‘In the Dock’ with Stuart Neville
Our fourth featured author ‘In the Dock’ is thriller novelist Stuart Neville.
Armagh-born Neville’s debut novel, The Twelve (The Ghosts of Belfast in America) was released in summer 2009 to excited reviews and critical acclaim.
Neville’s favourite writer James Ellroy said that The Twelve was:
‘The best first novel I’ve read in years. It crackles. It grips you by the throat. It’s a flat-out terror trip. This is some guy to watch out for in a dark alley.’
Stuart Neville’s latest book caused a buzz and has been heaped with critical praise on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ratlines is set in 1963 and is about a Dublin intelligence officer called Albert Ryan who must investigate the killings of several foreign nationals. When he realises they were all former Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government, and that he has to protect the infamous Nazi commando Otto Skorzeny, he tries to put aside his distaste at working for those he fought against twenty years before. Blood and mayhem ensues…
Stuart kindly took a few moments to speak to us during his whirlwind Ratlines US promotional tour.
Where do you set your books and why?
All my published books have been set in Ireland, primarily Belfast. I’ve set some parts of books in foreign cities, but the guts of the story plays out in Ireland.
Who is your most recognised character?
The protagonist of my first novel, Gerry Fegan. Even though he’s a cold-blooded mass-murderer, people seem to really love him. They seem to warm to him more than DI Jack Lennon, whose worst sin is being a bit of a womaniser.
Does your writing ever scare you?
Often. I tend to write about the things that frighten me. For example, I have a terrible fear of injury – the idea of even cutting my finger makes me cringe – so the physical effects of violence are often detailed in my books.
Are you a disciplined writer?
Not as much as I’d like to be. When I can, I try to work a more-or-less nine-to-five day, but it rarely seems to work out that way. It’s especially difficult when there are lots of publicity commitments to attend to.
Where do you write?
I have an office in the attic of our old Edwardian house, though I don’t seem to have spent much time there since we moved in. Most of Ratlines was written in the study room of my local library due to the arrival of our first baby. I needed somewhere quiet, so the library was the best place for the job.
Which book has had the most impact on you or your writing?
American Tabloid by James Ellroy. It showed me just how good crime fiction could be, and it gave me something to aspire to.
What is your favourite scene or line from any crime fiction book?
I love the closing line of American Tabloid, where Pete Bondurant is sitting in a Dallas bar as JFK’s motorcade goes past. He’s listening to the roar of the crowd, having plotted what is about to happen. He hears the the crowd’s roar suddenly fade, then: ‘He braced himself for this big f***ing scream.’
What tip would you give any budding writers?
Once you’ve written and rewritten your first novel, start writing another. Too many aspiring writers hang all their hopes on the one book they’ve finished without realising most published authors, including me, have written several before getting a deal.
E-book or paper?
Paper. We have various devices at home that can be used as e-readers, but we’re still very much a paper household.