Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Double Tap - My Eighth Book

As a writer the question I get asked more than any other, pretty much, is "where do you get your ideas from?'

It's a tough question to answer because the ideas come in different ways - from talking to people, from reading newspapers, from watching TV.

But my eighth novel - The Double Tap - came to me all at once. I was flying from London to Baltimore and while I was on the plane I got the whole idea, characters, set-up and plot twists. Everything. And the book is pretty much as I envisaged it on that seven hour flight.

The one thing that did change was the title. I originally wanted to call it The Judas Goat but during the course of the writing I realised that the title wasn't edgy enough.

It's the third book to feature former SAS sergeant Mike Cramer.  Cramer was a terrific character and I do regret killing him off.  It would have been great to have had three continuing Stephen Leather characters - Dan "Spider" Shepherd, Jack Nightingale and Mike Cramer.  But it wasn't to be - the set up of The Double Tap really didn't leave me a way out and Cramer had to die.

The story is about a serial killer who is a professional assassin - an assassin who always kills close up with two shots (hence the title).  The powers that be discover who is next victim is to be and persuade Mike Cramer to take his place even though it's effectively a suicide mission.

The book has had several covers over its life and to be honest I  have never really been happy with any of them.

These days The Double Tap sells more as an eBook than a paperback so I guess the cover isn't as important as it used to be in the days when all sales were through bookshops and you needed shelf appeal to sell.

I do sometimes think about revisiting the Mike Cramer character. There's no getting away from the fact that Cramer is dead, but I could well do a novel or two from his SAS days. I just wish there were more hours in the day!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Birthday Girl - My Seventh Book

The seventh Stephen Leather thriller is a stand-alone novel titled The Birthday Girl. I wrote it while I was living in Baltimore so much of the story takes place in Maryland, though the book opens in the former Yugoslavia.

In the latest paperback edition of the novel, the word "THE" has gone missing. I'm really not sure how that happened!  A few years after the book was published a movie of the same name appeared, starring Nicole Kidman, but the movie storyline had nothing in common with my book!

The story is about a young girl who is involved in the kidnap of an American arms-manufacturer in Sarajevo. He is rescued and the girl's relatives are killed - at which point the American decides to adopt her and give her a new life in the United States. Years later, when gangsters threaten the man's business, the girl tries to help him with devastating results.

Truth be told, it was a difficult book to write plot-wise, and I'm still not one hundred per cent happy with it.  It's a stand-alone book but I would quite like to revisit the main characters again. We'll see!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Long Shot - My Sixth Book

For the sixth Stephen Leather book I revisited some of the characters in The Chinaman, most notably Mike "Joker" Cramer (who makes a very brief appearance at the end of The Chinaman) and Mary Hennessy, who was a minor character in The Chinaman but who steps onto the main stage in The Long Shot.

I was living in Baltimore on the east coast of the United States while I was writing The Long Shot, and that's where the end of the book takes place. I was also learning to fly at the time so aviation plays a big part in the novel, too!

Mary Hennessy is one of my favourite characters - when I first introduced her in The Chinaman she was just going to walk into the garden with a cup of tea for her husband, Liam Hennessy, an IRA lawyer. But she refused to go away and ended up playing a pivotal role in the book.  Once I'd finished, it was as if she was in my head, insisting that I write about her again.

Mike Cramer was always a character who cried out to be written and I went on to feature him in book number eight, The Double Tap.

The Long Shot is basically a sniper story, and as I wrote it before the days of the internet all the research was done at first hand and I'm happy to say that I pretty much got all the technical stuff right.