Tuesday, 31 January 2017

GETTING INTO A CAT FLAP-REVIEW AND EXCLUSIVE AUTHOR INTERVIEW


Hitting the doormat at the Volcano recently, Cat Flap is the latest novel from Yorkshire-based author Ian Jarvis. Available from MX publishing, Amazon, Foyles and probably a seedy gent in the local pub, the book is attractively priced at £11.99, or 13.99 if you live in 'Euros.' Me neither; never heard of the place. There's a Kindle version for you trendy young things at £5.99 and I would suspect, an Audio Book is probably in the works as MX do a nice line in Audio Books. Weighing in at 344 pages (the book actually weighs 907 grams...), with an evocative cover featuring the Shambles, an ancient and distinctive part of the City of York. It's in and around this medieval city that the action takes place. Bernard Quist is a Consulting Detective, very much in the Sherlock Holmes tradition, but with his own unique personality; Jarvis isn't into cloning here-the character is solitary, exceptionally gifted and smart... but there the similarity ends. Apart from the Calabash pipe he keeps in his desk...


Quist's employee and protégé is one John Watson, a street-smart black kid who seems to have taken the job for a laugh and provides much of the subsequent laughter along the way. This is a lucky thing as the going gets very dark, very gory and extremely sinister. Purists be warned; don't moan, the author hasn't 'made Watson black'-this isn't Idris Elba and James Bond, this is an entirely new character who happens to have that name and happens to be the protagonist's companion. This isn't splitting hairs as the character really is a fresh, lively addition to the proceedings.


The story revolves around a conspiracy to murder women, a mysterious and secretive pharmaceutical company and a nebulous and shadowy organization known as 'The Elite'. Along with Watson and a hilarious playboy named Rex Grant, Quist must solve the murders, unveil the secrets of the pharma company and penetrate to the heart of the Elite. As if this wasn't enough for any novel, there's an ancient and evil aspect to the organization that lifts the whole story from the realms of detective fiction into the supernatural.


Now, the book does contain the efficacious word and a few others, some of the humour is dark and not always politically correct (Which is why we love it here!) so be warned, it's not Enid Blyton, but the humour turns what would otherwise be a quality horror-slash murder-mystery into a genuinely fun and enjoyable tale. The jokes are fairly relentless at times, very apt, dry and funny. Readers from foreign climes might be taken aback at some of the humour here, but it's typical British 'I may be about to die horribly, but I'm damned if I'm going out without a quick gag' stuff and it keeps you smiling throughout. Holmes fans will also appreciate the 'Easter Eggs' sprinkled through the narrative; for examples, the Grimpen Housing Estate and a character named Atwill are just two of the many. This isn't a Sherlock Holmes story per se, but a bold and clever move away from the traditional, with unique characters and settings that bring the idea of Sleuth and Sidekick right into 2017. Refreshingly, the Police aren't all wooden-headed dunces gaping in admiration as the Hero shows them up for fools; they simply don't know how to deal with the nature of the crimes they face and are shown as flesh and blood humans. Sometimes a little less flesh and more blood than they'd like...


Should you buy Cat Flap?; well, for £11.99 you could buy an impressive pile of elastic bands, to say naught of the paper-clip possibilities. Where's the fun in that?; buy the book, have some laughs, see if you can solve the mystery with Bernie Quist!. Our rating is 4.9 out of 5 here, but we might be jealous, so see what you think...




EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR IAN JARVIS

How did you get from fighting fires to becoming an author?

I spent three decades with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, attending 
countless blazes and traffic accidents, many involving fatalities, 
along with chemical incidents and water rescues. I retired in 2014 and 
I wasn’t sorry; I miss the camaraderie and constant humour, but 
certainly not the incidents. You’d probably need to question the 
mental health of anyone who actually missed fires and car smashes. 
One job that’s difficult to forget involved walking out of a house fire 
seconds before the whole building exploded. Fire engines are fitted 
with cameras and you can see the footage on YouTube if you type in 
‘Castleford gas explosion’. I’ve been writing stories and magazine 
articles since 97, although it’s only recently that I’ve become serious 
about this and swapped the fire hose for a laptop. This was mostly 
due to my retirement, and the fact that a laptop is useless for 
extinguishing blazes.

 
Who are your favourite authors?

I started reading at a very young age, but weirdly I’ve never had an 
all-time favourite. After watching Thunderball when I was about 
eight, I got my mother to buy me the novel followed by the others 
in the James Bond series. I loved Ian Fleming, although the books 
were very different to the films and I remember wondering what 
some of the words meant; words like bastard and buttocks. Many kids 
at my school detested reading the set works in English Lit’ – they saw 
it as a chore – but I couldn’t see the problem and read them twice over 
before the exams. At thirteen I was into the Dennis Wheatley occult 
novels, and later I discovered all the horror writers including Stephen 
King. I visited his house in Maine last year to take pictures, including 
the obligatory one of his spider-web gates. I’m available for stalking 
duties most weekends.

Where did the character of Bernie Quist come from? Is he based on 
real-life people for instance?

Quist is a contemporary Sherlock Holmes and I was originally going 
to base him on Basil Rathbone. Before I read Conan Doyle’s books, I 
grew up with the old films starring Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Jeremy 
Brett was the best and most accurate portrayal of Holmes, but my 
heart will always belong to this earlier pair, although why the genius 
detective would have Bruce’s character assisting him is a bigger 
mystery than any of his cases. Bumbling and dafter than a brush, 
Bruce’s Watson would make a wonderful friend, but he wouldn’t be 
your first choice as an ally when facing Moriarty. In making Quist 
modern, he lost the Rathbone similarities and, don’t ask me why, but 
I often had Hugh Grant in mind when visualising his looks and 
eloquent voice. I have to admit, there’s quite a bit of me in there too.

 

Are you writing the next Quist mystery and, if so, can you drop any 
hints as to the direction it’s taking him?

The next mystery, the Music of Sound, is finished and will be out soon. 
There are some hints in the rear cover blurb…
A contemporary Sherlock Holmes, Bernie Quist operates as a 
consultant detective from Baker Avenue in the city of York. His 
personality and deductive methods resemble the celebrated sleuth 
and his assistant is named Watson, although this Watson is a youth 
from the Grimpen housing estate and he's definitely no doctor. The 
mismatched duo take on bizarre cases which invariably lead into the 
realms of the supernatural, a shadowy world Quist is all too familiar 
with.

Their friend Rex Grant has disappeared from an Edinburgh hotel. He 
vanished without paying the bill, but the police seem more concerned 
with the murdered girl in his room. Quist and Watson are intrigued by 
Rex’s connection to the superstar singer Ligeia and the lethal 
mercenary soldiers who act as her management team. Irana Adler 
heads the squad – a female Colonel who doesn’t take kindly to being 
investigated – and Quist is amazed to discover that Laurel and Hardy 
are part of her team, which is not only surprising, but pretty much 
impossible.

Something very peculiar is going on and Ligeia’s musical voice isn’t 
quite as sweet as it sounds...

 

I’m currently walking the York walls to dream up the third novel, 
involving the infamous massacre in Clifford’s Tower, the National 
Railway Museum, several nasty murders and a really nice fish and 
chip restaurant in Whitby.

 

Do you have any tips and warnings for aspiring writers?

Every home has a computer now, which makes it easy for anyone to 
try their hand at a book. Many rackets exploit these writers and big 
money can be made. They advertise as publishers, and accept every 
manuscript they’re sent. They don’t read them, they just put them out 
on Kindle and offer ‘print-on-demand’ paperbacks and then take a 
big cut from every sale. The paperbacks are priced ridiculously high, 
but it doesn’t matter because the author and their family always buy 
some and, meanwhile, hundreds more manuscripts are pouring in. 
Preditors & Editors is a good website. It lists these ‘author mills’ and 
also the reputable publishers and agents.

It’s always best to sign with an agent as most publishers won’t deal 
with new authors. Unfortunately it’s as hard to find an agent as it is 
to find a publisher. Most will reply with a standard rejection email, 
but you should keep trying. Publishers use agents as filters. They’re 
business people who will only entertain money-spinners, so the 
publisher knows whatever the agent brings them has been vetted and 
it’s viable. Remember, publishers aren’t there to propagate art – they 
want something that will sell. Your book doesn’t need to be good; it 
just needs to sell. If a ‘celebrity’ such as Victoria Beckham writes a 
novel, irrespective of how poor it is, it’ll be snapped up.

 

Cat Flap has a lot of humour. Where do you get your sense of humour 
from?

I’ve always been able to see the funny side of things – it definitely 
helps keep you sane. Sometimes it’s best not to point out the funny 
side, like when you’re at funerals. As I mentioned, my lasting 
memories of the Fire Service centre more on the fun, the never-ending 
practical jokes and the incredible black humour. What joy it is to open 
a tin of soup at a barn fire in the freezing early hours, only to find 
someone has switched the labels with a tin of dogfood. The fire service 
humour is relentless, it colours your outlook on life, and I think much 
of it has rubbed off in my writing style.

 

You’ve obviously done a lot of research into the supernatural – are you 
a skeptic or believer?

I’ve been interested in these things since my late teens, and yes, I’ve 
done more research over the years than you can imagine. I’ve known 
countless occultists, psychics, magicians, parapsychologists and 
witches, including some that are quite famous, and only a very few 
were convincing. I’ve even met someone who claimed to have 
encountered a werewolf. Unfortunately, this is an area where money 
can easily be made from the gullible, and the supernatural draws 
charlatans, idiots and the deluded like moths to a (black) candle. 
People really do want to believe, so fake psychics, healers and 
wiccans don’t need to try too hard to get their cash, or to get them into 
bed. When dealing with this world, you always need to exercise 
caution, and before you accept what you’re hearing, or seeing, you 
have to be sceptical and exhaust all the other possibilities (including 
some fairly obvious ones) before you turn to paranormal 
explanations.

After all that, I haven’t said whether I’m a sceptic or a believer, but I 
see these two words as very black and white, so I’m going to sit on the 
fence (around Borley Rectory) and say I’m neither.
 
 
Many thanks to Ian for this interview; for more on Ian Jarvis, visit his site; 
 

No comments:

Post a Comment