Captain Paul Darac of the Brigade Criminelle is called to a potential crime scene – an elderly woman found dead in her hot tub. At first it is thought that she died of natural causes, but a surprising link with Darac’s own life leads him to dig deeper. In doing so he uncovers disturbing proof that there may have been a motive to kill the woman, and there is no shortage of suspects…
Now read an interview with author Peter Morfoot!
1. For those that haven’t read Fatal Music, could you tell us a little about it?
Following Impure Blood, (Titan Books April, 2016) Fatal Music is the second novel in my series featuring the jazz-playing, quick-thinking, warm-hearted but combustible Captain Paul Darac of Nice’s Serious Crimes Squad, the Brigade Criminelle. Opening on the anniversary of the ban on smoking in public places in France, themes of change, loss and new beginnings run through the story which spans the full width of Nice’s social spectrum.
It begins with the discovery of the remains of a 71 year-old woman in her hot tub. When it is found that she had suffered from a heart condition and other maladies, death by natural causes seems the obvious conclusion. Although the death initially offers little of interest to Darac and his team, the dead woman herself comes to fascinate the detective. And then a series of anomalies starts to gnaw at him.
The case is complicated by a number of personal factors for Darac. But he must leave aside allegiances past and present to disentangle a story of greed, deception and escalating murder – murder in which Darac himself becomes a target.
2. Had you always planned to write more than one Darac novel?
Absolutely. I’ve said elsewhere that one of the things I enjoy most about reading crime series – Jim Kelly’s impressive D.I. Peter Shaw novels, for instance – is following the lives of its central character and supporting players as they develop over time. The same applies to writing series. Having created Darac, his team and his world, I can’t wait to see what will happen to them next.
3. What inspired you to write a dark crime series?
I’ve always loved reading crime fiction but for years I wrote nothing but comedy. And scripted comedy for broadcast, at that. It wasn’t until I’d written a successful comic novel that I realised I could tackle full-length prose work. I thought that the vibrant light of the South of France seemed the perfect backdrop for venturing into the dark.
4. Who are the authors that have inspired you most?
What writer wouldn’t be inspired by the 60-year career of Broadway playwright and Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht? Gifted as well as prolific, he wrote everything from tense thrillers such as Alfred Hitchock’s Notorious and Spellbound to fabulous laugh-out-loud comedies like The Front Page and Monkey Business. In terms of prose, I still get a buzz from reading the American hard-boiled trio of Chandler, Hammett and Ross Macdonald. And two contemporary writers make my starting line-up of inspirers: the peerless John Le Carré; and the quirkily brilliant Fred Var
gas. And see question 7 for a newcomer to my team.
5. With Fatal Music about to be released, what are you working on next?
Having already completed the third Darac story, Box of Bones, (Titan Books, April 2018) I’m excited at how the fourth in the series is progressing. In this new story… but that would be telling.
6. Was there lots of research involved in writing gritty and realistic fiction?
“If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail” is something of a cliché but researching adequately is an essential part of the process of writing anything. Like any crime fan, I’m fascinated by forensics and pathology so it’s no hardship to settle down with tomes such as Stevens and Bannon’s Book of Posions, (Writer’s Digest Books, 2007), and similar works.
though – initially in having to get to grips with a legal, penal and policing system that is very different from ours in the UK. In terms of the local situation, it’s been invaluable to talk to both beat and senior officers in Nice. As for the setting itself, I’ve got to know the city and its environs well over the years,
certainly well enough for it to feature as a character in its own right in the stories. And I hope that comes across. At times, the French setting of the Darac series has presented a challenge,
7. Finally, what’s the best book you’ve read recently?
Adam Mars-Jones is best known for his penetrating, sometimes lacerating, literary criticism. I discovered only recently that he writes novels, too. And he does so brilliantly. Pilcrow and Cedilla (Faber, 2008, and 2011, respectively) centre on the young life of John Cromer, a boy who suffers from a crippling form of arthritis. Physically tiny, immobile and vulnerable, the character nevertheless struts through his life with a chirpy confidence that is touching, funny and utterly compelling. Disarmingly, Mars-Jones has said that nothing much happens in the two novels and what does happen happens slowly. Every page, though, offers reading pleasures aplenty and having devoured Pilcrow more or less at one sitting, I got stuck into Cedilla immediately. It provided an equally delicious experience. Mars-Jones puts the reader so surely into the head and world of John Cromer that many readers assume the writer himself must have suffered from the disease as a child. He didn’t. That’s genius.