Thursday, January 04, 2007

From “Chaos” to Crash

Every now and then, we like to step back from our coverage of crime-fiction news in order to check in with some favorite authors who haven’t been heard from in a while, just to see what they’ve been working on lately. In the past, for instance, we’ve reached out to David Corbett (The Devil’s Redhead) and Gar Anthony Haywood (Firecracker). Yet another writer who seems to have dropped temporarily off the radar is British TV journalist-turned-novelist Tom Bradby. I interviewed him two years ago, not long after the release of his third historical thriller, The God of Chaos (which went on to be picked as one of January Magazine’s favorite books of 2005). At the time, Bradby said he was 100 pages into a novel “set in New York in 1929, during the week of the Wall Street Crash,” and he added: “I feel very strongly that it is shaping up to be the best thing I’ve ever written.” However, his prediction that said novel would appear on bookshelves “sometime in 2006” didn’t come true.

So, recently I dropped Bradby an e-mail note at his Independent Television News (ITN) office in London, asking for an update on his efforts. In response, the author first corrected estimates of when his fifth book will go on sale, saying that “my New York novel is due to be published in May 2008.” He sounded optimistic about this delay: “Both Mark Lucas [Bradby’s agent] and I feel this is the best shot we’ve had at really cracking a decent global market and we’d like to try and have a year in proof copy so we can generate us much interest as possible before it is launched.”

Bradby went on to answer my requests for a title of this book and more information about its plot. He’s already revealed that the novel will feature Joseph Quinn, the protagonist from The God of Chaos.

To answer your questions, I haven’t settled on a name. The provisional title is The Bag Man, which was inspired by this quote from my research: “The man at the top was always a politician. And working directly with him there was always a high police officer. All graft was strained through him. He was the ‘bagman.’”--Leo Katcher, The Big Bankroll

You get the idea. However, I think the title will almost certainly change. In terms of plot, it is October 1929, we’re in the middle of an election and Wall Street has just seen the first convulsions of what will become the “crash.”

It is a lousy time for a banker’s body to be found in the middle of Wall Street.

Young detective Joe Quinn, who has just made it onto the [New York Police Department]’s main headquarters squad, is sure it was murder, but everyone else would prefer a suicide, because it turns out the dead man connects a massive Wall Street scam,
the mayor’s office, and organised crime.

By the time this has become clear, the body count has begun to rise; first, the mayor’s chief aide is found cut up in the back of an automobile in Central Park, then two other members of the scam are mutilated close to an abattoir on the East River.

The trouble is, the clues don’t really stack up. One of the men by the East River was castrated. The first victim, whose body was found on Wall Street, turns out to have had a plug of cotton wool soaked in chloroform put in his mouth AFTER he fell.

There is an explanation, but it’s an incredibly uncomfortable one for Joe Quinn to confront.

Once, long ago, his beloved, if distant, father was the NYPD’s number-one celebrity cop. His career went south and it looks like the dead men may have had something to do with it.

A young girl disappeared, but her killers were never found. A bunch of corrupt cops at headquarters buried the case. The question is; why? Is it conceivable some of them may even have been involved in her abduction? And if so who, exactly, are we talking about?

For Quinn, the unanswered questions begin to crowd in; why was it, exactly, that his parents chose to adopt an orphan girl from the basement that very same year--the girl for whom he now conceals a dangerous, all-consuming passion?

What is it about his father that he does not know ...?
In Hollywood-speak, Bradby characterizes his forthcoming novel as “L.A. Confidential meets Wall Street.”

Along with those obvious questions about plot and title, I also asked Bradby in my e-note where he thinks his fifth book fits into his evolution as a novelist. His reply:
I think ... it brings everything I have tried to achieve before into one novel; that noirish sense that everything is corrupt and no one is to be trusted, high politics, low crime, a really strong sense of atmosphere, time and place, and a romance with an intense family story at its heart.

I wanted to write something that had the all-round feel of a
Presumed Innocent, and although I must obviously be wary of making too many claims, I feel this is my best shot at it. It has just come together well, in short.
And what about a much-rumored U.S. release of The God of Chaos? Strangely, after Bradby’s first two historical thrillers, The Master of Rain (2002) and The White Russian (which numbered among January’s favorite books of 2003), found an American publisher in Doubleday, Chaos has still not managed to leap across the Atlantic--a situation that’s unlikely change at any time soon. “There are no plans for The God of Chaos to be published in the U.S. at the moment,” Bradby writes. “I think it will be much more sensible to get this [Wall Street novel] out first and then see where we are.”

Good enough. Sign me up for a copy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this (and the link back to the David Corbett piece, as I consider myself to be a major fan.) may I be so bold as to suggest an author for a future piece? Scott Phillips, author of ‘Cottonwood‘, ‘The Walk Away’ and ‘The Ice Harvest’ (recently made into a film, for goodness sake.) seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.

Love to know what he’s up to/when new work will be out etc.

Gordon Harries.