...Nick Brownlee on »Bait«, mistakes in Suaheli and Kenia

Nick Brownlee...Nick Brownlee on  »Bait«, mistakes in Suaheli and Kenia

Zur deutschen Version Gute Thriller sind nicht immer leicht zu finden, besonders dann, wenn man nach einem sucht, in dem es mal nicht um Terroristen und Serienmörder geht. Umso erfreuter war ich, als ich »Bait«, den Debütroman des britischen Autors Nick Brownlee, entdeckte.

Der Auftaktband zu einer neuen, in Afrika spielenden Krimireihe ist ein hochspannender Thriller allererster Güte, den man nicht verpassen sollte. Grund genug für den Zauberspiegel, den Autor zu seinem Werk zu Wort kommen zu lassen.

Nick Brownlee Mord in MombasaZauberspiegel: Hi Nick! It's great you've found time to answer some of my questions. So let's get started!
Before you wrote »Bait«, you have penned lots of non-fictional works. What brought you to start working on a fictional novel?

Nick Brownlee: I have been writing fiction since I was a small boy. One of my first stories was 300 words of red hot porn, typed out with one finger on a portable Olivetti typewriter when I was 10 years old. It nearly gave my grandmother a heart attack when she read  it by mistake.
I must have a dozen or more novels gathering dust in my desk drawer, and if BAIT hadn’t been published I’d still be writing them. I’m lucky: for me, writing is a job and a hobby.

Zauberspiegel: Obviously, writing a novel and working on a non-fictional book are two quite different matters. What are, in your opinion, the main differences? Which work do you find more difficult?
Nick Brownlee: I always regarded my non-fiction books as an extension of my day job – which was writing  features for newspapers. Lots of research, and making sure you’ve got your facts right.  But once the book was done I could happily forget about it.
Writing a novel, especially a first novel, is a much more harrowing experience. It’s like having a child: you create it,  nurture it, but then you have to let it go into the big bad world to fend for itself. You wake up in a cold sweat hoping it’s going to be all right. I just hope it gets easier the more you have!

Zauberspiegel: Enough with the small talk, let's get to the book. »Bait« is a thriller that takes place in Africa. In the modern Western society, many people tie this continent together with myths, magic and legends. Therefore many authors would have incorporated lots of mystical elements in a novel that is set in Africa. Not you. What were your reasons for writing a straight thriller without reverting to preternatural elements?
Nick Brownlee: I suppose because BAIT is, at its heart, a story about modern Western society – and what happens when its moral boundaries are breached. Apart from Inspector Jouma, my main characters are white men just trying to make a dollar by fair means or foul. They don’t care about the heritage and myticism of Africa.  To them myths, magic and legend is just mumbo-jumbo.

Zauberspiegel: Have your non-fictional works influenced »Bait«? If yes, in which way and to which extent?
Nick Brownlee: Not at all. BAIT was an escape from them!

Zauberspiegel: My next question is one you've probably been asked many times before, I'm curious nevertheless. The plot of »Bait« takes place in Kenia. Why did you chose this location for your first novel?
Nick Brownlee: I always wanted to write about a cop who solves murders using old–fashioned legwork and powers of deduction, and criminals who commit crimes without worrying about leaving fibres or hair follicles at the scene. But how do you make characters like that realistic in a world of increasing surveillance and forensic advancements?
A few years ago I attended a friend’s wedding in Kenia – and I realised that I had found my location. In terms of forensic science, it’s still pretty much in the dark ages. There is a lot more scope for crime. It’s also got crocodiles, which are very handy for disposing of people!

Zauberspiegel: Kenia, as you describe it in your novel, has a lot of beauty and fascination to offer, but there are also lots of dark patches and disadvantages. How much of the darker sides of Kenia are consistent with facts? How much is just your own imagination?
Nick Brownlee: Kenia is a melting pot of poverty and wealth, privilege and suffering, a place where the “normal” rules don’t exist. For a writer that is incredibly liberating, and for a crime writer doubly so.
My old editor used to say: “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story!” – but while the plots of my books come from my imagination, the background is meticulously researched to make it as authentic as possible. I’ve been to Kenia several times, and I keep up with the local newspapers, books and websites when I’m in England. In Kenia the truth is often stranger than fiction.
Obviously it is risky to write a book set in a foreign country, but when BAIT was reviewed in The Daily Nation, Kenia’s national paper, the reviewer pointed out a couple of mistakes with my Swahili, but that was about all. I was extremely relieved!

Zauberspiegel: With Jake Moore and Daniel Jouma you have an interesting and unusual investigator duo. Many other crime novels feature a far greater team or a duo that is composed of a male and a female character. What were your reasons for creating and teaming up the characters of Jake and Jouma?
Nick Brownlee: Crime fiction is a very crowded market and there isn’t much that hasn’t already been done. As first-time author it’s vital that my book stands out from the crowd, which is why I consciously set out to create something different, both with the setting and the heroes.
I also wanted to write a genuine crime thriller – in other words, a book that combined a murder investigation with plenty of white-knuckle action. So while Jouma uses his brains to solve the mystery, Jake wades in with his fists swinging.

Zauberspiegel: Nowadays, many thrillers include serial killers or terrorists. Why did you choose to revert to a completely different form of criminals?
Nick Brownlee: Serial killers and terrorists tend to be cool and calculating – and for that reason they are really boring characters to write about for 300 pages. My villains are vain, greedy, incompetent, psychotic and desperate.  Making their lives as miserable as possible was an absolute joy!

Zauberspiegel: »Bait« is the first novel in a series of books about Jake and Jouma. Was it your plan from the beginning to write a series, or did this thought occur later on?
Nick Brownlee: My plan was always just to get published! But once I’d been taken on by an agent the idea of writing a series about Jake and Jouma made sense.

Zauberspiegel: Your next novel is called »Burn«. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Nick Brownlee: More murder and mayhem in Mombasa, folks! Jouma investigates an apparent suicide which turns out to be something far more sinister, while Jake decides to take on the might of Kenia’s most powerful and ruthless property developer. Meanwhile the villains in BAIT have some unfinished business. The different strands all come together in the end – although I admit there were times when I wondered how I was going to do it!

Zauberspiegel: On your webpage you mention that there are two more books to come after »Burn«. Will the series about Jake and Jouma be completed by then or might it be possible that there will be more novels?
Nick Brownlee: I’m currently writing MACHETE, which is published in the UK in December, and SNAKEPIT, which is out next year, so far consists of a brief plot scribbled on a piece of paper. I’d like to write more in the series, but it really depends on how well the first four books are received.

Zauberspiegel: Ok, last question. You seem to be very fond of Africa, especially Kenia. In your opinion: Should we Europeans do more to support the African countrys in developing, or would it be better to leave them alone? And related: Do you think the kind of tourism that is practised by Europeans when they visit Africa is ok as it is, or do you think the average Euopean tourist should alter his attitude and behaviour?
Nick Brownlee: Pouring money into Africa keeps its leaders supplied with BMWs and palaces, but does very little to help the ordinary people.
In Kenia tourism is crucial, because so many people directly benefit from it. I am delighted that visitors are returning after the tribal riots in 2007 and despite the global financial meltdown. In my experience European tourists treat the country with the respect it deserves, and I would urge more people to go.
Kenia is an astonishing country and the optimism of its people in the face of often grinding poverty is inspirational.

Zauberspiegel: Thanks, Nick, for your answers and for a really great thriller!
Nick Brownlee: Es ist ein Vergnügen gewesen. Danke und beste Wünsche zu allen Zauberspiegel Lesern!

Der Gästezugang für Kommentare wird vorerst wieder geschlossen. Bis zu 500 Spam-Kommentare waren zuviel.

Bitte registriert Euch.

Wir verwenden Cookies, um Inhalte zu personalisieren und die Zugriffe auf unsere Webseite zu analysieren. Indem Sie "Akzeptieren" anklicken ohne Ihre Einstellungen zu verändern, geben Sie uns Ihre Einwilligung, Cookies zu verwenden.