Today, I’m proud to introduce the talented and gracious John Holt, author of numerous books including A Killing in the City and The Mackenzie Dossier.
Tricia: Welcome, John. It’s wonderful to have you here. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
John: I am a retired Chartered Surveyor. For many years I was a Senior Project Manager with the Greater London Council. When that was closed down I set up my own practice. I retired in 2008. I live in Essex with my wife and daughter and a cat called Missy, who has adopted us. I like many kinds of music including Classical and American Blues. For many years I wrote articles for one of the leading Blues magazines, now sadly no more. A list of my favourite books would, without a doubt, include Dickens. Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations just cannot be bettered. I would also include Treasure Island, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
When it comes to the movies, once again I hate modern movies in general. The greatest films came from the fifties and sixties. Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Cagney, Bette Davies and later stars like Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas. Not forgetting the great musicals, Singing In The Rain, Oklahoma, West Side Story and the Sound of Music.
Tricia: When did you begin writing?
John: I came to writing novels quite late in life. I had always wanted to write but could never think of a decent plot. In 2005 we went for a holiday in Austria. We stayed in a place called Grundlsee. This was the first of three lakes. The next lake, Toplitz, was used by the Germans during the war to test torpedoes and missiles. As the war came to an end many items were hidden in the lake, including millions of counterfeit pounds and dollars. There was also jewellery, weapons and documents. There were rumours that gold bullion was also placed in to the lake. Several searches were made, but no gold was discovered. In my first novel, The Kammersee Affair (soon to be re-issued as Kammersee under the Phoenix banner), gold is found, only in the third lake, Kammersee.
Phoenix is my own self publishing banner.
Tricia: What has been your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
John: That’s a difficult one. I haven’t won any awards or things like that. Two of my novels, The Marinski Affair, and Epidemic, were nominated for IPPY awards but regrettably they never won. I suppose to actually see my work in print, and to hold a proper book was a pretty good feeling. I, like most I imagine, have had my share of rejection slips, so to see the book sitting on the shelf of my local library was very satisfying.
Tricia: Which authors have influenced you?
John: Agatha Christie, the master of crime, would be high on the list. Alistair Mclean, Hammond Innes and Wilbur Smith would also feature. I was brought up on Enid Blyton – remember the Secret Seven and the Famous Five. Sadly not so fashionable these days, but great fun.
Having said that I do not write like any of them. I couldn’t hope to. I write in my own style, basically to please me. If others also like it that’s terrific.
Tricia: The character, Tom Kendall, appears in both The Mackenzie Dossier and in A Killing in the City. How did you come up with the idea for this character?
John: My first book was The Kammersee Affair. I then had the idea of a political corruption story. The Mackenzie Dossier. Having established the main villain of the piece, and the other two main characters I set to work. Then it happened, somebody got murdered. This was closely followed by a second murder. So, then I needed a private detective to solve the mystery, I couldn’t rely on the local police, not with corrupt politicians involved. Hence Tom Kendall was created, appearing about one third of the way through the book. He hasn’t gone away since. Tom isn’t the tough guy kind of detective. He doesn’t do violence, he doesn’t carry a gun. He is just a down to earth guy, a little overweight, who thinks things out. In that regard he is ably assisted by his secretary, Mollie.
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Kendall could just see the television screen. There was a photograph of Governor Frank Reynolds. Across the bottom of the screen the ticker tape announced in large black letters ‘Governor Reynolds Murdered’. The voice over was filling in whatever detail was available. Apparently his body had been discovered earlier that morning. He had been found lying in his garage. He had been shot twice. One shot to the upper chest, the other hitting his shoulder. ‘Police believe that the weapon used was a 38 mm calibre revolver,’ the reporter said. Kendall froze. Anthony Shaw had also been killed by a 38 mm bullet. Kendall was not quite sure of what it all meant. What connection was there between Anthony Shaw, and the State Governor, and the business mogul, Ian Duncan. And what about Senator Mackenzie? Where did he fit in? And who or what was Latimer? Only a short while ago Kendall was a small time private detective , a Private Eye, investigating an insignificant little murder with no clues, no witnesses, and no motive. In fact, no nothing. Now he had so many pieces of a puzzle he didn’t know how they fitted together. He didn’t even know if they all came from the same puzzle.
Tricia: Tell us about The Mackenzie Dossier and the challenges Tom Kendall faces in this book.
John: In The Mackenzie Dossier Tom is up against a powerful, influential adversary. He is required to investigate a minor insignificant murder. Then a second murder takes place and there are a lot of similarities. Suddenly from a murder with no clues, no motive, no nothing, Tom now has so many pieces he isn’t sure they all come from the same puzzle.
“Well, Mr Kendall, let us say you purchased twenty thousand shares in Rockford Metals today and sold them on Friday, you should make a profit of twenty, twenty-two per cent. Something like that,” Collier said. He paused and shook his head. “In other words, you’ll make quite a killing.” He paused once again and smiled. “But somehow, Mr Kendall, I don’t think you came here to talk about investments, did you?” Kendall smiled and shook his head. No, he hadn’t. He had quite a different kind of killing on his mind … the killing of Robert Andrews.
Tricia: In A Killing in the City, Tom Kendall plays a leading role. How does his mission differ in this novel?
John: A Killing In The City is the fourth novel to feature Kendall. After Mackenzie there was The Marinski Affair, and Epidemic.
In A Killing Tom is on holiday in London. Two days after he arrives in England a fellow passenger is found dead. Suicide say Scotland Yard. Kendall thinks differently. Once again he is up against a powerful adversary, but even Scotland Yard is against him.
Tricia: Do you have any advice for new or aspiring authors?
John: All I can say is keep at it. If you have something that you think is worth saying, then say it. Write what you want to write, not what others tell you to write. It’s difficult I know but try to be different. My book The Mackenzie Dossier was meant to be like a film noir, and Tom Kendall was going to be a 1940’s character. It didn’t work out. I couldn’t do the forties. So stick to what you know, and never give up.