Tom Mead Interview: “Telling stories is what I love to do”

Tom Mead is an author of locked room mysteries who recently published his debut novel. I chat to him about his work and the road he took to publication.

How did you come to become an author? What’s your career experience and how do you draw on it in your writing?


Well I studied creative writing at university, but before that I always had my head in a book. The idea of being a writer has always appealed, ever since I was young. Telling stories is what I love to do. I grew up reading classic mysteries by Agatha Christie, so fair-play puzzle plots have always been a significant feature of my reading life, too. It just seemed like a natural progression to take my enjoyment of the puzzles and use it to construct mysteries of my own.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards locked room mysteries?

I’ve always had a fascination with magic tricks and illusions, and really the locked-room mystery is the closest literary equivalent. The best kind of locked-room mysteries are the ones that give you a sense of “retrospective illumination”- a moment where you want to kick yourself because you realise how deceptively simple the solution is and you can’t believe you didn’t think of it. I love reading those kinds of book, and so I want to try and give readers the same sense of joy that I get from them.

How did you come to publish a book? As a debut novelist, what was your journey towards publication like?

My publishing experience was a pretty unorthodox one. I’d been writing short mystery stories for a long time- several years, in fact- when my story “Heatwave” was selected by Lee Child for inclusion in his anthology The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021, which was published by Mysterious Press in the US and Head of Zeus here in the UK (under the title The Best Crime Stories of the Year). This put me in touch with Otto Penzler, who runs Mysterious Press, and who shares my love of locked-room mysteries. So I took a chance and sent him my manuscript, hoping for a bit of feedback at best. Not only did I get the feedback, but I also got an offer to publish it, which certainly exceeded my wildest expectations. But it was through Mysterious that I established a connection with Head of Zeus, which is why the book came out in the US first, although I live in the UK.

Why did you decide to write Death And The Conjuror? What was the inspiration behind the book?

I’d written about my detective character, Joseph Spector, in several of my short mystery stories. I’d been wanting to use him in a piece of longer fiction for a while, but it didn’t initially occur to me that Death and the Conjuror might turn into a full-length novel. It was only while I was plotting it out, and adding characters and complications, that it occurred to me that it would take a novel to fully explore the complexities- all the twists and turns- of this story.

What’s your research process? How do you go about finding out important facts and integrating them into your work?

Writing about the 1930s is a lot of fun because that era was the height of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, when so many of my favourite writers were at the peak of their creative powers. Crime fiction offers such a brilliant insight into the social mores of an era that I couldn’t ask for better research material. But when it comes to adding period verisimilitude to my depiction of London society, there are plenty of nonfiction resources out there. Historical records, photographs, documentaries and of course books. I used as many as I could lay my hands on.

What style of writing do you enjoy reading yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

My favourite writer is John Dickson Carr, commonly known as the master of the locked-room mystery. He didn’t invent the genre, but he certainly took it to new heights. Discovering his works was certainly pivotal for me. That’s why I’ve dedicated Death and the Conjuror to his memory.

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

I actually have two collaborations happening at the moment. I’ve co-written a murder mystery for younger readers with the author Michael Dahl. I’m also co-editing an anthology of all-new locked-room mystery short stories with Gigi Pandian, another brilliant US author who’s written a number of fantastic mystery series.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

At the moment it’s all systems go for the UK publication of Death and the Conjuror in hardback, so I’m really excited about that. But I’ve also recently announced the US publication date for the sequel, The Murder Wheel. It comes out in the US in July 2023, and in the UK later next year. So perhaps it goes without saying that I’m also incredibly excited about that.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to going forward?

I’m looking forward to diving into the latest book in Martin Edwards’s magnificent Rachel Savernake series- it’s called Blackstone Fell. Other recent books I’ve enjoyed include Anthony Horowitz’s The Twist of a Knife, Victoria Dowd’s The Supper Club Murders, and Fiona Sherlock’s Twelve Motives for Murder. Another author whose works I greatly admire is Robert Thorogood, creator of the BBC show Death in Paradise. Last year I read his brilliant novel The Marlow Murder Club, and I’m very excited for the sequel, which I understand includes a locked-room mystery.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just that I’m always delighted to hear from people who’ve enjoyed the book, and I try to be very responsive to readers. You can find me over on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/tommeadauthor/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/TomMeadAuthor), or you can check out my website (https://tommeadauthor.com/).

Thanks for taking the time, it’s been amazing to hear about your debut novel and I’m looking forward to your future work!

The Divider Review: A Timely Reminder Of Why Trump Should Never Be President Again

As he gears up for another presidential run, I felt now was an ideal time to share a review of an incredible book chronically the 45th President’s absurd and chaotic White House administration. I’ve already shared some of the best books about Trump a few years ago, but I’ve recently read this defiitive guide and I thought that now would be a great time to share my thoughts on this book that everyone who used to, wants to, or is supporting Trump.

The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 is an incredible overview of the manic Trump presidency, from his initial run to becoming the unlikely underdog to win the presidency, to his mis-handling of the coronavirus pandemic right through to his incitement of the January 6th riots when he didn’t win reelection.

Dubbed ‘the adhocracy’, the madness of Trump’s White House set-up, including the infighting, nepotism and backstabbing is brilliantly outlined by husband and wife journalism team Peter Baker Susan Glasser.

Drawing on interviews with insiders, a detailed analysis of the media and Trump’s former favourite social media platform, Twitter, the pair analyse how the former president was perceived by those around him, both in and out of the White House. The book is incredibly detailed and delves into all of the major scandals and events of Trump’s tumultuous presidency.

Throughout the book, which takes its name from the nickname given to Trump’s staff management style of pitting his staff against one another, Baker and Glasser make droll comments about how duplicitous and contradictory the former Commander In Chief was throughout his one-term tenure in office. By combining their own opinions with those of former staff members, the authors are able to highlight the craziness in the Trump White House.

Alongside the chapters, which are each named after a comment from or about the 45th President, the book features a selection of well-chosen photographs that encapsulate Trump’s presidency. Some of the highlights include the picture of a stern looking Angela Merkle standing over the former president, Nancy Pelosi wagging a finger at him, Melina Trump strutting around her husband’s concentration camp for migrant children separated from their parents wearing a jacket with “I really don’t care, do u?” emblazoned on the back, the image of Trump holding a bible upside down outside a church after clearing aside peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors with tear gas, and many other iconic photographs. Each image is accompanied by a scathing inditement on Trump’s behaviour and astute observations about how the pictures were perceived in the media, by the public and behind closed doors in Trump’s fractious White House. The imagery is perfect, and although the text isn’t fully proofread and grammatically correct, it’s still a great read.

The one thing I’m not entirely sure about when it comes to The Divider is how Baker and Glasser portray many of Trump’s enablers, such as his multiple Chiefs of Staff, Vice President Mike Pence, the Republicans who chose not to impeach him and other former supporters in Washington’s political class. The authors assert that many of these individuals didn’t support Trump at all, and were just working on his behalf because they were concerned that if they left, they would be replaced someone worse than they were. Allegedly, many of these individuals didn’t believe in the policies they were promoting, but were instead pushed by Trump and had a sort of moral imperative to stay in the White House and do their best to do everything in their power to derail Trump’s worst plans.

Perhaps the worst instance of this is the way the writers discuss Kirstjen Nielsen, who is perhaps most famous for implementing Trumps family separation program, which has devastated thousands of lives. Many of the children separated from their parents have still not been reunited with their families all these years later, yet the book tries to make readers feel sorry for Nielsen and argues that she, in fact, opposed the plan and just had to pretend to support it and go through it to keep her role. While this might be true in some cases for some of the White House staff members mentioned in the book, it seems a bit of a reach for some, including Nielsen. It seems impossible to me that someone so disgusted with such an immoral policy could still be its champion and spokesperson. While Nielsen tried to justify the policy in public statements and tried to make out like the policy was less serious than it was, that doesn’t say to me that she vehemently disagreed with the policy. Neither of the authors spare the rod for Trump himself or his family, but many Republicans who enabled him and supported his appalling work are made to seem sympathetic because they were themselves targets of Trump’s wrath and because the White House was such a toxic workplace. We’ll never know the full truth, but it seems like the authors are pushing to provide an acquittal for many of the key players in the Trump administration, which I don’t believe they deserve.

However, despite this, The Divider is still a useful read for anyone who wants a complete chronicle of the entirety of Trump’s presidency. It doesn’t gloss over any of the worst of the administration’s actions, and reviews them from multiple angles. For example, Baker and Glasser explore Trump’s removal of American troops from Germany through the lens of multiple players throughout Europe. Additionally, every action Trump takes that has an impact on the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, and there are many, is chronicled in detail and the authors work to outline how these affect major players on the world stage as well as how they make America look.

In all, The Divider is a timely read for anyone who’s considering voting for Trump, or who thinks that a return of the Donald to the White House might not be as bad as people say it will be. Donald Trump is a serial liar with no capacity for empathy or interest in anyone but himself. The man has multiple legal cases against him right now, and he deserves to be locked up for his complicity in the January 6th riots and his attempt to pervert the course of justice and disrupt democracy. Trump might not have announced his bid for re-election in 2024, but he’s clearly gearing up for it, so anyone who’s unsure about how dangerous he is, or how fundamentally unhinged, should read this book before passing judgment.