I would like to welcome Daniel Pembrey to my blog today as my Author in the Spotlight. Daniel's Amsterdam detective series, The Harbour Master, was published by No Exit Press on 10 November 2016. He will be one of the authors at the First Monday Crime Christmas Special on December 5th.
A year ago, you wrote a piece for my blog about your short story The Lion Hunter. The Harbour Master was originally published as three separate novellas, but has now been republished as a novel by No Exit Press. What do you enjoy most about writing shorter pieces of fiction?
I’ve read many great writers first via their novellas. A Christmas Carol by Dickens for example, or Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Take Jekyll and Hyde, or Old Man and the Sea. Writing in the New Yorker recently, Ian McEwan described the novella as the prefect form of prose fiction. For me as an author, I’m mostly drawn to the need for economy … but perhaps I just have a terrible attention span!
You’re featuring at December’s First Monday Crime Christmas Special. Were you nervous the first time you appeared on a panel? And how did you get yourself through it? Any tips for debut panel members?
It’s always a bit tense doing these things in front of an audience whose views I care about. I try to be relaxed and natural, but it’s good to prepare a little as well!
Your book The Harbour Master is set mainly in Amsterdam. You spend a lot of time in Amsterdam, as well as London. What was it about Amsterdam that prompted you to set your books there?
A close sister living there. An inability to find a lot of crime fiction set in Holland, in English translation at least, when I arrived (which baffled me given the output of neighbouring Scandinavia!). I was struck too by how atmospheric those port cities are – Amsterdam, Rotterdam … wonderful! They lend themselves so well to the genre, not least because of the good slice of criminality that goes with such historic trading hubs.
If you could launch your next book anywhere in the world, in any location, building etc, where would you choose and why?
Well it’s tempting to say somewhere overseas, probably Amsterdam, but in reality I’d want everyone to be there. So short of having an unlimited budget for flying people around, I’d have to say London and plump for the Dutch Embassy.
The Harbour Master covers dark subjects – murder, drugs, smuggling, kidnapping... Is there any topic you wouldn’t feel comfortable writing about?
I address the subject of child abuse in the next book, Night Market, which was tricky but required for the story. I used the voice of the detective’s wife, Petra, to almost argue his actions out in my head (how he should approach and think about investigating such abuse). I couldn’t write anything graphic in that realm – nor in the realm of violence against women.
If you were writing a book about your own life, what would the title be?
Something like The Constant Traveller. I’ve now lived in seven countries including England and Scotland (I went to university in Edinburgh). The other countries are France (where I also studied), the States and Luxembourg (where I worked), then Germany and of course Holland. I travelled around Australia, too. The Constant Traveller, I tell you!
Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
Identifying the peculiarities of fascinating locations that shape characters’ journeys.
Why should people read The Harbour Master (your chance for a quick plug)?
It’s Amsterdam, it’s the archetypal maverick detective, and it’s a personal journey from the streets of the Red Light District to the grandest corridors of power in the Netherlands. It’s also a story told in six parts – a bit like Stephen King’s The Green Mile. The first three parts are in the The Harbour Master, and the final three are in Night Market – due out in e-book format in January. So if you’re inviting me to plug, I have to recommend reading both books, sorry!
About Daniel Pembrey
Daniel grew up in Nottinghamshire beside Sherwood Forest. He has since lived in Edinburgh, Paris, Seattle, Luxembourg, Berlin, Amsterdam and London. Daniel is drawn to psychological suspense stories with a strong sense of location. His Amsterdam detective series, The Harbour Master, will be published by No Exit Press in 2016. Besides reading, writing and traveling, he loves to meet interesting people.
Find Daniel on his website and on Twitter - @DPemb
About The Harbour Master
The Harbour Master
By Daniel Pembrey
Published by No Exit Press (E-book - out now; Paperback - 10 November 2016)
Henk van der Pol is a 30-year-term policeman, a few months off retirement. When he finds a woman's body in Amsterdam Harbour, his detective instincts take over, even though it's not his jurisdiction. Warned off investigating the case, Henk soon realises he can trust nobody, as his search for the killer leads him to discover the involvement of senior police officers, government corruption in the highest places, Hungarian people traffickers, and a deadly threat to his own family...
Read my review here.
December First Monday Crime
On December 5th, Daniel will be on the First Monday Crime Christmas Special panels in London, alongside Mark Billingham, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Alex Marwood, Paula Daly, Daniel Pembrey and Corrie Jackson.
First Monday Crime takes place on the first Monday of every month.
Visit Goldsboro Books for more details.
The event is at Brown’s Courtrooms, 82-84 St Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4AG. After the panels, everyone will eventually spill over into The Salisbury pub, right next door, so the festive fun can continue!
Visit Goldsboro Books for more details.