Interview with Adrian McKinty about Fifty Grand

Adrian was kind enough to take some time out of his busy life to answer a few questions about FIFTY GRAND which I was lucky enough to review recently.

AustCrime: FIFTY GRAND takes you into a slightly different place from THE DEAD trilogy in particular, having said that, there are also some similarities. Do you have a particular interest in the outsider taking control, stepping into the unknown without fear or favour?

Adrian: Hmm, that's interesting. I suppose its because I've always felt a bit of an outsider myself. I lived in England for six years, but I was always an Irish guy living in England. And then seven years in New York and again I was a guy from Belfast in New York. And in Denver, Jerusalem and now Melbourne, I haven't really felt that confident about saying this is my city. So I suppose these characters are a reflection of me and my insecurities about place and belonging.

AustCrime:: Revenge / an evening of scores is an interesting subject for crime novels. What is it that appeals to you about that scenario in general, and in particular, the way that family, no matter how fractured, is defended in FIFTY GRAND?

Adrian: I have a lot of theories about revenge. I feel that the contemporary world creates such a level of anxiety in people because there are basically too many of us trying to live in too small a geographical area. It's a massive and uncomfortable disconnect for a biophilic species from the African savannah. For forty or fifty thousand generations modern humans lived in small groups and dealt with things like murder or affront themselves; it's only in that last four or five generations that we have given over our notion of tribal revenge or natural justice to complete strangers i.e. the police, and we're still trying to cope with that. Revenge is a very powerful idea and it hasn't completely left us sociologically and never will.

AustCrime:: You interweave a number of fictional and real-life characters throughout the book. Whilst the "Hollywood star" component stands out, it's the cameo by Raúl Castro that was the most fascinating - probably because I know so little about the man. It gave the story an immediacy and perhaps a legitimacy that fictional characters may not have imposed - is that what you were aiming for?

Adrian: The Castro brothers are everywhere in Havana. Everyone has a story about them, has met them or has someone who has met them so I felt as if I knew them and they were such a presence in people's lives I couldn't ignore it. Basically Raul and Fidel have ruled that country as their personal fiefdom for half and a century and, incredibly, they are still going. I loved putting Raul in there and I think I captured him quite well, although, of course, I never actually met him in real life.

AustCrime: Having said that, did you have any second thoughts about the interweaving of the real-life people into the story / did the publishers have any particular qualms?

Adrian: I did go too far. I had to remove quite a bit of the book for legal reasons. I had a few conversations and emails with libel lawyers who explained to me that even if something is true, the burden of proof is on you to prove it. It caused quite a few headaches for me in the editing process and although I was going for verisimilitude in my depiction of Fairview (really Telluride) I probably should just have chilled a bit more and given myself an easier path to publication.

AustCrime:: Are you happy with the way that Mercado is developed? Is that character somebody you enjoyed writing and will anybody in this book be returning in a follow-up?

Adrian: I felt she took a lot of risks for a non risk taker. I'd be surprised if she ever did something like that again. Saying that though, I'd love to see her in a police procedural or something along those lines, a case which is a lot less personal. I dont have any plans for book 2 at the moment though. I've really got to get back to Cuba, have a few drinks, a few conversations with cops and the like...

AustCrime: And the great unfair question - which crime authors do you recommend / admire / would you say have greatly influenced your own writing?

Adrian: Perfectly fair question. The four biggest influences on me as a crime writer are Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith. Probably Jim Thompson is the biggest influence, but the one I admire the most is Chandler. His prose is so clean and effortless - the kind of effortlessness that requires tons of effort. In the contemporary scene I'm a convert to the dark church of James Ellroy and I love the Celtic New Wave writers: Rankin, Bruen, Burke, Hughes, McGilloway, McNamee, Downey, Neville etc.

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