Crime writer Alan Carter gives us the skinny on his Trump-inspired new novel in the Nick Chester series
It’s release month for the second book in Alan Carter’s award-winning Nick Chester series. We asked Alan to tell us more.
Tell us about Doom Creek.
Doom Creek is the sequel to the Ngaio Marsh award-winning Marlborough Man. Exiled Geordie cop Nick Chester has vanquished the UK villains that sent him into hiding in remote New Zealand and is ready to settle into the quiet life with his family in their rural small-town South Island idyll. No such luck. There’s a new gold rush in the Wakamarina valley and cowboy prospectors are causing no end of grief. On top of that a bunch of gun-toting American Doomsday preppers have decided to set up their post-apocalypse bolthole in the neighbourhood. It doesn’t take long for the bodies to pile up. For one, the finger points firmly at the Doomsday preppers. The other seems to be a cold case tying in to the activities of a scandal-plagued religious sect on the west coast. Nick has his work cut out, plus a few personal dramas of his own to face.
Who is your favourite character, Nick Chester or Cato Kwong, and why?
The diplomatic answer is that I love them both equally. Cato is, on the whole, a nicer person. My good angel, if you like. But I feel very familiar with Nick Chester – maybe because I’ve made him a Geordie exile who sometimes wonders how the hell he ended up where he did. Obviously, we share a whole load of cultural reference points, funny that. I suppose the other thing that perhaps ties me closer to Nick is the use of first-person present tense to tell his story. I’m inside his head a lot. That can be both good and bad.
Your book was partly inspired by the effects of Trump being elected. Is the current situation giving you a lot of fodder for book three?
I was ten k’s up the dead-end Wakamarina Valley when Trump was elected. It felt like the right place to be (as far away as possible). It would emerge over coming months that many others were thinking the same thing and there were reports in the local news media of cashed-up American Doomsday preppers buying up chunks of NZ soil. Is the Trump nightmare over? I’d like to think so, but the damage he’s left both locally and globally will take longer to get over. The damage to the concepts of truth and lies, fake and real, right and wrong has been corrosive and infectious. I’ve found the Covid thing, in terms of writing, quite paralysing. Everybody has been saying, ‘Gee, you must be relishing all that lockdown time and all the inspiration of the current crazy times.’ But no, when the times are this crazy you realise you can’t make this s**t up. But someday soon the first of many Covid-cloaked mysteries will appear. So maybe I should just knuckle down.
Describe a typical day in the life of Alan Carter, crime writer.
The day usually starts with either a walk down to the Margate waterfront – a peaceful park looking onto the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, or a swim either at the pool or at nearby Kingston Beach – wetsuit obligatory. Gloves and boots sometimes too. Or a bike ride up and down the hills in the area. Then, assuming I’m not paralysed by Covid-inspired writer’s block, it’s a day at the writing desk. Late morning I’ll go and check if the chooks have laid any eggs and if they’ve been good girls I’ll let them out to roam free-range for a while (sorry if all that sounds a bit Handmaid’s Tale-ish. Blessed day.)
Which books are on your TBR pile for the Christmas holidays?
I’m currently reading Garry Disher’s Consolation. I have to confess to being a Disher fanboy and I’d probably blush in his presence. I’m also looking forward to catching up with the ongoing adventures of Frank Swann in David Whish-Wilson’s Shore Leave along with Jock Serong’s The Burning Island and Jane Harper’s The Survivors.
You’re also featuring in the book How to Be an Author: The Business of Being a Writer. What is your top tip for aspiring crime writers?
Read a lot of crime. Read for pleasure and then read again, actively looking for what made it pleasurable, what worked, what didn’t, what tricks were used, what made you care about the characters, what drew you to their world.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Will Nick Chester ride again? Not telling.
Doom Creek by Alan Carter is available in all good bookstores and online. You can catch Alan online at A Shot in the Dark with Fiona Stager of Avid Reader on Facebook Live at 5 pm AWST / 8 pm AEDT on Wednesday 9 December.