a Director of Development and Executive Producer. I have over 20 years experience creating award-winning TV, and hold degrees in English Literature (1st Class BA) and Script Writing (Masters).
I was born and raised in London by a British father and Colombian mother. I have also lived in Hong Kong and Manchester, and have now made a new home by the sea, in Hove (East Sussex), with my wife and daughter.
Your book Nevada Noir is a collection of three stories set in and around the US state of Nevada. Why did you choose Nevada, and what was the inspiration behind this collection?
In 2016, my wife and I travelled from Las Vegas in Nevada to San Francisco in California via Los Angeles and including day trips into Utah (notably to visit Zion National Park) and Death Valley, on an epic US road trip. I was struck by the beauty and contrasts of the natural and man-made environments. The photograph used on the cover of Nevada Noir was taken while on this trip by my wife – who is a professional photographer.
These stories began life almost exactly a year after our return, as frantically typed notes on my smartphone – first in bed after waking from a vivid dream about an old man in a shack in the wilderness as a storm broke overhead, then in the shower, and finally on that morning’s commute to work. I just had to get the dream down in words. These would be the first paragraphs of the first story (The Last Storm) in what would become the Nevada Noir trilogy. I would return on and off to the world, characters and story I had created over the next couple of years – eventually adding two more stories to create a novelette in three parts.
I was inspired to write Nevada Noir by my love for authors such as Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, Raymond Chandler, Martin Cruz Smith, John Le Carré, Chester Himes and Lee Child - and by films such as No Country for Old Men, Hell or High Water; Pulp Fiction; True Romance; Paris, Texas and Fargo.
I decided to share these stories in 2020 as a response to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest book, The Drowned, and your inspiration behind it?
I embarked on writing The Drowned with the support of fellow author Christina Gustavson, a member of the Writers Guild of Sweden, resident of Sala and former forensic psychiatrist and expert on psychopaths. We connected via social media during the time of the pandemic and forged our writing partnership entirely online.
In your opinion, what are the five most important elements to an effective crime fiction story/thriller?
I think they vary for every writer, and every reader. For me, if pushed, I’d say:
Sense of place – almost all of my stories start with on idea about a location that has a unique and interesting sense of place. A look, a feel, a character all of its own.
Character – I’d like to think even in my shortest works I paint my characters vividly, with subtle details and hinted at back stories that not only intrigue the reader but also help them to understand where these people are coming from, where they are headed and why they might make the decisions they do. I always aim for greyer, more morally ambiguous characters – good people making bad choices, bad people tempted to heroic acts.
Jeopardy – for my characters, the stakes are high, physically or emotionally or both. They might be driven by baser human emotions or motivations – like greed or lust, or by nobler causes – love, loyalty, friendship; but they end up in impossible situations where they must make heart-breaking choices.
Immersion – I love to indulge in the sensations of the food, drink, weather, nature of the locations and events to immerse my reader in the sensory world of the story.
Pace & Action – my stories have plenty of atmosphere, but they tend to be quite pacy and leanly written, and are propelled by a narrative packed with action as the characters lurch from one encounter to the next.
What advice would you give to someone embarking upon their writing journey?
Don’t take advice! Seriously though, yes there’s some good advice out there – but there are also loads of nonsense rules and other barriers that can seem daunting and off-putting. Just start with jotting down some ideas. Start writing. See how it goes. Read lots. Be inspired by what you love – for me that’s not just books but nature, TV shows and movies, video games, music, food… The best advice? Just start.
I’d like to thank David for taking the time to chat with me. It’s been fascinating to learn about his approach to the writing process and his inspirations, and to hear his advice. Please take a look at his socials and find out more about him and his books on his Amazon Author Page.
~ T.G. Campbell, December 2023
CAPTURING A MOMENT:
An Interview with David Arrowsmith
When suspended kriminalkommissarie Gustav Kjällström discovers a girl lying half dead in the snow outside his cabin in the woods little does he know he's about to get dragged back into his former life as a Sala detective and right back into the case that made his name - the Lady in the Lake killings. As more bodies are discovered Gustav realises these new deaths share key similarities with the crimes perpetrated by his nemesis Pontus Öberg, some fifteen years earlier. But with Öberg still under lock and key in the ultra-secure clinic in Sala, home to some of Sweden’s most notorious and evil killers, who is carrying out these drownings? And can Gustav stop them before they reach their end game – and take from him everything he holds dear…
Your book Corona is a dystopian thriller. Could you tell us a bit about it and your inspiration behind it?
In 2020, when the first waves of lockdowns hit hard, I was living in a tiny flat in London with my wife and our 18-month-old daughter. I started to document the events as a kind of pandemic diary as notes on my phone (spot the pattern here!). Then I decided I wanted to use them to create something more – but didn’t want it to be a factual or autobiographical account of the real events as they occurred. Eventually I hit upon creating a novel inspired by the thought of what might have happened if the worst had really transpired and our civilization had crumbled in the face of a brutal and deadly second wave of Covid-19. I was inspired by the dystopian and literary survival horror works of J.G. Ballard – in particular High Rise and Concrete Island but also his Cli-Fi novels such as The Drought, The Drowned World and The Crystal World.
Corona is a story about the dark - and the light - inside all of us. It's about man's inhumanity, and humanity. It's a story in which the threat, the danger, comes from within us - not from the undead or vampires or even a virus, but from our neighbours, our friends, our loved one, and even (in fact, especially) ourselves.
It's also a story about fatherhood, and the fear and trauma that comes with the awesome responsibility of bringing a life into a broken and violent world.
It's the perfect read for fans of The Road, The Last of Us, Children of Men, I am Legend, Mad Max, The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later.