By George Ebey
Richard Godwin is the author of the bestselling novels, APOSTLE RISING and MR. GLAMOUR. Now he is back with his latest thriller, ONE LOST SUMMER, a noir story of fractured identity and ruined nostalgia.
When Rex Allan moves into a new house in a heat wave, he has few possessions apart from two photographs of his dead daughter. His next door neighbour, beautiful Evangeline Glass, invites him over to one of her many summer parties, where he meets her friends and possessive husband Harry. Rex feels he knows Evangeline intimately. He starts to spy on her and becomes convinced she is someone other than who she pretends to be. When he discovers she has a lover, he blackmails her into playing a game of identity that ends in disaster.
Richard took some time recently to tell us more about his latest thriller and what elements are needed to tell a good crime story.
Can you tell us a little about ONE LOST SUMMER?
ONE LOST SUMMER is a novel about obsession, love, memory and identity, and much more. It explores the things that make us feel we have an identity and what happens when those things are removed from us, as well as the extent to which we can know anyone, even ourselves. It also about how much we understand the irrational impulses that drive us.
Rex Allen, the protagonist, might say it is about what happens when you forget. Evangeline, his beautiful next door neighbour, might say it is about being trapped and the things you do to escape. Coral, the character around whom much of the drama revolves, might say it is about reality and how easy it is to manipulate it. Harry, Evangeline’s husband, might say it is about lies and liars.
To what extent does obsession play a part in the types of stories and characters that you write about?
Obsession is certainly central to ONE LOST SUMMER and perhaps also to my second novel MR. GLAMOUR. It is an area I find interesting because I believe that despite our improbable rationalism and reliance on a scientific paradigm in the modern era we are still driven by irrational urges. There is a conflict at work within crime fiction, between what Nietzsche viewed as Apollonian and Dionysian forces, and if Apollo represents order in the form of law, the irrational occupies the Dionysian space in a crime novel.
ONE LOST SUMMER is in many ways a Noir novel. It is also a love story. Rex Allen moves into a new neighbourhood and becomes obsessed by his beautiful neighbour Evangeline Glass. He believes he knows her intimately, better than she knows herself. He becomes convinced she is someone other than who she pretends to be. When he finds out she has a lover, he blackmails her into playing a game of identity that ends in disaster.
What elements do you feel are essential to telling a good crime story?
I think it depends on the type of novel, but strong characters will usually carry a story. I think the author has to balance the reader’s desire to read about crimes and his need to feel a safe detachment from the events the novel is narrating. If you want your hero to remain sympathetic the old adage is torture him. Let the villain seem to be wining for most of the novel.
What creative works (both literary and in other art forms) have influenced your own creativity over the years?
Influences are hard to determine. If I mentioned the key writers and artists who have made an impact on me the list would include:
Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, TS Eliot, Beckett, Elmore Leonard, James Lee Burke, Cormac McCarthy, Graham Greene, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, most of the Italian Renaissance, especially Caravaggio, also Van Gogh, Dali, Picasso, among any others.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I am under contract with Black Jackal Books for my next crime novel for 2014. I have also signed a contract with Italian publisher Atlantis, to write a mini-series and a novel for Christmas. It takes place in various European cities, with an emphasis on the crime of each city and with a Noir feel. Both the series and novel will be published in English and Italian.
I am being interviewed on the BBC this month about ONE LOST SUMMER and I will be talking at Oxford University in August. Between now and then I am book touring the UK and the East Coast of the US in June and July. My first novel, APOSTLE RISING, has just sold foreign rights to Italy and Slovenia, and I may visit both countries this summer.
Richard Godwin is the author of bestselling novels APOSTLE RISING and MR. GLAMOUR. ONE LOST SUMMER is a Noir story of fractured identity and ruined nostalgia, and his third novel. He was born in London and obtained a BA and MA in English and American Literature from King’s College London where he also lectured. He is a widely published author with 29 distinct works to his name. His writing has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He is also a skilled interviewer.
A full list of his works can be found at his website.