By Thomas Pluck
W. Soliman is the author of the Charlie Hunter marine crime tales, about a retired inspector who just wants to enjoy life on his trawler in Brighton marina, but finds himself embroiled when rough seas churn up a body, a mystery, or something that’s just not right. Soliman’s latest is LETHAL BUSINESS, and I’ve got the big “W” here to talk about Charlie’s latest adventure.
So, tell us a bit about your retired inspector Charlie Hunter and LETHAL BUSINESS.
Charlie’s a complex guy. His mother was a concert pianist and Charlie inherited her talent, albeit playing jazz piano. It never occurred to him that he’d be anything other than a professional musician—until, at the age of sixteen his mother was gunned down in front of him.
Everyone seemed to think he ought to ‘get over it’ and carry on but Charlie needed answers—something to at least explain why his mother was targeted. He abandons the piano and joins the police force but twenty years on he’s none the wiser.
Disillusioned, he takes early retirement and goes to live on his trawler. Far from being left in peace, some of his unsolved cases catch up with him, dragging him back to places he’d prefer not to visit. Ironically, now that he’s stopped looking he finally learns more about the fatality that’s crippled him emotionally for his entire adult life.
There’s always a love-hate relationship between locals and tourists, tell us a bit about the sources of tension in a Charlie Hunter novel.
Everyone seems to want a piece of Charlie—his ex-wife, his former piano teacher, his son, his father, former colleagues, some of the local villains he’s locked away and, significantly, Kara Webb, the only woman who’s got close to breaking through his protective shell.
Charlie doesn’t have a problem with local tourists. It’s the people who seemed determined to drag him in directions he doesn’t want to take that get to him. Why can’t they just accept that his piano-playing days are behind him and leave him be?
In your bio, it sounds like you were dragged kicking and screaming onto your first boat. What’s driven you to write about the yachting set?
Never waste an experience, that’s my motto. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that boating’s an eighty per-cent male preserve. Women have way too much sense to get involved! I was brought up in Cowes, Isle of Wight, the headquarters of British yachting, so I know about what I speak. I saw firsthand some of the crazy stuff men did on boats, in freezing conditions, just to satisfy some death-wish macho gene. No thank you very much. I stuck to horses for my recreation.
Fast forward a lot of years and the mid-life crisis that hit my husband. Light aircraft, racing cars and various other fast ways to kill himself didn’t hit the spot, so he turned to boats. The things I do for lurve! Mind you, sail-boats were out of the question, I wasn’t prepared to go that far, not even for him, but I did agree to a trawler similar to Charlie’s. It was a phase, I kept telling myself, and he’d get over it. He did, eventually, and in case you’re wondering, he’s into cycling now!
Still, all those hours spent gazing at the open sea and wondering what the hell I thought I was doing, served their purpose because they became the Hunter Files. I could write about boats from a position of survival, so at least I got something out of it.
The ocean has been a source of inspiration since Homer’s wine-dark sea. It is capable of both great beauty and destruction, and also mystery, because it is unpredictable and we never know what’s beneath the surface. What tribulations does the sea deliver in a Charlie Hunter story? Are any based on real life?
I agree that the sea is a great inspiration, but anyone with a lick of sense also has great respect for it. Listening to the marine weather forecast and knowing what you and your vessel are capable of withstanding is rule number one. In LETHAL BUSINESS Charlie is required to disable a boat mid-channel in order to save Kara from kidnappers. He does so by pouring water instead of fuel into one of the boat’s tanks. I got that idea when someone accidentally filled our fuel tank with water when we were in Croatia, so I knew it would work.
On another occasion when, thankfully, I wasn’t aboard, a boat my husband was moving around a dangerous headland suddenly conked out. They were drifting perilously close to a rocky outcrop when they realized something had worked its way loose in the engine room, knocked against the battery pack and switched it off. I used that one in a Charlie book, too!
What, if anything, would you like readers to get from LETHAL BUSINESS, other than a great read?
I’d really like them to get a sense of who Charlie is, warts and all. He becomes cynical and anti-establishment—well, don’t we all as we age? LETHAL BUSINESS is about politicians abusing their power to sway the electorate. I got the idea for it when I was watching the results of the last election in Britain and all the commentators seems surprised by the upsurge of support for extreme parties opposed to Britain’s ‘open door’ immigration policy. Not that any of our politicians would behave in the way that my ‘English National Party’ does, I’m sure…
Charlie’s getting made into a series for the big screen treatment. Who’s your ideal choice for the role?
Oh goodness, that’s a hard one. Actors would despair of me because I seldom watch films and tend not to remember their names when I do. Okay, he has to be tall, hunky and cynical, with a soft centre. Pierce Brosnan, perhaps, or a young Sean Connery. Okay, I ‘fess up, I’m a James Bond fan!
To learn more about W. Soliman, please visit her website, or join her on Twitter (@wendyswriter) and Facebook (Wendy Soliman – Author).