Comment • reviews • Nordic Noir • whimsy
Today we are joined by Matt Johnson as part of the blog tour for his new novel, Deadly Game. Matt served as a soldier and Met Police officer for 25 years. He was discharged with PTSD, and his counsellor encouraged him to write about his experiences. Wicked Game was the result; Deadly Game shows this was no flash-in-the-pan.
‘I wasn’t an avid reader during my active service. I used to find time to enjoy a few research works and some interesting biographies, but the time to relax and enjoy a novel tended to be restricted to holidays.
‘As a result, I tend to be quite picky, and I’m also inclined to be careful before I commit to a particular book or author. That said, there are a few books I’ve read over the years that have appealed to me and which I see very little reference to as a favoured choice of writers.
‘My first selection is The Stranger by Albert Camus.
‘Camus was a senior member of the French Resistance in WWII and, at that time, edited the underground newspaper ‘Combat’. Originally entitled L’Etranger, it was the English translation that I read. It’s not a long book, easily read in a weekend, and the story itself is rather simple. But the glimpses into the thoughts, intellect and feelings of the protagonist bring a magical quality to the writing. It’s a novel that taught me much about effective story telling.
‘My second choice is The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh.
‘In terms of style and genre, this might be as far distant from my first choice as you can go, except that we stay with the crime theme. I was a serving cop when I read this novel, something that certainly added to my enjoyment of it. The Choirboys is the story of a group of night-shift LA cops who spend their post-shift, pre-dawn hours in MacArthur Park enjoying ‘choir practice’ a past-time that involves a lot of alcohol and risk-taking. There is a very dark reality to this story where the group handle not only the dangers of their job, but also the fall out from their chosen style of relaxation. It is chillingly authentic and, again, was very influential on me when I started to write.
My final choice is a tough one as I’ve enjoyed many books by the likes of Peter James, Lee Child and James Patterson. Recently I’ve loved Amanda Jennings psychological thrillers, But I’ve been asked to pick three that are not, perhaps, in receipt of the kind of modern-day recognition that they deserve. I think of the many books that have influenced me, not the least of which was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, but all that came to mind are both well-known and praised.
So, in seeking a lesser-known work, I have chosen Harry’s Game by Gerald Seymour. This tough and gritty portrayal of undercover anti-terrorist work in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles set, to my mind, a new direction and standard for this kind of thriller. As with The Choirboys, the content of this story was the subject of my personal ‘authenticity’ test and it passed with flying colours. Although I read it years ago, I still have it near my desk and, from time to time, I dip into it for a few moments of quality distraction.
‘Many thanks for the opportunity to share these choices. Now, I fear my next work may well be delayed, as all three are calling me to read and enjoy them again, and I can resist everything except temptation.
Thanks to Matt for sharing these choices. You can buy Deadly Game here, and don’t forget to check out the other participants in the blog tour (see @OrendaBooks on Twitter). And come back next Thursday to find out who’s in…the secret library!