Alfie Robins (A.K.A. Tony Smethurst) is a writer from Middleton-on-the-Wolds who is making waves in the Crime-Thriller genre. ‘Snakes and Losers’ is his latest book. Here, in an exclusive interview with ‘Pulse’ author Steve Rudd, Alfie waxes lyrical about his passion for writing, and the success it has spawned...
Q: You recently released your latest book, ‘Snakes and Losers’. What’s with the title, and how long did it take you to write?
A: The original working title was a ‘Brown Leather Boot’, and anyone who has already read ‘Snakes and Losers’ will probably see the significance. Saying that, I didn’t think it gave a true flavour of the novel. The ‘Snakes’ part is a reference to a seedy night club named the ‘Snake Pit’ and its unscrupulous owner. The ‘Losers’ bit, I think, speaks for itself, relating to the three small-time villains who try to unsuccessfully get one over on the club owner and his psychopathic nephew.
I always have more than piece of work on the go at one time; I seem to flit between them until one ‘takes’ over. Once this happens, I stay with it until it’s complete. All told, I would say it takes me around twelve months to complete a novel.
Q: You’ve been riding the crest of literary success ever since ‘Reprisal’ was published. Did you pen any novels prior to ‘Reprisal’, and what do you think it is about that story in particular that caused it to resonate with so many people?
A: Over the years, the thought of writing a novel had always been with me. I’d write a couple of chapters and think what a load of rubbish and bin it. It was while I was employed part-time with the Royal Mail that I decided to give it a go.
I think maybe the reason why ‘Reprisal’ was so popular may be due to a couple of reasons: it isn’t written in the true literary sense, which is probably due to my lack of experience, and it was written by an ordinary person, not by someone with delusions of being a great writer. I write in my own style and don’t try to emulate the famous novelists.
Q: As a resident of East Yorkshire, what provoked you to set your stories in Hull?
A: Whenever you read the ‘How to Write a Novel’ type of book, they advise you to write about where you know, and Hull is a place I know, having been brought up on Hessle Road and worked in Hull for the majority of my working life. To be honest, I was stunned by the success of ‘Reprisal’. There is a strong demand for good British fiction set in Yorkshire. Hull in particular is a great backdrop for Crime-fiction, as the city, with its docks and the cobbled streets of its Old Town, is so diverse in landscape and history.
Q: When you wrote ‘Reprisal’, did you always intend to follow it up with a sequel?
A: No, I thought ‘Reprisal’ was going to be a ‘one off’ and had no intention of a sequel. I personally though my second novel, ‘Just Whistle’ (published by Caffeine Nights Publishing in 2012), was the much better novel. In many ways, it’s still my favourite. It is a complex tale of an author writing a Crime novel whose characters become so real that the lines between fact and fiction for its author are blurred, as the author strives to solve a disturbing murder case. It wasn’t until some of the readers of ‘Reprisal’ asked for more that I considered a sequel.
Q: Both ‘Reprisal’ and ‘Snakes and Losers’ feature DCI Philip Marlowe at their core. Is your central character based on anybody in particular?
A: A very short answer to this one: no... purely out of my imagination!
Q: What is it about the ‘Hard-Boiled Crime’ genre that appeals to you so much?
A: I think it’s because I was brought up on the genre, an early favourite being Raymond Chandler whose character name I borrowed for ‘Reprisal’ and ‘Snakes and Losers’. When you read this early work, the style and dialogue is so different from anything written at the time. It wasn’t a style I tried to emulate... I just sort of fell into it, writing about a hard-bitten, principled detective, serving a highly populated urban area and the associated problem
Q: Now that ‘Snakes and Losers’ is doing the rounds and receiving more acclaim with each passing day, are you working on anything new, or is it time for a well-deserved break from writing for a while?
A: A break? Not really. I write most days, some days more than others. My next novel, ‘Funeral Rites’, is the sequel to ‘Just Whistle’, and it’s with my publisher now. At the moment, I am working on the next Marlowe novel and a non-series book with the working title, ‘Grey Suits and a Silken Shroud’.
Q: Finally, what’s the best way for folk to stay abreast of future novels scribed by your good self?
A: If anyone cares to take a look, they can find out a little more about me and my books at the following places.
Signed copies of Steve’s first book, ‘Pulse’, can be purchased from.steverudd.co.uk