Saturday, April 26, 2014

Interview with David Siddall, author of A Man Alone

Last year, Full Dark City Press Editor CJ Edwards sent me a manuscript by some British guy I'd never heard of. But CJ was raving about it, so I thought it must be okay.

It was a hell of a lot more than okay. It was a dark, focused crime thriller that grabbed me by the throat and didn't let go. I read it in one sitting and immediately told CJ that we had to wrap this one up. 

You can check out A Man Alone at Amazon US and UK

All Due Respect: Before I read A Man Alone, I had never heard of David Siddall. Where have you been hiding? Is there any more of your work out there that we can get our hands on?

David Siddall: Not exactly hiding, more keeping my head down. I came relatively late to writing, was first published in Supernatural Tales in 2004, and have had several short stories published since. These have been in various magazines and anthologies including: All Due Respect, Out of the Gutter, Noir Nation, Heater and online in Mysterical-e.

My ghost or shall we say, mysterious stories have appeared in Supernatural Tales, Albedo One, Dark Visions, Our Haunted World and Beyond the Realm.

ADR: Describe how A Man Alone came to be.

DS: The idea of writing a noir novella came about from Danny Hogan's Pulp Press. He was looking for novella length stories that would work for a train journey or flight and could be read at a single sitting. The concept for the story came from a photograph. One of the boys at work brought in a lads' mag. I think it was FMH. One of the articles centred on the urban myth that if you knew the right pub to go to, anything could be bought for the right price. The undercover reporter went in with the idea of buying, an exotic pet, a gun and some explosive. Needless to say the experiment was successful. Within a short time he was at some flat being offered snakes, venomous spiders and a monkey. The girl put him touch with a contact who supplied handguns to the underworld. The photo I refer to was the articles header and showed a black and white photograph of the reporter facing the camera. A half finished pint to his right, a smoking cigarette in an ashtray to his left. Cradled in his hand is a Smith and Wesson .38. It was so evocative, my mind started working immediately.
Unfortunately before the piece was finished, Pulp Press ceased to be. 

ADR: Do you consider A Man Alone hardboiled or noir? This one interests me because it has the tough, sarcastic protagonist of a hardboiled novel and the steady decline into the abyss of a noir. 

DS: Hardboiled or noir? That's quite a question and has made me think. Writing the first draft, I think I was drawn to the protagonists sense of right and wrong, the need to protect his family the only way he knows and has a hardboiled edge. Later as the editing began and what I call the real writing began, I was struck by the consequences of actions - whether they be from protagonist or antagonist, and the fact that force met with force will have effects not only on themselves but the people around them. In real life, dreadful things can happen when good people take the law into their own hands. I am drawn to the 'lone wolf' type protagonist and I would say John Doyle's journey has a strong dose of noir on the spoon. Fudging the question I'm afraid, but maybe a little of both. 

ADR: How do you think British crime fiction differs from American crime fiction?

DS: Generalisations I know, but when I first started reading crime, it was to the British scene I was drawn to, the Ian Rankin school shall we say. Wonderful stories and brilliantly written but somehow it wasn't my thing. Slower build, more intense, and still stuck in the Agatha Christie mould of crime committed, and the protagonist's journey to seek out the villain. My eyes were opened when I read Ed Bunker's Dog Eat Dog. Here was a man who didn't flinch from the cruelties of reality and wrote with the knowledge of his criminal past. With that book a whole new world of reading opened up, epitomised by the titles in the 'Hard Case Crime' imprint. Fast paced, hard, dealing with characters I recognise and with low down vocabulary I found easy to absorb. Since then I've discovered Tony Black, Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, Adrian McKinty; all with that same fresh zeal and living life on the edge with the dispossessed. I think in summation the difference has become blurred, and depends on which school you prefer. 

ADR: A Man Alone is a book about a single character, John Doyle. I found the title coming back to haunt me throughout the book, as there are so many ways, some clear and others subtle, in which Doyle isolates himself and insists on being independent. Did Doyle, as they say, begin speaking to you before you wrote the book, or did his voice and presence develop as you went along?

DS: Doyle is an interesting character. I mentioned before that I'm drawn to lone wolf type characters. I guess it's something in my nature. I'm fairly solitary and have been happy in my own company from childhood, and if there are problems, then I'm more inclined to try and fix them myself rather than seek help . Doyle came to the page almost fully formed. The photograph I refered to in Q2, showed a man alone, gun in hand, waiting. For what? I didn't know at the time but his resiliance, his manner, almost like a character in a western waiting for a showdown was too good an opportunity to miss. He also gave the title for the book. Of course as the story developed, subtle characteristics came through and I went with it. He's a character you could meet in any pub or workplace, friendly enough, sharing the jokes and banter, and yet he's one of those guys you never fully know, the ones who you feel always keep a part of themselves back. In Doyle's case, we eventually understand the reasons why.

ADR: What are you working on these days? Another book in the works?

DS: A couple of things. There's two short stories, one of which may be novella length. Not sure whether to expand or shorten yet. And I've been working on a full length novel which I've neglected whilst working on other things. About half way through a first draft.

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