Tuesday 1 August 2023

Tony Mott on Deadly Autumn Harvest

Thank you for allowing me to introduce myself directly to your readers. My name is Tony Mott, Mott being my mother’s maiden name, and I live in Braşov in Romania. I have written nine novels and two non-fiction books so far. I always knew I wanted to write crime fiction, but at first I was a bit scared of it. My first two books only skimmed the surface – a couple of disappearances here and there – but I’ve now moved more firmly into mystery and thriller territory.

I was born and bred in Brașov and consider it the most beautiful town in Romania. It’s unusual nowadays, when people seem to lead such a nomadic existence, to live in the same town all your life. The longest I ever lived elsewhere was when I was working for a multinational and had to spend three months in Bucharest and another three months in Germany. In my first five novels I did not have the courage to use Brașov as the setting for the whole story, but I’ve always enjoyed telling other people about the beauties of my hometown.

When I started the Gigi Alexa series, I decided that Brașov would not only be the backdrop, but almost become a character in itself. The atmosphere in the old town is very picturesque and friendly, the surrounding landscape is superb, with Mt Tampa overlooking the town. Gigi Alexa, the main protagonist, is a forensic pathologist and collaborates with the police. She loves her hometown as much as I do but complains that it’s boring (as do many of its inhabitants). Nevertheless, she quite enjoys the provincial languor, the quiet that descends upon the centre after eight o’clock at night on a weekday and after midnight at the weekend.

Right next to Mt Tampa (where you can see the Hollywood-like sign of ‘Brașov’) is Dealul Melcilor, Snail Hill, where I used to go frequently as a child. I’d been reading Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard and I thought it would be a good idea to bring back a lizard for my mother, as a stand-in for a salamander. She didn’t appreciate my present. There is a legend that a long time ago a dragon lived on Mt Tampa who swallowed up people, but that he was killed by a young man who tricked him into swallowing a calf hide filled with slaked lime. The more the dragon drank water, the more his insides burnt, and so he died. After his death, a multitude of lizards appeared in that spot – like the one I took for my mother. Legend has it that if you see a lizard there, you’ll have good luck for a whole year, but if you harm a lizard, misfortune will stalk you for three years.

I was at a film conference recently where they discussed filming in Brașov – how beautiful the town was and how well it would work as a film backdrop. We are in discussions about filming this series but I’m not getting my hopes up: the Romanian film industry is quite complicated and very few films and TV series ever get made. Of course, Brașov looks beautiful in every season, but it’s not just about the landscape but also about the story. I hope the story that you will discover walking alongside Gigi through the streets of the city will chill and thrill you.

All the things I read in my teens made me want to explore many different careers: lawyer, psychologist, medical doctor, police officer, detective. As you can see, they are all linked to my innate curiosity to understand how the human mind works, how we make decisions, why we often make the wrong choices, how we construct our real identity beyond what we choose to show to the world. That is how I started writing my non-fiction books, which are all about understanding ourselves, our drivers and values, how to have a sense of purpose and how we can help ourselves to be well balanced, at peace and at ease with the world and the people around us.

My other great passion was storytelling. I believe this is what unites us humans: the way we talk about the things we’ve experienced or the dreams that we have. Although I’m a very matter-of-fact person, I’m also fascinated by mysteries, and demand logical explanations which is what drew me to crime fiction.

Finally, let me tell you a secret: the best place to encounter Gigi if you ever come to Brașov is on the hiking paths on the hills surrounding the city or else on the narrow streets of the Old Town, including Rope Street, the narrowest street in Eastern Europe, only 1.35m in width. Since we mentioned legends earlier, it is said that the couples who kiss on this street will remain together forever.

Deadly Autumn Harvest by Tony Mott (Corlyus Books) Out Now 

A series of bizarre murders rocks the beautiful Carpathian town of Braşov. At first there’s nothing obvious that links what look like random killings.With the police still smarting from the scandal of having failed to act in a previous case of a serial kidnapper and killer, they bring in forensic pathologist Gigi Alexa to figure out if several murderers are at work – or if they have another serial killer on their hands. Ambitious, tough, and not one to suffer fools gladly, Gigi fights to be taken seriously in a society that maintains old-fashioned attitudes to the roles of women. She and the police team struggle to establish a pattern, especially when resources are diverted to investigating a possible terrorist plot. With the clock ticking, Gigi stumbles across what looks to be a far-fetched theory – just as she realises that she could be on the murderer’s to-kill list.

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