Interview with Adrian Magson, author of Rocco and the Nightingale

Today I am delighted to welcome Adrian Magson, author of Rocco and the Nightingale, to my blog (you may read my review of the book by clicking here). This book is the fifth in the Inspector Lucas Rocco series but the first that I have read. Adrian has provided some excellent answers to the questions I sent him. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

1. Can you tell my readers a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a full-time writer of crime and spy thrillers, the ‘Beginners’ columnist in Writing Magazine, an occasional reviewer for SHOTS Magazine, have written hundreds of short stories and features for women’s magazines, invented a knock-down post for use on motorways, am a black belt and former taekwondo instructor – and most importantly, I’m married to Ann and live in Gloucestershire.

2. Can you tell us about Rocco and the Nightingale?

Lucas Rocco is a French detective posted from Paris (Clichy) to the tiny village of Poissons-les-Marais in rural Picardie in northern France (‘Death on the Marais’) as part of a government initiative to spread investigative resources to the provinces. His previous work means he’s accumulated some enemies, and in particular has been blamed (wrongly) for the death of an Algerian gang leader, Samir Farek (‘Death on the Rive Nord’). Now Farek’s brother, Lakhdar, has vowed to get even, and has hired an international assassin called the Nightingale to bring Rocco down.

Rocco’s big problem is that nobody knows the faceless assassin’s real identity. When it becomes apparent that there have already been two unexplained murders nearby, one of another policeman disliked by Farek, and one a minor Paris street criminal turned informer, Rocco realises he’s running out of time.

In the meantime, Rocco has to carry on his job, as it’s business as usual and crimes in Picardie, as elsewhere, wait for no-one. And there’s his elderly neighbour, Mme Denis, and the fruit rats in his attic to keep happy…

3. What inspired the book? 

Quite simply I wanted to try something else.** After writing five London-based crime novels (the Riley Gavin/Frank Palmer series) and the first of the Harry Tate spy thrillers (‘Red Station’), I wondered whether I could use my childhood experience of living in France and write a detective story set in the area where I lived (Picardie). It was a punt, pure and simple, just to see if it would work. It did and turned into four books and a novella. I’d been wanting to write a fifth for a couple of years, but wasn’t able to, and had got involved with other projects. But now it’s happened, and ‘Rocco and the Nightingale’ , thanks to David Headley and Rebecca Lloyd of The Dome Press, finally got to see the light of day, and I’m delighted with what they’d done with it.

** All writing is like that, to me, anyway; a try-out to see if I can do it. Sometimes it doesn’t work, other times it does. I like the does times best.

4. When writing, are you an architect who researches and plans everything in advance or a gardener who plants an idea and allows it to develop organically?

Well, ‘Rocco and the Nightingale’ is my 22nd published book and I’ve tried the planning route before, but always seem to go off-piste shortly after the opening chapter. I therefore wouldn’t meet the title of architect; but I’m not really a gardener, which requires a fair modicum of planning and forethought. What I tend to do is find a small nugget of something which seems worth looking at, then write a scene which occurs to me to see where it goes. (Yes, it’s that unstructured). That scene can be anywhere in the potential story-line, front middle or end, and will be in a long line of other scenes which I’ll set about stitching together to make sense. I suppose if I am a gardener, I’m the kind who tosses a seed in the air and wanders back later to see if anything has happened.

5. What is your favourite part of being a writer?

Publication is always top of the tree, but finding the story coming together and gathering pace is part of the ongoing buzz. I like the editing process, too, because that’s when you add polish and correct all those niggling typos, as well as spotting (hopefully) any bloopers.

Hearing from readers is a huge plus (especially the ones who like the books), because that’s when you find out which characters they enjoy – an important point when writing a series.

6. And your least favourite?

The gap between projects. If I’ve just finished one book, I often find I’m not ready to slough off all the research, writing and editing and launch immediately into another. That’s when I get restless and start kicking the furniture and wondering if that’s my lot. It doesn’t usually last longer than a couple of weeks, but during that time I write shorter pieces, reviews or catch up on my reading (and polishing the furniture).

7. Do you enjoy using social media?

Not so much. It’s a distraction when I’m writing and I’ve simply got a short attention span. I also dislike the negative side of it from those people who seem to enjoy insulting others just because they can. I do enjoy the humour, though, which can be shocking, subversive and occasionally give you a coffee-through- the-nose moment. I came off SM last year for several months for a break, and it was a great relief.

8. How actively do you seek out reviews of your books?

If you mean Amazon, I don’t. It’s lovely to see the ones which pop up elsewhere, especially from readers who write in (and with whom you can communicate), but being given a 1-star on Amazon because of the price of the book, for example, is less welcome. I also don’t ask people to review my books, because it feels pushy.

9. What do you choose to do when you wish to treat yourself?

It might sound boring, but I’m not much of a self-treater. (That doesn’t mean I mind anyone else treating me instead!) I do enjoy going to the afternoon pictures with Ann, though, because that means I’m beyond reach or distraction for a couple of hours, I can pig out on sweets if I feel like it and it reminds me of when I used to go to the flicks when I was younger.

10. What books have you read and enjoyed recently?

I most recently enjoyed ‘Bloody Reckoning’ by Rafe McGregor, ‘The Accidental Detective’ by Michael RN Jones, ‘The Liar’ by Steve Cavanagh (audio) and am currently listening to ‘Smoke and Whispers’ by Mick Herron.

11. Who would you like to sit down to dinner with, real or from fiction?

My parents. They’re long gone, but there are lots of things I wish I’d asked them when they were here. They were also great company and enjoyed a laugh.

12. What question has no interviewer asked that you wish they would?

‘So, Adrian, how excited are you at the impending release date of the new Quentin Tarantino blockbuster film based on your novel (insert title here)?’

AM

This post is the final stop on the Rocco and the Nightingale Blog Tour. Do check out the other blogs taking part, detailed below.

Rocco and the Nightingale is published by The Dome Press and is available to buy now.

Book Review: Rocco and the Nightingale

Rocco and the Nightingale, by Adrian Magson, is the fifth novel in the author’s Inspector Lucas Rocco series of crime thrillers. It is the first to be published by The Dome Press. Set mainly in rural France in the 1960s, the protagonist is a competent and diligent police officer. It is refreshing to read a crime novel with a main character whose work is not affected by troubling personal issues.

The story opens with a murder on a lonely back road near Picardie in 1964. Rocco and his team are called to investigate but can find little evidence other than the body. Just as it looks as though the victim may be identified, Rocco is taken off the case and assigned to protect a senior government minister ousted from the Gabon Republic in central Africa. Unhappy with this new role Rocco can’t quite let the murder investigation go.

Using trusted contacts in Paris, links with a criminal gang and the recent murder of a former police officer come under Rocco’s scrutiny. It would appear that an assassin may have been hired for a series of vengeance killings and Rocco himself could be a target. Although willing to take additional precautions, Rocco does not let this potential threat affect his work. When fellow policemen are gunned down where he should have been the extent of the danger is brought home.

Rocco risks the wrath of his superiors by travelling to other jurisdictions to investigate further. With a far reaching case to solve involving a vicious gang leader out to prove himself and a killer who appears to believe he is fireproof, Rocco’s willingness to follow procedure will only stretch so far. He suspects his superiors of ulterior motives.

Having cut back on the number of crime and thriller books I am willing to read, as so many merged into each other, this story proved worth making an exception for. It is comfortably paced with a good mix of interesting characters. The plot concentrates on solving the crimes without veering into unnecessary subplots such as romance. It is deftly written with enough humour and warmth to balance the gruesome detail of much of the action. Despite being part of a series it reads well standalone.

An engaging police procedural set before many modern methods of crime detection and communication became available. Rocco may enjoy more than his fair share of luck in garnering relevent information and in survival, but this is a well put together, entertaining read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Dome Press.