Re-blog of an interview with John Holt at Siobhan Daiko’s marvellous blog
I’m absolutely delighted to welcome crime-writer John Holt today. Please introduce yourself to my readers, John!
Born in 1943 in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire. I now live in Essex with my wife Margaret, who I married in September 1969; my daughter Elizabeth, and our cat, Missy, who actually adopted us deciding that she wanted to live with us nearly three years ago. For many years I worked in local government as a land surveyor, spending some time with the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. In 1972 I was employed by the Greater London Council, as a Senior Project Manager, remaining with them until the Council was closed down in 1986. I then set up my own practice carrying out property surveys, and preparing architectural drawings for extensions, conversions, and new builds. In 2004 I had a heart attack, which had a major effect on my business, and I eventually retired in 2008. I have also been concerned with animal welfare, and for many years I was Chairman of the local branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Just to get a flavour of your personality, how would you describe yourself as a colour?
Well I’m basically a light kind of a person. I tend to see the best in things. What you see is what you get. But I can be serious when the situation arises. So I guess probably a pastel purple would be appropriate.
Sounds lovely! Are you a morning person, or a midnight candle burner?
I’m certainly not a morning person. I tend to stay up until midnight. That’s not working you understand. That’s watching old movies on TV. I have about 1200 old films on DVD or video tape.
What kind of music do you listen to?
My musical taste is quite wide. Back in the late 1950’s it was rock ‘n’ roll; Elvis, the Everley Brothers, Bill Haley, Little Richard. Then in the early 1960s it was negro blues. I used to write for a couple of blues magazines (no longer around). I would spend a lot of time going to concerts and writing Interviews and reviews. People like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins. Over the subsequent years my musical tastes have increased. I still like the Rock ‘n’ roll, and the blues, but I also like Sinatra, Dean Martin, Simon and Garfunkel, and I also like Classical music. As for an all-time favourite song, I’m afraid I could never pick just one
A great mix. When did you start writing and why?
I suppose, like many people, I had always wanted to write a novel, but I could never think of a decent original plot. Then in 2005 we went to the Austrian Lake District. We stayed in a small village Grundl situated on Lake Grundlsee, the first of three lakes in close proximity. The next lake was Toplitz. This lake was used by the German Navy, in World War 2, to test rockets, missiles, and torpedoes. As the war drew to a close many items were hidden in the lake – weapons, documents, counterfeit dollars, and pounds sterling, and jewellery. There were also rumours of gold bullion being placed into the lake, with plans to recover at some later stage. After the war extensive searches were carried out. These searches went on until the middle of the 1980s. Millions of counterfeit dollars and pounds were discovered; documents detailing where stolen artefacts were hidden; weapons; jewellery, but no gold bullion. A plot began to form in my mind, and in December 2006 “The Kammersee Affair” was published.
Excellent! Your general genre is crime, then. Why did you choose to write crime?
I have always been a fan of the detective film noirs from the late forties, and early fifties. Humphrey Bogart, Edward G Robinson, Cagney – great stars, great entertainment. I loved the style. The hard-nosed clever wise cracking detective who always solved the crime. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could recreate those times, and that kind of story. “The Mackenzie Dossier” was published in 2008. I very soon realised that I had failed in my recreation attempt, but I had done better, I had created my own unique style. I now have five novels, and three novellas, in the same genre.
Would you like to write a different genre?
I’m quite happy with my chosen genre. It is the genre I prefer to read. Having said that, my first novel, “The Kammersee Affair”, was set during, and just after the Second World War. I have also written a historical fiction novel set during the American Civil War. “The Thackery Journal” is a what if story concerning the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Would you ever consider a joint project?
I like to think that my style is my own. It has much of my personality and much of my particular brand of humour. Unlike many modern authors there is no bad language in my books, and no graphic violence, and no sexual references. On that basis I would never be able to work with another author. So no, I would never consider a joint project.
Which of your characters is your particular favourite?
Tom Kendall, my laid back, private detective, has appeared in five of my novels. He is by far the most prolific of my characters, and has developed as time as gone by. Clearly he must be the favourite.
How do you handle writer’s block?
Not well, but what can you do? There’s no point sitting staring at the computer waiting for the words to miraculously appear. So I just leave it alone, and hope that sooner or later inspiration will come, and the words will flow once more.
Do you write long hand first, or does it go straight onto the computer?
I admire people like Charles Dickens who clearly wrote long hand, starting at page 1, and going on till the end. I couldn’t do that. Although I might have a basic outline of a story, I have to write as I think of something. Then it goes straight on to the computer in where I think is the appropriate place. It may be that when I think of something else to add changes might be made.
So your work isn’t based on real-life experience, I imagine.
I write about crime, murder, robbery, blackmail. These aren’t events I come across in my day to day life. I don’t know any criminals; I don’t know any private detectives either. My stories are pure imagination, and purely for entertainment. I write because I enjoy it, and I hope others get that same enjoyment.
What are you working on now? Would you like to share anything about it?
I have been working on a sixth novel to feature Tom Kendall. It is close to being finished, but is being a little stubborn. Remember we were talking about writers block earlier on, well ….. Last year I wrote three novellas featuring another private detective, Jack Daniels. I have made a very tentative start on a fourth, but it is early days yet. What I am doing, however, is getting those novellas translated into other languages. So far “Trouble In Mind” has been translated into Italian; and is currently being translated into Portuguese, and Spanish; and “The Candy Man” is being translated into French and Dutch.
Fantastic! Please let us have your social media and book links!
Thanks for joining me and my readers today and all the best with your writing, John!
Thanks for having me, Siobhan.