How did your setting of your stories impact on your writing?
Like many writers I regard setting as another important character in the story. I admire and constantly re-visit the Edinburgh of Ian Rankin’s Rebus, the Louisiana of James Lee Burke’s Robicheaux, Malla Nunn’s apartheid-era South Africa, and Graham Hurley’s Portsmouth. Some are more exotic and perhaps more or less pleasant than others but all are integral to the story. For me, reading a story where the setting is described superficially so that we could be anywhere and it didn’t matter would be like visiting a multinational fast food chain – they are the same all over the world and usually serve shit. So for me the setting of Western Australia for the Cato stories is important and plays into the history of invasion, of theft, of massacre, of sunny self-denial, and manufactured innocence which is the essence of crime and dark deeds.
Which location did you enjoy writing the most in your stories?
For me the location of Hopetoun on the south coast of Western Australia for the first book PRIME CUT (in France released as Morceaux de Choix) was a joy to write as it is a beautiful, extreme, and evocative landscape redolent with atmosphere and history. Perfect setting for crime! By contrast I set part of the third book BAD SEED in Shanghai – going from a tiny village of 500 people to a megacity of over 20 million (the population of Australia in one city) was also fascinating to write. I spent 2 months there on a writers residency and found it very inspiring – again, a great place for a crime novel.
When you visited France, which location did you prefer?
I visited France several times but most recently was during the summer last year where, as well as doing a three week French language course in Aix-en-Provence I also toured for a further three weeks. I think my favourite places were St Malo – the old town is very atmospheric and I like the coastline, it reminded me a little of the coast of south-western England which I had just cycled through with my wife the previous month when we did the Land’s End to John O’Groats ride. I also liked Annecy and the Alpine region in general – very different from the flat, brown, dry landscape of Western Australia.
What part of the French archetype did you discover to be wrong?
The French archetype seems to be that they smoke a lot, are arrogant, and quite good in bed. To which my good French friend (a native of Strasbourg) would reply – so what is your point? I found that two out of the three archetypes seem to hold up but I never got to test the third.
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