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Today we welcome Alan Carter, Aussie author of Bad Seed to Booklover Book Reviews.
When wealthy property developer Francis Tan and his family are found slain in their mansion, Cato Kwong is forced to recall a personal history that makes his investigation doubly painful. The killer is elusive and brutal, and the investigation takes Cato to Shanghai. In a world of spoilt rich kids and cyber dragons, Cato is about to discover a whole lot more about the Chinese acquisition of Australian land – about those who play the game and those who die trying.
(Fremantle Press, March 2015)
What inspired you to write Bad Seed?
Bad Seed is the third in the Cato Kwong Detective Series and fulfills a promise I made to myself when I first created the Cato character. At the time I made him a Chinese-Australian detective who was out of touch with his Chinese identity and didn’t speak a word of Chinese. It made life a lot easier for me at the time. But I realised I had a kind of debt to pay, that somewhere along the way I would want and need to send him on a journey for identity as part of his character-development over the series. An Asialink Residency in Shanghai during 2013 provided that opportunity – I learned a bit of Mandarin, lived there for two months, immersed myself in the city, the history, and culture as far as was possible. And Cato came along for the ride. That’s the character side of the inspiration for Bad Seed.
Plot-wise I was interested in exploring the property boom, the Chinese buy-up of urban and agricultural property in Australia, and the accompanying “yellow peril” xenophobia it sometimes evokes. All of that set against the backdrop of the 2013 federal election gave me plenty of food for thought.
Would you say Bad Seed is plot or character driven?
I’m obliged to say both. I was keen to see Cato’s character and sense of self take a great leap forward and so his personal and family life comes even more to the fore in this book as do the family lives of D.I Hutchens and Lara Sumich. But the main threads of the central murder investigated by Cato along with demons from D.I. Hutchens’ past catching up with him provide the main narrative drive from which the characters are forced to take a long hard look at themselves. Lara Sumich also shows a side to her character we haven’t seen so far. The general idea being to mix things up a bit: the strong become vulnerable, the hard seem soft, and vice versa.
Tell us a little bit about your main character.
Philip “Cato” Kwong is a detective with the Western Australian police. His nickname, derived from the sidekick in the Inspector Clouseau movies, was inflicted on him at police academy. Originally intended as a putdown by his colleagues Cato has taken ownership of his nickname. He is divorced and, by now, has a troubled teenaged son. Cato plays the piano and does the cryptic crossword from “The West Australian” but he’s too stingy to buy his own so he’s always looking for opportunities to beg, borrow, or steal freebies. He has a love-hate relationship with his boss, D.I. Hutchens, who accuses him of thinking too much.
What type of reader do you think would most enjoy Bad Seed?
Any fans of police procedural novels in the vein of Ian Rankin’s “Rebus”, or the Graham Hurley “Faraday” series, or Garry Disher’s Mornington Peninsula series, or P.M. Newton’s “Nhu Kelly” series.
How does this title compare to others you have written?
Having taken Cato from Hopetown – population 1500 with Book 1 (Prime Cut), back to Fremantle – population around 40,000 for Book 2 (Getting Warmer) – landing him in Shanghai – population 24 million was quite a leap. In some ways Shanghai returned me to the sense of awe I had for location in “Prime Cut” and provided again an extra level to the writing. Sharing, with my characters, the discovery of a new place and the excitement, exoticism, mystery and danger those places can evoke. “Bad Seed” represents for me a real step up in the character-driven side of what I do.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?
“Bad Seed” was written over the course of about 12 months. For two of those I was on a writing residency in Shanghai, able to write all day every day if I wished and immerse myself in the material and location I was dealing with. My best writing time is morning – I’m awake and caffeinated. My research involves anything from internet browsing, to visiting a location, talking to people. For “Getting Warmer” I was given a tour of Casuarina Prison and of Fremantle detectives office, along with a tour of the State Mortuary. While I was in Shanghai I met with a detective from the Shanghai Police Bureau and he shared his secrets with me over a boozy dinner. In my day job as a TV documentary-maker I had spent years trying to get access to such places and been turned down. As a crime-fiction writer I seem to have no such problems.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
My day job is as a television documentary director/writer – my main job for the last 7 years or so has been on SbS’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” genealogy series.
When I’m not writing I swim and ride my bike a lot. I’m planning to ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats (SW – NE of UK) this northern summer so training for that is keeping me honest. Also the German translation for “Prime Cut” will be released about the same time so I’ll be there doing some promotion of it – I hope they understand my jokes.
Do you have any other titles in the pipeline?
I’m working on Cato Book 4 plus a possible spin-off based on a character who appears in “Bad Seed“.
Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring writers?
Write a lot and read a lot and go for it.
Bad Seed will be available from:
Booktopia | Bookworld | Book Depository | Kobo | Amazon | Scribd (Free 1 Month Trial)
Alan Carter was born in Sunderland, UK. He immigrated to Australia in 1991 and lives in Fremantle with his wife Kath and son Liam. He works as a television documentary director. In his spare time he follows a black line up and down the Fremantle pool. He is the author of two previous Cato Kwong novels, Prime Cut and Getting Warmer.
Prime Cut won the Ned Kelly Award in 2011 for Best First Fiction and was shortlisted for the UK CWA Debut Dagger.
To celebrate the release of Bad Seed in late February 2015, Fremantle Press has generously provided 3 paperback copies for giveaway:
- as I’m paying for postage, 2 copies will be available to entrants with Australian mailing addresses and 1 copy for those with mailing addresses in all other countries
- extra entries for spreading the word via Twitter and Facebook/Google+/Webpage
- extra entries for registered participants of the Aussie Author Challenge 2015 – there’s still plenty of time to sign-up!
- entries close midnight 28 February 2015
- the winners will be randomly selected and must respond to my email requesting their mailing address within 5 days otherwise their prize will be forfeited and another winner selected
SORRY, ENTRIES CLOSED – Winners announced HEREUpdated