Wednesday, 9 October 2013

David Morrell’s British Venture

News is gathering from across the Atlantic about David Morrell’s latest venture MURDER AS A FINE ART, a historical novel set in England. Thriller readers know that Morrell is never one to stick to one sub-genre, as his work is varied from his creation of John Rambo in the blistering FIRST BLOOD, his work with Marvel Comics, his Horror Fiction, his co-Founding of International Thriller Writers [with Gayle Lynds] – including championing of Thriller Writing, with this wonderful book [co-edited by Hank Wagner] ITW:100 Thriller Novels

Shots first interviewed David Morrell at Bouchercon 2003 in Las Vegas, and the interview is wide ranging with part 1 here and part 2 here with an update from Mike Stotter here

So as part of his research for the follow-up to MURDER AS A FINE ART, as well as talking about this new book, David Morrell is in England currently.

Tonight Wed 9th October he’s speaking as a guest of the Manchester Literary Festival hosted by the John Rylands Library – details available here

Friday 11th October he’s in Grasmere in the Lake District speaking at the Wordsworth Trust – details available here

So what’s all the fuss about MURDER AS A FINE ART? Well here’s what NYT Best-Selling Novelist Katherine Neville considers of Morrell’s new change in direction in MURDER AS A FINE ART -

At first glance, Murder as a Fine Art - a jewel-like, meticulously-crafted historic detective story, set in the high-Raj period of Victorian England - might seem a complete departure for the king of the Thriller genre and "father of Rambo." It takes a tremendous commitment, not to mention a bit of a risk, for a writer like David Morrell, at the pinnacle of a long and successful career, to decide to create a work in a very different genre.

Morrell's secret weapon, which for decades has placed him at the very forefront of suspense writers, has always been his use of impeccable hands-on research: he has honed the art of seamlessly interweaving rich troves of fascinating detail into his plot lines and character sketches, so that we readers never feel - as so often happens with background research found in fiction - that we are being subjected to a tutorial.

Part of the reason Morrell's research has always paid off so well in his previous works has been his relentless quest to learn and master many of the skills he was writing about: flying the airplanes, loading the weapons, earning the black belts. He has rehearsed his characters' skills much as an actor rehearses a character role. But in Murder as a Fine Art, how would he accomplish this, when the story is set in the 1850s, and his main protagonists are a young woman who is self-liberated from Victorian constraints, including her corset!--and her father, a notorious opium addict! He accomplishes it, and brilliantly, by steeping himself so thoroughly in the context of nineteenth century London that, in his own words, he became "a Method actor," guiding us through the London fog (I never knew it was filled with charcoal!) - while acting out in his mind the roles of these real historic figures.

The "Opium Eater" himself, our lead character, was author Thomas de Quincey, a friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge who wrote thousands of pages that today largely have been forgotten. But his most infamous book of the day, and one that has long outlived him, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, was so scandalous that it topped the charts of that era and was preached against (perhaps with good cause) in the churches. De Quincy helped spawn the school of "sensationalist" literature, with his memoirs and essays influencing fiction writers from Wilkie Collins to Edgar Allan Poe to Arthur Conan Doyle.

Morrell has chosen to open his novel in 1854 because that date marks the publication of the final installment of de Quincey's equally shocking three-part essay: "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts," a lurid and gory description with pre-Freudian overtones, of East End murders that took place more than forty years before our story begins. The novel opens with de Quincey arriving in London for his essay's publication, accompanied by his daughter Emily, to learn that he himself is suddenly the prime suspect in a murder that precisely replicates those decades-old killings he'd so lavishly described in his book.

This wonderful set-up provides the real historic character, Thomas de Quincey, with the fictional opportunity to match his laudanum-enhanced wits against the villain's, while simultaneously utilizing his vast learning about the first crimes, and his personal understanding of the subconscious and sublimation, in aiding the police to solve the actual crimes.

Katherine Neville has been referred to as "the female" Umberto Eco, Alexandre Dumas, and Stephen Spielberg. Her adventure-packed Quest novels have been called a "feminist answer to Raiders of the Lost Ark," (Washington Post) and were credited with having "paved the way for books like The Da Vinci Code" (Publishers Weekly).

More information about MURDER AS A FINE ART is available here from Mulholland Books here and from

If you are suffering from the disease called “Not read David Morrell’, then head off to the Shots Bookstore and we’ll cure you of this ailment here and his back catalogue can be purchased as hardcopy or digital download from the Shots Bookstore here

Photos (c) 2003 and (c) 2006 A S Karim [from top to bottom]
Mike Stotter and David Morrell taken at Left Coast Crime 2006 Bristol, England
Gayle Lynds and David Morrell taken at Bouchercon 2003 Las Vegas at the Orion Publishing Party
David Morrell, Barry Eisler, Pat Mullan, Gayle Lynds on the Espionage Panel at Left Coast Crime 2006 Bristol with Moderator Ali Karim

No comments: