Mark Grenside has long dreamed of penning a thriller bursting with insight from his global career in entertainment – and now he’s done it. Here, Jo Caruana chats to the Malta-based author, and quickly discovers that his newly-launched book Fall Out is already turning heads among some of the world’s toughest critics.  

This may be Mark Grenside’s first book but it is not his first rodeo. His varied career has spanned everything from working on The Muppet Show   on TV alongside Jim Henson to running his own film production company, and now he’s turned his hand to writing novels.

But not just any novels: thrillers. And, in particular, a thriller set in the dazzling Hollywood Hills that has already caught the eye of book critics across the world.

“What can I say? I like a challenge,” Grenside smiles, as he talks to me from his home in Madliena. “Plus I’m not afraid to fail. I like to extend myself and never get too comfortable doing one job, as that’s when the risk of the ‘lazy switch’ kicks in.”

The upside to that, of course, is that he has never stopped learning. Grenside began his career working in kids’ TV and was responsible for the distribution and co-production versions of Fraggle Rock (the co-production of the award-winning series Jim Henson Presents) as well as the distribution of Muppet Babies, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Storyteller. Since then, he has worked in film, TV movie, music management, and was even the co-owner of a TV channel. “It’s kept me young,” he quips. “A book was the next challenge.”

That book – and Grenside’s debut – turned into a fast-paced novel that features an LA screenwriter who is killed shortly after completing his latest script, Fall Out – a thriller destined to be a blockbuster but written with a secret double purpose.

“Echoing events from the past, the screenplay is sent to a very specific group of people and will change their lives forever,” the author divulges. “All are connected to a movie that had abruptly stopped shooting in the jungles of the Philippines years before. Fall Out exposes the truth about a conspiracy and murder that led to a half-a-billion-dollar fortune for a select few.”

Fall Out exposes the truth about a conspiracy and murder that led to a half-a-billion-dollar fortune for a select few

Grenside clearly brings his extensive background in the real-life world of film to the book, but I am curious to learn that the novel’s underlining premise is actually based on a shocking true story.

“That is true but I cannot reveal the details here or it would spoil the book!” Grenside smiles again. “But I will say that I uncovered the nugget I used in Fall Out on my travels to one country out of the 116 countries I have visited. In addition, I found I knew plenty about the darker side of human nature from my time working in kidnap, ransom and product extortion liability insurance.”

Once again, it is Grenside’s incredible career that is visible in this page-turner. He says he wanted to wrap all that knowledge up into a neat story, which is exactly what he has achieved with Fall Out. However, it is the fascinating world of film that undoubtedly takes centre stage in the final result.

“If you have ever been to a dinner party attended by a lawyer, doctor, dentist, broker, banker, designer and film producer, you’ll know it’s the producer who gets peppered with questions,” the author continues. “People find the film world captivating!

“So, based on my history, Hollywood seemed the logical place to set a franchise of thrillers. Then the idea of a true (but almost unbelievable) historical fact with a very accurate (but fictional) insider’s view of movie making seemed a good fun blend.”

Pleasingly, for both Grenside and his readers, it seems to be a formula that has worked. Critics have showered accolades such as “this is a tautly written, entertaining thriller that will keep the reader turning the pages right till the very end” and “it sits somewhere between The Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones”; no mean feat for a first-time author. Meanwhile, it has even been optioned by a Hollywood producer, so a film version may already be in the works.

“I can’t say more about that now but I am excited by the response,” Grenside continues, adding that he is also working on a sequel, called The Bastion.

But the author is focusing on that new project while still keeping his eye firmly on the prize when it comes to response for his debut.

“I hope readers enjoy it and are excited by it. I hope they are struck by the memorable characters, whip-smart dialogue, and very visual writing style. It is a plot with twists and turns that keeps you guessing, as well as a lot of fun facts about history and the movies, which ties it all together.

“I hope they find it is a fun, fresh and different read, and I am truly thrilled that it is now directly available here in Malta,” he added.

Fall Out by M. N. Grenside is published in paperback by Urbane Publications Ltd and will be distributed by Miller Distributors Ltd in Malta. It will be available from Agenda Bookshops as from tomorrow.

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