MORE FROM BRAZIL: THE LEIGHTON GAGE INTERVIEW PART TWO
Here is the second part of the interview with Leighton Gage author of Blood of the Wicked and Buried Strangers, the first in a new series of thrillers set in Brazil and featuring Chief Inspector Mario Silva. The concluding part in which Leighton gives us his opinion about Brazil's future will be posted next week.
Crime Scraps: Blood of the Wicked reads as if you find the writing process quite easy or does it take a lot of hard work to produce that smooth Brazilian style?
Leighton: It takes a lot of hard work. There are, I suppose, some geniuses who can rattle off line after line of brilliant prose and get it right the first time. But I’ve never met one, and I’m certainly not one myself. My technique is to keep re-reading what I’ve written (both silently and aloud) until it “sounds right”. That generally takes at least twice as long as it does to get the initial story and dialogue down on paper.
When I was starting out in advertising, I heard an ancient copywriter (It’s a young person’s business, so she was probably half the age I am now) make this remark: “great ads aren’t written. They’re re-written, and re-written, and re-written.” I’d extend that to novels. Did you know that Ernest Hemmingway was reputed to have written the last chapter of For Whom The Bell Tolls twenty-seven times? He once said, and this is a quote, “First drafts are shit.” I agree with him.
Crime Scraps: I think Blood of the Wicked is a perfect example of crime fiction be being used as an educational resource. Do you think that this is the most important papart of your role as a writer especially as most people know so very little about BrBrazil except that it produces great footballers?
Leighton: Some writers set education as their first priority, but if a novelist does that, I think he’s misinterpreting his role. People buy novels to be entertained. My first responsibility, therefore, is to cobble together a cracking good story populated with characters readers would like to spend time with. Once I’ve done that, I’m free to educate. And I do. With every book.
Crime Scraps: The main protagonist in BOTW is Mario Silva who is Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters of the Federal Police of Brazil. Does such a post exist and are Mario and his nephew Hector Costa based on any real people? Why did you make them Federal cops?
Leighton: If I may, Norman, let me take the last of those questions first: I made Mario and Hector federal cops so they’d have a mandate that could carry them (and my readers) to the most distant corners of the republic. That same mandate involves them in a myriad of criminal issues that are denied to Brazil’s military, civil and municipal police. Those issues include political and judicial corruption, dope smuggling, white slave trafficking, death squads and much, much more.
You won’t, however, find a Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters on the organizational chart of the Brazilian Federal Police. In the creation of that title, I have taken dramatic license.
That said, both Silva and his nephew, Hector, are very much based on two cops of my acquaintance. I can’t be more specific than that. Those gentlemen wouldn’t want me to be.
Crime Scraps: It is very good news that there are three more Mario Silva investigations in the pipeline can you tell us what broadly subjects they will cover? And when ththey will be published?
Leighton: Gladly. Buried Strangers debuts in the US in January of 2009. It takes place in São Paulo and will, I think, give readers more of a feel for that wonderful and terrible place. It’s about a certain kind of corruption in the medical profession, something that would be unlikely to occur anywhere in the first world.
Dying Gasp will be available in the US in January of 2010, hopefully earlier in Europe. In it, Silva and Hector travel to Manaus, the self-styled “capital of the Amazon”, where they take on the prostitution (and worse) of minors.
The Tenth Passenger, the fourth book in the series, deals with political ambition and corruption – and also with the drug trade. It some ways, it’s the most “mysterious” of the lot – a true whodunit. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on that one.
[To be continued]