Thursday, 6 July 2017

Walk In Silence by John Gordon Sinclair

Today on the blog as part of the Walk in Silence blog tour author John Gordon Sinclair gives us an insight to the storyline, characters and inspirations behind his latest novel.

There’s no law that says you have to obey the law.” Keira Lynch: lawyer.

One week before she is due to give evidence in the trial of a man who put three bullets in her Keira Lynch sets off for Albania to honour a promise she made to Kaltrina Dervishi – a former client.

Before her murder Kaltrina confided to Keira that she had a young son called Ermir back in Albania whose life would be in danger if his whereabouts were known. Keira swore that if anything should happen to Kaltrina, she would make sure Ermir was well looked after. With the help of a two-bit punk by the name of Daud Pasha, Keira tracks the boy down, but soon finds herself in a situation where she’s not only trying to save him, but stop his life following the same path as hers… and becoming a killer.

Walk In Silence opens with a scene that mirrors a chapter near the beginning of Blood Whispers (2nd novel) in which we see the young boy Ermir’s grandparents being murdered, but ‘filmed’ from a different angle: The neighbours notice a young boy covered in blood outside their window and realise it’s Ermir. We then jump forward in time to find Keira Lynch already in Albania preparing to meet seedy fixer Daud Pasha who claims to know of Ermir’s whereabouts.

When Keira was just eight years old she picked up a gun and shot a man. Through troubled teenage years into adulthood there was only ever one question on her mind…could she kill again?

Keira Lynch – also known as - Niamh McGuire, first appeared in Seventy Times Seven and although important to the story was a relatively minor character. When I finished the book – set in the early nineties - I wanted to continue the story, but the main characters of Sean McGuire and Danny McGuire were not suitable to take the storyline forward.

Keira seemed the obvious choice. In her first appearance in a leading role (Blood Whispers) she is trying to come to terms with her childhood and what happened to her, but by the time we get to her in Walk in Silence she is much more composed and resigned to what she has become. It’s difficult to go into too much detail without giving away major plot points in each of the three novels, but Seventy Times Seven, Blood Whispers and Walk In Silence are a loose trilogy with the latter two books much more closely linked both in plot and character. 

Both books have action that takes place in rural and coastal Albania respectively. There were many reasons for choosing to locate the book there.

From the golden sandy beaches that front the Adriatic to the dramatic mountainous regions in the north Albania is a country of contrast.

The Albanian civil war in 1997 - sparked by a failed pyramid scheme backed by the government that saw billion dollar losses for its citizens - led to over 2000 civilian deaths. “Guns were the first thing we went for, then flour for bread,” said Aleksander Marleci, a local politician in the town of Shkodra, in northern Albania.

Up until the early nineties it had very few - if any- cars and the roads so bad that the police would pull drivers over for driving in a straight line: there were so many potholes that only a drunk wouldn’t swerve to avoid them. Including these small details elevates what would have been an ordinary driving scene into battle between driver and road. It’s one of the nuggets thrown up by research.  It’s also interesting to note that Albania is one of the only countries in the world to ban religion.

The Kosovo Albanian rebel group the KLA was formed in the wake of the conflict that took place in the late nineties. Most of those involved went on to join the Albanian army, the police force or the criminal under world. Even well established criminal enterprises like the Mafia prefer not to deal with the Albanian underworld because of their readiness to shoot first and forget about asking questions.

Albania can be as dangerous as it is beautiful - depending on the company you keep.

With the collapse of communism and the end of Enva Hoxha’s rule, Albania finally began to open up to the West and after a massive investment program was voted one of the top ten holiday destinations in the world by the New York Times. A troubled and intriguing part of the world with a complex narrative, it’s the perfect setting for the equally complex Keira Lynch to find herself in a spot of bother.

When writing I try to imagine watching the movie version of my book (a minor delusion). I edit as if I’m editing film; nothing stays that holds up the action. Even in conversations with my literary editor I tend to refer to Chapters as Scenes. In my self deluded state I can imagine having a conversation with the location manager who thanks me for setting the book in such a diverse and filmic area of the world.

Walk in Silence
 by John Gordon Sinclair is out now (Faber & Faber, £12.99)

The first time it happened Keira had no choice.
The second, she was protecting her Client. The third time Keira Lynch killed someone there was no question in her mind…it was becoming too easy.

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