Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rave USA Today Review Today

Hi everyone,

USA Today
ran a short but wonderful review of The Accident Man in today's (2/21/08) edition. You can see the full review here.

A nice quote:

Cain gets high marks for a creative yet easily believable story line that only adds fuel to the fire about what really happened to Diana — and who's to blame. Cain boosts the story's excitement through a stunning imagining of the lives and minds of paid assassins and Russian gang members.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Was Henri Paul Drunk?

Much of the recent debate about what happened to Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed, and driver Henri Paul that fateful night in Paris has centered around Paul's drinking habits...or lack thereof.

Here are a few recent articles on the subject.

-There are questions about the legitimacy of Henri Paul's blood samples

-Were the blood samples tampered with?

-Was Paul an alcoholic?

-Henri Paul's friend claims Paul was "never drunk"

-More from Paul's friend, Claude Garrec

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Casturbation

Someone told me the other day that there's a word for authors making up imaginary casts for the imaginary films of their not-so imaginary books ... casturbation.

Kerrr-chiiiinnnggg!

In my case, the film-rights to The Accident Man have been optioned by Paramount,so there is, in theory a chance that it might actually appear, assuming that the studios actually admit that they make money from DVDs and the internet and that writers – you know, the people that actually think of all the stuff that executives couldn’t create in a million years – deserve a slice of the action their imaginations have generated.

So, there is some point in casturbating a while …

And let’s start with Sam Carver.

As I told Clayton Moore on Bookslut the original model for Carver was Daniel Craig (this was before he’d been cast as Bond, I hasten to add). But now that he’s otherwise engaged, I’d suggest …

Clive Owen: cool, saturnine, British, tough, but just a fraction too old, perhaps?

Christian Bale: a genius, British-born, but he’s already being Batman, and he may just be too chilly, too other-worldly for Carver

Ioan Gruffudd: possibly too elegant, but an excellent actor (and we’ll draw a veil over Fantastic Four!)

Jude Law: call me nuts, but if he was knocked about a bit, and let himself look a little less pretty than usual, he might just have the chops to do an action franchise

And finally, improbably … Tom Cruise

No, I don’t rally envision the pint-sized Scientologist when I’m writing Samuel Carver, but Cruise did unknowingly play a vital role in choosing the title for this book and, perhaps, film.

After two years of faffing about with a series of terrible, clunking names for the book, I simply took a long list of cool-sounding words along to the PizzaExpress restaurant in Arundel, West Sussex, where I regularly lunch with my mate Mitch Symons. Then we arranged the words in random combinations, seeing which looked best.

Finally, we performed the clinching test. In solemn, mock Hollywood tones, one or other of us would intone, ‘Tom Cruise is …’ followed by the possible title.

And so it came to pass, courtesy of Mitch: Tom Cruise is … The Accident Man.

So who, then, is Alix Petrova?

Here I must make another confession. As it says in the front of this book (and any other novel), there is no resemblance between any of the characters and anyone living or dead. That’s completely true. But it’s equally true that real people – or details of real people – inspire fictional characters. Take Alix Petrova, with her intriguingly beautiful-but-wonky blue eyes, which bear the last remnants of a childhood squint. Those eyes actually belong to a young English/American actress called Anastasia Griffith, who told me about her squint and the operation that fixed it over tea at Claridges Hotel one day (like you do). From that one detail I then extrapolated an entire character that’s nothing like Anastasia – who is most certainly not a deadly, KGB-trained Russian seductress – at all.

Still, it’s only fair to give her first crack at being Alix in my imaginary movie.

If Miss Griffith were otherwise engaged, I’d happily cast (since this is my personal, fantasy production) the gorgeous Kelly Carlson, who plays the reformed porn starlet Kimber Henry in Nip/Tuck, or Radha Mitchell, an Aussie actress. She was superb in Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda, playing the same character but in two completely different ways: I think she’d capture Alix’s duality brilliantly.

But if they insist on giving it to Angelina Jolie, I guess I’d just have to accept that tough decision gracefully … because that’s the kind of guy I am.

Other than that, my perfect cast would feature Kevin Spacey as Russian oligarch Yuri Zhukovski, Dame Helen Mirren as MI5 boss Dame Agatha Bewley, Sean Bean as Jack Grantham from MI6 and Daniel Auteuil as the French spook Pierre Papin. As for thesps to play Grigori Kursk, the psychopathic, super-tough, seriously frightening Russian baddie, or Thor Larsson, the beanpole Scandinavian computer-wiz with red-blonde dreadlocks … well, I’m open to suggestions.

More About Samuel Carver

In my own words...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sexy Samuel

An old friend who was reading The Accident Man and told me she thought Carver was sexy. She’d barely got to page 40 and she’d already decided she fancied him.

‘How did you do that?’ she asked.

To which I could only answer, ‘I haven’t the faintest idea.’

So far as I was, and am concerned, one of the key aspects of Samuel Carver’s character is that however competent and confident he is when he’s doing his job, he’s clueless when it comes to his emotional entanglements with the female sex. I deliberately did not want to create some smoothie-chops spy with a gun in one hand and a pretty girl’s ass in the other. For one thing he’s been done – ‘The name’s Bond …’ etc – and for another, that sort of character bears no resemblance whatever to the way most actual men really are. Certainly the way I am, anyway.

I’ve always loved women’s company, but I wouldn’t have the first clue how to act sexy. I certainly don’t think I could specifically set out to write sexy. And yet, here was this character who came out of my head and somehow was sexy.

To be honest, it was pretty frustrating. What did Carver know that I didn’t? And how could he know more than me, anyway?

In the past, I’ve interviewed authors who told me that their characters wrote themselves, or started taking control of the story, demanding that events unfold in a certain way. I always thought that was pretentious claptrap, the writers equivalent to all the luvvie nonsense actors come up with to explain and justify a profession that basically consists of the two words, ‘Let’s pretend.’ But now I’m beginning to get it.

For example, there were a couple of characters in the book that I had always intended to kill, but who insisted on staying alive. When I tried to write death-scenes, they just didn’t work. Those characters wrote their story, no matter what I had planned.

In the case of Samuel Carver, his character developed as a series of intellectual and intuitive responses to a particular problem.

When I first thought about writing a thriller based on the death of Princess Diana, I’d initially conceived the hero as a Robert Ludlum-style character, an innocent outsider who unintentionally finds himself getting drawn into a knowledge of a massive conspiracy. But then it struck me that it would be infinitely more powerful if the protagonist was the killer who’d actually carried out the murder. I had an image in my head of a man, standing at the end of the Alma Tunnel, plunged into a terrible predicament.

Of course, that posed an immediate problem. The assassination – if it happened – was a heinous, unforgivable act. But I wanted my protagonist to be a good guy, someone readers would root for and stay with for the rest of the book. Even worse, the Mercedes had to crash pretty close to the start of the book. So there wasn’t going to be much space – less than 10,000 words – in which to set up the plot, the central character and the suggestion of a hidden conspiracy.

Okay, who was this man? Well, he had to be a professional killer, probably with some kind of military training and experience, but he couldn’t come over as a psychopath. He had to have moral awareness. He’d justify his actions to himself as being necessary evils, carried out for a greater good. But for all his justifications, he could not possibly kill human beings without being affected, poisoned by his work.

I made him a freelance because even if I’ve never been a soldier, let alone killed anyone, I do at least understand a freelance mentality. I know what it’s like to get to a point where you can’t face doing another job, but you’re even less willing to let someone else do it. I’m used to getting commissions coming in over the phone, bosses barking out orders, wanting the job done yesterday. I know how you say, ‘Yes,’ when you know deep down that you shouldn’t.

Carver is classless, rootless, but well-educated. He has some of the patina that comes from private schooling without any of the sense of entitlement that oozes from the pores of men for whom privilege is taken as a birthright. He has no real family and the years at boarding-school have only deepened the emotional detachment that both enables him to do his work, yet is the central flaw in his character.

Again, that’s semi-autobiographical. Carver’s first day at boarding-school is my first day. It didn’t do me much good either.

From there, I just let Carver do what felt true. Some writers have detailed bibles for their characters, setting out their back-story, their appearance, their personal foibles, the ways they react in given situations. I prefer to feel my way through the story. Once I’ve set up the basic parameters, I really don’t analyse or rationalise my characters’ behaviour at all.

Carver, of course, is coming back in a new book, which I’m just about to start writing, as will several of the Accident Man’s other characters. It will be strange working with characters whom readers will know, whom they may, in fact, know better than I do myself.

Once again, I’ll proceed pretty much by instinct. I guess Carver will be pretty battered by his experiences. He’ll certainly have to call on every ounce of his professional ability to confront the challenge I’m planning on setting him.

But will he still be sexy?

Well, how on earth would I know?

Accidental Trivia

The Accident Man is a work of pure fiction, but it is inspired by real events, places and facts...so here are some of said places and facts.

WARNING! There are spoilers (ish) in what follows!

  • It is possible to sabotage a helicopter using a screwdriver, hacksaw and Blu-Tack, just as Samuel Carver does in the opening chapter. It is also possible to mix C4 explosive and lubricating oil to create explosive putty, as Carver does when he first arrives in Paris.

  • Although no year is specified in the book, all the research was based on the fact that Princess Diana was killed on 31 August 1997. For example, the Gulfstream V in which Carver flies from New Zealand to Paris, via Los Angeles, was not officially introduced until September 1997. It was, however, air-certified in April 1997, so it is conceivable that a group as powerful as the Consortium might have obtained a plane ahead of its public launch. The flight described between new Zealand and Los Angeles would have been – just! – within the jet’s range.

  • The geography of Paris is exactly as described in the book. There are, for example, steps at the front of the Palais de Tokyo which would be climbable by a skilled rider on a Honda XR-400 (1997 model) trail-bike, like the one ridden by Carver. The fight between Carver and Kursk in the sewer museum at Les Egouts takes place in tunnels and chambers open to any visitor and they can also see the giant wooden ball with which Kursk attacks Carver, not to mention the winding metal steps up which Carver then escapes.

  • In the admittedly unlikely event that even Grigori Kursk were tough enough to survive being blown up by an explosive charge, not to mention being swept away by a flood of sewage, the Paris sewer-network would deposit him just were he emerges, somewhere near the junction of the Boulevard Berthier and Avenue de Clichy, by the SNCF railyards.

  • The bus-stop where Carver first encounters Alix exists, while the flat on the Ile St Louis which Carver booby-traps and the ‘hotel particular’ where he and Alix confront Max and his men are both adapted versions of genuine locations. The night-club off the Boulevard de Sebastopol where they hide out is a (heavily) fictionalised version of the famous ‘Bains Douches’.

  • The train-timetables between France and Switzerland and the bus-routes within Geneva are all closely based on genuine schedules.

  • The street on which Carver lives in the Old Town of Geneva is a fictional creation. But the café owned by his friend Freddy is based on a tiny place on Grand Rue, next to an antiquarian bookshop which displays its goods on open shelves in the streets, in the very style that Alix finds so surprising. The Irish pub where Carver fights Kursk’s heavies was inspired by the experience of walking past Flanagan’s in the Rue du Cheval Blanc and realising, with a smile, that nowhere on earth was immune to Guinness and shamrocks. But it isn't intended to be Flanagan's.

  • The management of the Hotel Beau Rivage, on the Quai du Mont Blanc are owed an apology for the use of their beautiful and deeply respectable establishment as the backdrop for such sleazy, honey-trapping activities as the ones that Alix and Carver get up to with the ill-fated banker, M. Leclerc! And I should point out that their bookings system is in fact far too secure for a real-life Thor Larsson to hack into it as he does in the book.

  • The drugs used to create the correct combination of emotional warmth, disorientation, disinhibition and sexual arousal in M. Leclerc were hypothetically prescribed by a genuine doctor. Readers are, however, strongly advised not to try them at home, either individually or in combination.

  • The flight-plan and cost (at 1997 prices) of a private flight from Biggin Hill to Sion are both accurate.

  • The effects of prolonged torture by an electro-shock device like the belt used on Carver certainly involve muscle-spasm, incapacity, extreme pain and, if prolonged for too long, potential heart-failure and death. They can also include involuntary loss of bowel and bladder-control and memory-loss. Extreme mental stress can also induce a ‘fugue’ state in which a subject becomes totally dissociated from their usual identity, adopting another persona.