©Dingena Mol and Crimezone
I have a firm and fast rule about never putting writers in a story, and certainly not personal experience. I also have a firm and fast rule about not believing in rules when it comes to writing.
So the fact I’ve broken both the first two rules in my latest book, SHOOTER IN THE SHADOWS, is neither here nor there. Readers always ask how books come about so let me be frank about this one.
Back in May 2018 I was in New York at the ceremony for the Audies, the annual Oscars of the audiobook world, amazed to find myself shortlisted for best digital original work of the year, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, narrated by the wonderful Richard Armitage. To my astonishment we won, and over drinks afterwards I found myself talking to my long-term friend and Audible producer Steve Feldberg, still pinching myself to believe that had all just happened.
Romeo was, like everything I write, finished in an apartment in Venice where I retreat to blast my way through manuscripts, away from phones, computers, people, desperate for the solitary concentration only Venice can provide. When I told Steve about this he said straight away, ‘There’s a story there. What if you locked yourself away… and found you weren’t really on your own. There was somewhere else too – and they had it in for you.’
Interesting idea. Steve wanted it for an Audible original, which came out last December. And now it’s a book – with an author as the central character, something I’ve never attempted before.
Let me say straight out that my Venice is nothing like the Venice my protagonist, Tom Honeyman, finds himself in. I stay in the middle of sedate Dorsoduro, a short walk away from the wondrous Accademia. Tom, a former hack who made a fortune from a true crime book about a double murder in upstate New York, got sold a pig in a poke when he was flush with cash at the Venice Film Festival: a rotting villa on a desolate former leper island way out in the far north of the lagoon.
While I slave away during the day then relax with a spritz of an evening, Tom locks himself in solitary throughout, no phone, no internet, no easy contact with the outside world, in the belief this will let him rediscover the creativity he so desperately needs to revive his career.
One problem: when the water taxi vanishes into the distance he discovers someone else is on the island. A mysterious figure who seems to know everything about him and his past, and comes with a message: the true crime book that made Tom’s fortune was based on a lie. It named the wrong killer. Now Tom has just days to rewrite his story and finger the real one… or he’s the one who’s dead. All of which he must do from his own notes, his memory and the additional material his assailant supplies.
So he starts writing and soon we’re dodging back and forth between the Venetian lagoon and a small town called Prosper where a teacher and her pupil, lovers it seems, died in a blaze by an out of the way paradise called Mohawk Lake.
Can Tom rediscover his mojo in time? Does he even know the answers to the questions his murderous captor is throwing his way? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. I wanted to write a story that was about the fine line between truth and fiction at times, and how easy it is to cross from one to the other. Tom’s a good writer at heart but as a reporter he was more than happy to bend the facts to suit the story. Now that’s come back to haunt him in the most deadly of ways.
He’s also a writer who, like many, has an almost superstitious believe that his mojo can be unlocked by some kind of magic talisman, like a solitary villa in the Venetian lagoon. After all it worked for Hemingway on Torcello just a few islands away.
Me? I don’t go for any of that stuff.
Now… where’s that Campari spritz?
Author Tom Honeyman has locked himself away on a tiny, remote island in the Venetian lagoon in the hope of finding the inspiration to save his career. Instead, he has an unwanted intruder, and a threatening deadline. Tom made his money naming the killer in a vicious murder in his home town Prosper in upstate New York. But the individual who’s infiltrated himself onto Tom’s island says he fingered the wrong man. Without access to the outside world, no phone, no internet, no means of escape, Tom must write a new book naming the real villain… or lose his life.
More information about David Hewson and his books can be found on his website. You can also follow him on Twitter @david_hewson.
An introduction trailer to Shooter in The Shadows by David Hewson can be seen below.