1970. After a disturbing murder case left London Metropolitan Police DI Chris Bates’ mental health shattered, he spent time recovering in an asylum before being released to a halfway house. He receives a photo of police photographer Helen Briant in Rome along with a message to join him there, with a hint she’s in trouble. With nothing tying him to home, Chris decides to go. In Rome, he discovers Helen in a desperate situation. She is caught in a web of blackmail, threats, and violence. And when some of those threatening her are murdered, Helen is hauled in for questioning.
Keen to clear Helen’s name, Chris is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. But the further he delves into it, the more complicated it becomes – and when more victims are found, the stakes become even higher…
The Big Thrill caught up with author Abraham Kawa to learn more about his latest book, THE RED DEATH:
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
I knew that I wanted to write a book that combined 1970s giallo elements with a Rome setting. While researching this background I found out about the Piazza Fontana bombing and the Golpe Borghese coup, and thought that a fictional story that would link these two together would be cool, especially in the shape of a serial killer thriller.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
Lots of Rome-set gialli, of course, such as The Fifth Cord, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and What Have They Done To Your Daughters?, but also films like Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, stories like Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death (which provided inspiration for the killer’s m.o. as well as the title), and the crime thriller soundtracks of Ennio Morricone.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
THE RED DEATH is the second in my series about Chris Bates and Helen Briant, who started out as a Murder Squad detective and crime scene photographer respectively and have evolved into more like amateur detectives here. In creating them, I wanted two young people who captured something of the essence of the late sixties and early seventies, as well as a duo of opposite temperaments – Chris is a reader, a man of reason and deduction, while Helen is visual, lateral and intuitive – but also meant to have their worldviews challenged through their interaction as well as the cases they investigate.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
Names and events are changed, and the plot is a fictional extrapolation on true events, but you’d be amazed on how much of the story of THE RED DEATH refers to actual people, happenings, and facts about a very dark and morally complex era in recent history. If readers get anything from it, I hope it’s an appreciation of those times, as well as a troubling realization of how the rebellious spirit of the sixties was twisted, broken, and reshaped by the establishment of the seventies – a continuing theme in the Bates and Briant series.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I’m putting the finishing touches on the third book of the series, which shifts the action back to Britain but in a seaside town setting – of course, it’s in the off-season and pretty bad things are happening.
Abraham Kawa is half-Sierra Leonean and half-Greek, and has been a teacher, an academic, and a scholar of literature, pop culture, and creative writing. His passion is genre stories and classic archetypes, which he loves to write with an eye towards what’s behind the tropes. Whether crime, thriller, or horror, his fiction goes for a poison pen love letter to cliché.
His books often reflect his avid love of film, comics, music, and cult movies of the past. He and his wife live in one of the quieter towns of Greece, spending their free time with family and dogs.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his Facebook page.