Alex Macbeth Interview: “The first title I read was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie”

The Red die

This week I caught up with The Red Die author Alex Macbeth to learn more about his writing, inspiration and the books that have influenced him.

Tell me about how the books you write. Why do you have such a passion for crime fiction in particular?

My debut novel The Red Die is a crime fiction title set in Mozambique. It has elements of espionage and is essentially a political-thriller-cum-detective-novel.

My main character Comandante Felisberto is a single father with two kids who has jurisdiction for a district of 130,000 people with nothing more than a handful of officers and one battered police car.

The body of a man with a red die in his pocket is washed ashore near a quiet village on the coast of the Indian Ocean in southern Africa. But what looked initially like a corpse that came in with the tide soon turns out to be a murder case that will lead Comandante Felisberto and his team to the edge of danger and despair as they uncover a trail leading up to the highest echelons of power in their country. Can Felisberto and his ‘motley crew of rural investigators’ solve the case – and survive?

What was the first crime fiction novel you read and how did it draw you into seeking out more books of this genre?

The first title I read was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. But it was later when I discovered Henning Mankell and Nordic Noir that I really became passionate about the genre.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing professionally?

I’ve been a journalist for more than 10 years. I currently write a weekly newsletter for The Local Europe and before that I worked on media projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, North and East Africa for five years at MiCT International, based in Berlin. I became interested in writing at a young age. My mum is a writer and so was my dad.

What books/ authors do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I am always looking to discover new crime fiction and it’s hard to pick out a few titles because there are so many great ones. Camilleri’s Montalbano series resonates with me because I grew up in Italy, but I also really like Boris Akunin’s Fandorin novels.

I also enjoy reading contemporary African literature – although in the last five years I have mainly read crime fiction.

Nordic Noir has no doubt had a huge influence on my writing. I love all of the ten Sjowall and Wahloo novels – the Martin Beck series – but I am also a big fan of Henning Mankell. I also have to mention Alexander McCall Smith’s The Nr. 1 Ladies Detective Agency as an influence in terms of cozy detective writing in southern Africa. I’ve also been influenced by Moussa Konaté (Mali) and Deon Meyer (SA), two great African crime fiction writers.

Recently I’ve really enjoyed Parker Bilal’s novels, featuring private investigator Makana, which are set in Egypt.

Every time I read a crime fiction title I try and learn something new, whether it’s a tiny trait in how a detective is portrayed or a larger plot device. This is only the beginning of my journey as a crime fiction author and I’m always looking to learn from other writers.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

George Simenon reportedly wrote many of his masterpieces in a weekend so I’d love to watch how he did it that one Saturday night.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

A sequel to The Red Die will be out in 2019.

Many thanks to Alex for answering my questions, it’s great to hear from a fellow Mankell fan! You can find out more about Alex and his work HERE.

 

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