Today on Mystery Mondays I welcome Khaled Talib, a previous guest on my blog and a very talented writer.
Bio: Khaled Talib is a former journalist with local and international exposure. He has worked full time for magazines, and his articles have been published and syndicated to newspapers worldwide, while his short stories have appeared in literary journals and magazines. Talib is also the author of The Little Book of Muses, a collection of personal muses for writers and aspiring authors. The author is a member of the Crime Writers Association (UK). He resides in Singapore
What type of crime fiction do you write and why?
I write novels with an international flavour. The themes are usually centred on espionage activities that are crime related. At this point in time, I think it’s because I like that feeling of being everywhere. The scenes in my novel are based on places I’ve been. I try to find crime stories that are not conventional so that the novel stands out as authentic and original.
Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?
A lot of authors have influenced me. They included both children and adult authors. They imbued me with a sense of adventure, pulling me into a world that is more exciting than the real one. Their power of imagination is amazing.
I have a few favourites but I must admit Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot is my favourite. I don’t like the way he walks, but I like his perception of people and situations as well as his methods of deduction. Poirot is a tough guy, and yet at the same time he is a gentle soul. He dares to stand alone even if the odds are against him. He doesn’t compromise his beliefs and principles. I find his eccentric behaviour funny. It’s strange to learn Agatha Christie didn’t like him. I would find it hard to write a series if you don’t like your protagonist. Well, Poirot doesn’t put me off. Bon, on to the next question…
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
I am witty, just like my protagonist Jethro Westrope in Smokescreen. Most reviewers commented what a fun personality he is, very witty chap with his sharp comments and replies. Strangely, I am told I am a serious person. It’s a bit of a cloak and dagger, if you ask me. I am this to some people and that to others. It depends.
What is more important in your books – the plot twists or the characters?
The plot twist — and it has to be original. I put in a lot of effort in trying to create a different ending. Characters are important, but the plot twist really gives the Kapow! when the reader reaches the finale.
Most of my stories are based on Red Herrings. In fact, my second completed manuscript, Incognito, is dipped in it. If you expect your reader to turn every page, you had better give them something to continue.
Do you plot the entire novel and know who did it before you start, or can that change?
I am all over the place although I have an idea of what I want to do. But the writing is never consistent. I like the surprise element as I write the story rather than plan it out. It works differently for different people. If I choose to plan, I might not find the answers. You know, it’s like a traffic jam. There’s chaos but things eventually fall into place. Whatever it is, I have to be patient and keep on going because no writer can afford to wait for inspiration to knock at the door.
How violent are your novels?
The violence isn’t graphic. The reader won’t squirm. If I may be allowed to say this, I avoid being Tarantino-ish even though I like his movies. I like karate chop chop, that kind of thing, pandemonium, submachine gun, stunts, action-adventure, ricochets and sniper fire and a little bit of accidents. Nothing blood spurting. It scares me too.
Is there such a thing as cosy in murder mystery?
Yes, I read them as well. Maybe one day, I might write one. What’s my vision of a cosy murder mystery? Well, a village in the country or the seaside, maybe even in a cottage, a hotel or a tavern. It’s been done before, but it’s always exciting. Whatever it is, we all need to move on and stop blaming the butler.
Do you include humour?
If you’ve read the review of Smokescreen in The Examiner or Digital Journal, you’ll know the protagonist is humorous. Sometimes, I try to avoid it because I need the characters to be serious. But they are never serious, so I am forced to discipline them and rewrite those dialogues. Good thing I don’t have to pay them overtime.
What song would you pick to go with your book?
Unfortunately the soundtrack by Danny Elfman has been taken by Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Wolfman. It’s suspenseful. When I was creating my book trailer for Smokescreen, I was upset that I couldn’t use it. So I opted for something else that still sounds intense.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just completed a suspense-thriller called Incognito. It’s a 64,000 novel that takes place mainly in Europe. The novel is now in the copy editing stage. I am also having my other book, The Little Book of Muses, translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. I am presently working on the book covers for each. This other book aims to inspire writers to find and keep joy in writing.
What makes you laugh?
These days? A Face book upload, maybe a good prank, or one of those funny animal clips. The BBC had one with the funny animals talking. I hope that meerkat found Alan and Steve.
What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality?
My overseas friends would say I am normal person, but those in Singapore would consider me abnormal. It’s not really a well read society so they cannot understand me. Only a handful would be able to relate.
What is your favourite book?
I have too many favourites and I can’t decide one against the other. I read all kinds of books, even romance novels. I can switch from crime, chick lit, sci-fi to romance, thriller and literature.
Khaled’s author webpage http://www.khaledtalibthriller.com
Face book: https://www.facebook.com/khaled.talib/
“Smokescreen” by Khaled Talib is a fast paced, action packed and highly intelligent espionage thriller that I must highly recommend.
It concerns an assassination plot, in this case the killing of the Israeli Prime Minister on a visit to Singapore. Talib does an excellent job at showing the different sides and interests in this conspiracy story that has a great complexity of plot, to say the least.
Exposing connections between unlikely allies and focusing on the role of Singapore in the peace process covers some of the well researched and plausible background for the story, but this novel is not limited to political and diplomatic issues.
There is plenty of action, violence, sex even and powerful writing that makes for a gripping read and fast turning of the pages.
The setting in Singapore has been a particular plus for me for personal reasons but it adds a new aspect and dimension to the ‘issue’ of Israel and the peace negotiations that I am certain will be appreciated by many readers. There are several great scenes that as responsible reviewer I must not spoil for you but let me assure you that Talib is creative in his writing. Realistic dialogue, fast pacing and well chosen characters make for an explosive combination that keep the readers interest and suspense up throughout.
At an ancient café in Cairo, two veteran spies plot a covert mission to resolve — once and for all — the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. The pledge: Israel will make a major concession as part of the peace treaty. In Singapore, Jethro Westrope, a magazine journalist, stumbles onto the scene of a murder: the beautiful Niki Kishwani directs him, in her last breath, to a digital recorder, evidence that puts Jethro’s life in serious danger. And, much worse, he is framed for Niki’s murder. Jethro sets out to find Niki’s killer and is drawn into a web of deception and intrigue involving officials from the Singaporean, Israeli, and American governments, each with a complex, competing, and potentially deadly agenda. Against this pulse-pounding backdrop, Jethro races to find answers and save himself —yet nothing is as it seems. He finds himself at the centre of a political plot so diabolical and sweeping in its world implications that he is stunned to discover tomorrow’s news headlines today. He is being set up not only as a murderer but as an assassin, and something much larger than his own fate is in his hands