Saturday, 17 June 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Lighterman - Simon Michael

I was completely honoured and thrilled to be asked to organise a blog tour for the brilliant third book in the Charles Holborne series, The Lighterman.  I couldn't have done it without such amazing bloggers on board and my heartfelt thanks goes out to each and every one of you.  You're all amazing, and work tirelessly behind the scenes to help get the word out about books that should not be missed. The Lighterman and the entire Charles Holborne series certainly fits that bill; I really can't stress how absolutely brilliant this series is - my review (that you can read here) urges you to 'read it or regret it'.

Special thanks go to Matthew of Urbane Publications for supporting the tour and for providing prizes for the giveaways and of course many thanks to Simon Michael for not only writing the books in the first place but for providing such riveting content and answering all of our questions.  Simon, it's been a pleasure and I'm already feeling bereft at the thought of missing our almost daily emails!

So without further ado, I'm delighted to share my question and answer session with Simon Michael for this final stop on the blog tour.

Welcome to my blog, Simon, as we celebrate the release of The Lighterman, the third book in the Charles Holborne series. As you know I've become quite a fan of your books but for any readers who haven't yet discovered the series, can you tell us a little bit about it?

They are crime and legal thrillers with a different point of departure to any others being written at the present. They’re set in London in the 1960s and instead of being told from the perspective of a policeman or a detective, they’re told from the point of view of a hardened criminal barrister. Those of us who’ve worked in the justice system as I have for the last 39 years know that the formula so often trotted out by crime writers – grizzled maverick copper with a drink problem, a poor relationship with his boss and a broken marriage, piecing together the clues and catching the “baddie” before he or she does the bad thing again - isn’t how it really is. “You’re under arrest” is not the end of the search for the truth; it’s often the beginning. Working out who’s telling the truth, who’s lying, who’s trying to tell the truth but is mistaken – in other words the way in which our jury system operates – involves more than putting together a jigsaw of clues. It involves peeling back the layers of human nature, people’s motivations and personalities. So I write about real people, real cases, real violence and corruption and how ordinary people react in those circumstances. I show the events and people in the lead up to a crime, the crime itself, the investigation and part at least of the trial. 

The Kray twins, particularly Ronnie, feature throughout the Charles Holborne series. What made you include Ronnie Kray in your books rather than a fictional gangster?

My plots ideas are based on real cases where I was instructed for the Defence or the Crown. I often include real court documents (with identities and circumstances changed) which the public generally doesn’t see. I want these books to be as true to the gritty violence and corruption of the period in which they are set as possible. 1960s London wasn’t all Carnaby Street and flower power – for most people and for most of the decade it was grey, poor and post-War. So it follows that I use real people too. Of course, the anti-hero barrister, Charles Holborne, is fictional – although loosely based on me – and other characters have been made up too. But there is a strong thread of true historical fact in all of the books. So, for example, Book 4 in the series, which is now over half-written, takes us back to the dealings between the Krays and Lord Bob Boothby and the establishment cover-up of the truth. And they all feature in the plot.

Why did you choose the 60s era as your period setting?

The 1960s is such an interesting period. The pre-War deference to authority was breaking down. We discovered sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. There was a huge wave of immigration from the West Indies. Organised crime had London by the throat. There was no DNA, no police computer, no mobile phones. Detectives had to detect – to use their wits and understanding of human nature. The decade is a gift to a writer exploring themes of alienation, exclusion and corruption like myself.

Like Charles Holborne, you are also a barrister. How much of yourself is in Charles Holborne's character?

Probably a bit too much (according to my OH, especially the sex scenes). But, to be a bit more considered in my response, when I went to the Bar I was an outsider. I was from a Jewish family; we were poor (to get through University I had to work as a council labourer every vacation, and I worked behind bars, washed cars, cut hedges – anything to pay for the next term’s expenses); I was the first state-educated pupil in my Chambers; I hadn’t been to Oxford or Cambridge; I even had to buy a second-hand wig. I was something they hadn’t seen before, and I felt excluded. I have taken that feeling of alienation and prejudice and inserted it into Charles Holborne, but I’ve made it worse for him: I’ve made him a real East End lad, with a bit of a criminal past, a man with a penchant for violence and a strong connection to the very criminals he now prosecutes. I make him an outsider trying to be honourable and honest, surround him with corruption and greed, and test him.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the British legal system - what do you think are the best and the worst things about the law?

The best: the system relies on twelve men and women, good and true. Each brings his or her life experience into the jury room and, usually, they somehow reach the right result. The worst: decades of cuts in criminal legal aid have decimated what was, in many people’s opinion, the best legal system in the world. It’s almost impossible to make a living now as a junior criminal barrister, and the best minds are turning to other areas of law or doing something different altogether. Result: we shall have a third-world criminal justice system, with criminals being acquitted and the innocent wrongly convicted. You’ve been warned!

When you aren't writing, what do you enjoy doing?

In no particular order, skiing, theatre, films, reading and eating chocolate. And being with my adult children, who are the most interesting, funny, infuriating and expensive bunch of young people you could hope to meet. 

Not that I ever want to it finish, but do you have a set number of books planned in the Charles Holborne series and when can we expect to read our next instalment?

Book 4, provisionally entitled The Death of Teddy Behr, will be finished before the end of this summer, and I hope will be published next spring/early summer. Book 5 is also mostly completed, but needs work. Books 6 and 7 are in the planning stages. Not sure if there will be more than that, but we shall see. I haven’t quite made up my mind whether Charles is essentially the honest man he would like to think he is, or he is at heart corrupt. I always think of Michael Corleone – the one son of Vito who starts pure – a war hero, deliberately kept at arm’s length from the Mafia by his family, being drawn inevitably, ineluctably into crime and becoming completely evil.

Thank you for answering my questions and for visiting my blog. You'll not be surprised to hear that I am already looking forward to your next book – no pressure of course!

So fancy winning a copy for yourself?  Check out my giveaway below.  UK entries only and winners will be notified by email within 24 hours.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There have been some AMAZING stops along the way during this blog tour; my favourite guest post, possibly of all time, has to be the tour of London on The Booktrail.  I urge you to check out all of the stops on the tour, especially this one.  

Tour stops can be visited by clicking on the blog name below:

By The Letter Book Reviews

Reflections of a Reader

The Book Review Cafe

Jo's Book Blog

Never Imitate

A Lover of Books

The Booktrail  <----- SERIOUSLY, DON'T MISS THIS!

The Last Word Review

Book Literati

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