Today I’m delighted to welcome the charming Icelandic Noir crime writer Quentin Bates to the CTG blog as part of his THIN ICE Blog Tour. For this stop on his marathon tour, Quentin’s talking about the process of writing Thin Ice and rough justice.
Over to Quentin …
It’s not easy to write about Thin Ice. it was started so long ago, also finished so long ago that now I’m deep into another book and the details are starting to get hazy.
Thin Ice was started with the first couple of chapters written and then put aside while I finished something else (Summerchill, the novella that was published last year) and the Thin Ice characters gradually began to take shape in the background. Normally any time I had a long drive is when they’d start to come to life, with details scribbled down at motorway cafés.
It hinged on with Magni, the good-natured, burly, practically-minded former trawlerman down on his luck and lured into making a quick buck as hired muscle for a real criminal. That’s Össur, the wannabe crime kingpin who has the ruthless lack of scruples the role needs but not the brains, which is why he has always been angrily in the shadow of smarter criminals.
The other key characters, Erna and Tinna Lind, the two women Össur and Magni carjack when their escape to the sun goes so badly wrong, took a while to come together and there were a few false starts until the relationships between the four of them, stranded in a closed-for-winter upcountry hotel, started to gel. The alliances and animosities crystallised as hidden talents for survival appeared and the tensions ramped up over a large bag of stolen cash and the knowledge that the underworld as well as the police would be searching high and low for Össur and Magni.
I had written half the book and had no firm idea of how it would all come together before I started writing the police side of the tale. A good copper needs a respectable adversary, and once I had the bad guys in place, the parts played by Gunna and her two sidekicks, Helgi and Eiríkur, slotted in around the willing and unwilling fugitives, right up to the last fifty pages where things start to go badly wrong, or right, depending on your point of view.
I do like a good villain, but a decent villain can’t be entirely bad. There has to be something in there that you can sympathise with, as one-hundred-per-cent evil people with no redeeming features don’t exist. Or do they? Or are they just extremely rare?
Magni’s no genuine bad guy, just someone who agrees to do something stupid after a run of bad luck and a few beers. Össur really is bad, but with a past like his and the old trauma that makes him sweat with fear every time he sits in a car, the reader gets an insight into why he’s as screwed up as he is.
The bad guys are the ones who are fun to write. They can range from outright evil to mildly flawed, with every kind of variation between the two extremes and can go off on odd tangents, while the sleuths need to be fairly sensible – well, most of the time. That’s not to say I’m not deeply fond of my rotund heroine (even though I give her a rough time of it) and her colleagues and family, because I am. But a good villain and a crime is what sets the ball rolling.
I also like a villain who gets away with it. That’s the way things happen in real life as criminals all too frequently get away with the goods and live happily ever after, especially if they can afford good lawyers. I know that’s not to everyone’s taste and a majority of readers like to see justice being done. So while I also like to dish out justice, the form it takes might take you by surprise.
So is there justice in Thin Ice? Do the bad guys get off scot-free or does Gunna get her man? Let’s just say there’s some justice done, but it’s not what you might expect.
THIN ICE is published now. Here’s the blurb: “Snowed in with a couple of psychopaths for the winter … When two small-time crooks rob Reykjavik’s premier drugs dealer, hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show. Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season. Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eirikur and Helgi find themselves at a dead end investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire. Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accident hostages …”
To find out more about Quentin Bates and his books pop on over to his website at www.graskeggur.com and follow him on Twitter @graskeggur
You can buy THIN ICE from Waterstones here, or from Amazon here
And be sure to check out all the fabulous stops on the THIN ICE Blog Tour …