Inspector Gallo’s back and things are getting bloodier. Ramona Depares interviews writer Mark Camilleri about his third, recently-launched crime novel, Nex.
It’s been some years since we last met Inspector Gallo – what has he been up to in the meantime?
Since we last met him in Volens, Inspector Gallo has been kept busy working on new murder cases and dusting up old ones. Oh, and he is even blogging now.
What can we expect out of Nex – will events in Gallo’s personal life continue from where we left them off?
Gallo’s personal trajectory takes place in a continuum forged by events from the previous novels. In fact, in Nex we encounter a psychologically-wounded Victor Gallo, haunted by his past. And it is while he’s in this state of mind, that he finds himself in the middle of a very complex criminal investigation.
Do readers need to have read the previous two books in order to follow the story?
Even though Nex is the third book in the Gallo series – after Prima Facie and Volens, it is a stand-alone novel in its own right. The cases and the investigations are completely different and the characters are a mix: some that we’ve met before and others are new to Nex. Basically, if you’ve read the previous novels you would immediately under-stand some of the inspector’s actions and concerns; however, readers can easily pick up Nex without having read any other Gallo novels.
Three books, three Latin titles – what started this off?
I wanted catchy, intriguing titles which would tickle the reader’s fancy, and gear them up for the mystery-genre frame of mind. I also took into consideration the fact that many criminal law terms have a Latin derivation.
Rather ominously, the title translates to simple ‘death’ – are we to expect more carnage this time round?
Nex is Latin for violent death. Therefore, yes there will be more carnage: violence breeds more violence... even in cosy Malta. It is, after all, a dangerous world we are living in.
Do you ever get your inspiration from real life with respect to characters/ happenings in your book?
Most definitely. The worlds of real life and fiction cannot really be kept separate. Crime and murders are in the news on an almost daily basis, and murder especially in such an insular society and a small island like ours, tends to set our imagination alight. For example, the murder that sparked off the investigations in my previous novel Volens took place in L-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa where, in 1989, Żaren Ebejer had been brutally murdered. Even in Nex, one of the murders was inspired by a real-life crime here in Malta.
The worlds of real life and fiction cannot really be kept separate
What about crime authors – are there any names/styles that you particularly identify with?
I’m a great fan of Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano series – I just love his wicked sense of humour. I also am hooked to the grimness of the Scandinivian school, especially Arnaldur Indridason, Per Wahloo, Jo Nesbo and Henning Mankell. But I would say that the author who fired up my desire to write crime fiction was Ian Rankin. Gallo owes a tiny part to all of these masters.
In Volens, there was football as a ‘unifying’ theme. What theme does Nex bring?
Corruption and the past. They are very powerful themes throughout human history, and remain among the strongest motives for crime.
Will we be seeing other recurrent characters, apart from Gallo?
Most definitely. In Nex we will meet again his faithful sidekick Claudio Casaletto, as well as other familiar faces from Gallo’s investigative team and his personal life. But Nex also introduces a host of very intriguing new characters.
How long did Nex take to finish – what was the biggest challenge this time round?
Three years of research, writing and editing. During the summer of 2013 I spent long sessions sitting on a bench by the sea plotting the characters and situations. The biggest challenge is always transferring these ideas from mind to paper, striving to make sure that all the elements come together to shape a great story.
What is your writing process like and are you ever affected by writer’s block?
While writing the first two drafts, I discipline myself to write five times a week. Word count at this stage is irrelevant, as long as the writing session feels productive. Sometimes I write just a couple of hundred words; other times, over a thousand and a half.
When this first stage is completed, I submit the manu-script to my editor/publisher. We then embark on a lengthy process of thorough editing until we feel that the novel is ready to meet its readers. Luckily, writer’s block has stayed at bay so far where Gallo is concerned.
How did you decide to go into crime fiction? Are you ever tempted to write in a different genre?
Ian Rankin once said that if you want to find out about a country, you must read its crime fiction. Crime fiction gives me the opportunity to explore the underbelly of society and the human psychosis that drives a human being to conspire and murder. It’s a world which is totally alien to my usual line of work, I might add.
But I don’t exclude moving beyond this genre in future. Authors are like adventurers, and there are a lot of exciting lands to explore out there. Most definitely sometime I would like to try my hand at dystopian and horror genres. I do have some ideas...
What is the biggest satisfaction in penning a series like Gallo’s?
Creating a character who is popular and easy to identify with. I also have to admit that I like the fact that sometimes the story is thought of as factual rather than fiction is. Readers’ anticipation for each new Gallo outing has been growing with each new novel, and that is immensely satisfying to an author.
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