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      Thrilling Time

      Thrilling Time

      Kevin Sampson is a Birkenhead author who has written 7 books, including Stars are Stars, Powder and Awaydays – which was made into a film in 2009. His new book The Killing Pool is the first in a series of detective thrillers.


      YOU HAVEN’T WRITTEN A BOOK ABOUT THE CRIMINAL UNDERWORLD FOR SOME YEARS NOW - WHY THE RETURN?
      Well, as with all addictions, my fascination with the underworld is ever-present, even if it’s sometimes submerged. Even when a writer is busy on another project, they’ll have several ideas percolating; some of those ideas can take years to fully ferment. That was the case with The Killing Pool; I’ve had the character of Billy McCartney and Liverpool as his stamping ground for quite some time. Over the last few years I’ve been as hooked as anyone by things like The Wire and all the Scandi-thrillers, and it’s fair to say that that gave me a bit of impetus. The common denominator was that all the books and series I loved had a terrific sense of place; Jo Nesbo’s Oslo, the Naples of Roberto Saviano, the different faces of Baltimore in The Wire. They’re all port cities and the cumulative effect was a massive shot in the arm - a reminder that the Liverpool is just as charismatic and frightening a backdrop as any of them.


      THIS IS YOUR FIRST NOVEL WRITTEN FROM THE LAW ENFORCEMENT SIDE OF CRIME ISN’T IT? WHY THIS ANGLE NOW?

      I tend to start with a character, and DCI Billy McCartney is somebody I’ve been working on (working with?) for many a year. It’s hard to talk in too much detail about McCartney without giving away key elements of the book, but my challenge was to find a new and intriguing angle. Every single book shop in the country has a crammed Crime section, so it’s very, very difficult to make your voice heard in such a crowded and well-established genre. My task was to come up with a great, page-turning thriller that also had a distinctive voice and an unusual flavour to it. I’m hopeful that The Killing Pool provides all this - but it all stems from McCartney. That’s why I’ve told the story, in the main, from his point of view.


      WHAT KIND OF SOURCES DID YOU DRAW UPON TO GET A FEEL FOR THE LIFE OF
      A COP?

      We all have one the greatest resources in the world, I’d argue, right here on our doorstep in terms of the news stories that crop up every week, on local radio and in The Echo etc. There’s a Romanzo Criminale every day of the week! But in terms of the minutiae, I was very lucky to have the ear and the advice of two former detectives who are credited in the foreword to the novel. I’m not sure how much they want their names ‘out there’, but their help was invaluable, and eye-opening.


      I UNDERSTAND THIS IS TO BE THE FIRST IN A DCI BILLY MCCARTNEY SERIES. WHAT IS THE PLAN?
      Mac’s speciality is drug cartels. The second DCI Billy McCartney novel takes place in Ibiza and Morocco. Future cases will take him to other drug-traffiking centres around the world; Amsterdam, Bangkok, Caracas...but his roots will always be here in Liverpool.


      WHAT KIND OF A COP IS MCCARTNEY?

      Very good question. I see Mac as a modern- day Caped Crusader. He’s quite internal, very much a loner. He only hints at relationships, past and present. Yet it’s clear that, central to his philosophy, is a desire to save or protect vulnerable women. As McCartney’s back-story emerges, we get a clearer understanding of the historic trauma that underpins that persona and see that, to a degree, Mac is acting out that role; The Lone Ranger, clearing the streets of violent and unprincipled men.


      A LOT OF YOUR SUBJECT MATTER TO DATE HAS BEEN RELATIVELY REGIONAL; FOOTBALL GANGS, SPANISH HOLIDAYS, LOCAL MUSIC AND HAUNTS, FRESHERS - AND MOSTLY SET AROUND LIVERPOOL. IS IT A CASE OF ‘WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW’?

      I’m inspired by my own environment; and my experiences have, to some extent, informed my fiction. But it’s always character first, for me. The backdrop and the palette is important, but you have to foreground your characters and make them central to everything that plays out in the novel. That’s certainly the case with McCartney and The Killing Pool. I don’t think anyone can suggest Mac or any of the characters is inspired by any of my previous lives!


      I READ A DESCRIPTION OF YOUR WORK AS ‘LAD LIT’. HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH THAT TAG?
      I don’t really know what Lad Lit is - but 70% of my readers are female so I suspect I’m not very good at it.


      The Killing Pool is out on March 21.

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