Wednesday 6 August 2008

The story behind The Survivor

Ali Karim - a total legend among thriller-writers for the incredible dedication and enthusiasm with which he spreads the word about the work we do - recently sent me a bunch of questions about The Accident Man and The Survivor. The full interview is available on The Rap Sheet ... but meantime, here's a brief extract, just as a taster ...

Q Tell me how the plot of rogue suitcase-nukes and religious nutters threatening Armageddon came to you?

Well, I can trace each individual strand quite easily. The whole fundamentalist Christian angle, and the notion of ‘the Rapture’, which is their term for the moment when the believers will physically be gathered up into heaven, was inspired by an article I read in Vanity Fair (and which I credit in the book, in the interests of full disclosure). I already had that notion a few years ago, and was going to use it in a plotline involving a US President, that I later abandoned. So I recycled it this time around. The fact that parts of the book are set in Kosovo was simply a consequence of it being set in 1997-8. I looked around the world at what was happening then, and the biggest issue seemed to be the former Yugoslavia, so I had that in mind as a possible backdrop. The combination of religious Armageddon and civil war led me naturally to think about nuclear weapons and by pure chance, rooting around online, I stumbled upon a news-story about a Russian general telling a US TV show, on 7 September 1997, that his country had lost 100 suitcase nukes. Well, The Accident Man ended on 6 September 1997, so that was too good to be true. So those were the basic ingredients of the story. How they coalesced into the final plot, though, is a total mystery to me!

Q I felt that Alix Petrova [Carver's girlfriend] could actually warrant her own series as her backstory is fascinating, and I feel that as her creator, you seem to like her a lot……..?

Alix is a really interesting character to me, for one major reason, which is that she refuses to die. I had originally planned to kill her two-thirds of the way through The Accident Man. But she survived into the final act. Then I was certain that she would die at the end of the book, mirroring the death of the princess at the beginning, as the price Carver paid for that earlier killing. Turns out he paid the price himself. So then we get to The Survivor and she was absolutely, categorically going to snuff it, but … well, I can’t say without spoiling everything. Suffice it to say that she will not be the lead female character in the third book … but that does not mean we’ve seen the last of her. I do like her, and I’m quite proud of her, too. Of course, she’s a stereotypical character in some ways – gorgeous Russian spy-chick: not exactly a new idea! – but I’d like to think she has complexities which take her beyond that clichĂ©. And I like the idea of her own series … thanks for that!

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Visit Tom Cain's profile page on Author's Place - the brand new home for authors published by the Random House Group.

Friday 27 June 2008

The Survivor - Your Comments

Have you read The Survivor?
Are you pleased to see the return of Samuel Carver?
Did you think it was even better than The Accident Man?

Post your comments here...

Simply click on the 'The Survivor - Your Comments' header above, then on the 'post a comment' link, which will then appear below.

Friday 16 February 2007

The Accident Man - Your feedback

Have you read The Accident Man?

Here's what others had to say about it.
Feel free to add your comments...

Casturbation 1: Samuel Carver

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.

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. That way the writers’ strike can end and film-making can begin.

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!)
And my – perhaps unlikely favourite …
Edward Norton: in person, a nerdy-looking guy with a receding chin, but an actor who has the ability to become a totally different, and totally persuasive character onscreen. I like the fact he doesn’t look like a super-smooth action hero (like Matt Damon in the Bourne franchise), and he could certainly give Carver the complexity that would make his predicament genuine and interesting.
Jason Statham: if they do it as a lowbrow, mid-budget, wham-bam action flick, he’s a cert.

And finally, improbably … Tom Cruise
No, I didn’t really envision the pint-sized Scientologist when I was creating 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: Tom Cruise is … The Accident Man.


The Accident Man is a work of pure fiction. But it is inspired by real events, places and facts. So here are some ... 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 cafĂ© 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.