Joyriding with Australian Crime Writer Jarad Henry … Grand Theft Interview …
Criminals come in all shapes, sizes and weights. And when it comes to their intelligence they run the gamut from the brilliant, to dumb and dumber. Thailand Footprint welcomes the opportunity to interview our first crime fiction writer with a degree in criminology, from Melbourne University in Australia. Jarad Henry has worked in the criminal justice system as part of the St Kilda Police Department for the past 10 years. But it is in his capacity of crime novelist and essayist that we interview him here today. My goal was to think like a criminal while interviewing Jarad. It seems to me that criminals, the smart ones and the dumb ones, are looking to take shortcuts. They want something for nothing. So they steal things. I thought, what the heck, I’ll steal interview questions from people smarter than me. What could possibly go wrong? It seems like the perfect crime …
In 2013 Jarad Henry joined a team of crime authors from around the globe where each author posts a weekly essay about crime fiction or a related issue at one of my favorite blogs, International Crime Authors Reality Check. Jarad’s essays are always thought provoking and well constructed. His criminal justice background is fully evident. His latest essay, WHEN A HIT MAN FALLS THROUGH THE ROOF is about another criminal who thought nothing could go wrong, but it did. It can be found by clicking the picture below:
Last year Jarad’s third novel, PINK TIDE, featuring protagonist and anti-hero Detective Sergent Rubens McCauley, was released – set in the south-west of Victoria, Australia. Thailand Footprint is pleased to welcome our first Aussie bloke, Jarad Henry. Let the joyride begin:
TF Which music, books or films have floated your boat recently? (Question stolen from Paul D. Brazill at: http://pauldbrazill.wordpress.com/
JH My musical tastes are quite broad, depending on the situation. I like hip hop for the story telling, the craft and the beats, in that order. My iPod is my favorite digital gadget and like an Amex Card, I never leave home without it. There are over 250 separate playlists on it, much of which I have composed myself or mixed together using CDJs and a DJ pre-amp mixer, which I have in my apartment, connected to my PC, like a mini A/V studio.
The genres range from jazz to country rock, to rap and hip hop, modern pop and house music. I still go to nightclubs and always keep up with new music, but at the same time there’s a place in my heart that will always hang on to a few special songs. These are:
Flame trees, Cold Chisel.
The Living Years, Mike & the Mechanics
Across 110th Street, Bobby Womack
1000 kisses deep, Leonard Cohen
As for books, I am an avid reader, but have a very particular or fussy taste. Some might even say it’s narrow, but I like crime fiction that is hard boiled, hard core and realistic. The category of noir fits into this, but if i had to name a few authors who are in my top five I’d say:
Michael Connelly, The Poet – and the Harry Bosch series.
Michael Robotham, Shatter
Christopher G Moore, Cold Hit, and the Calvino series
Peter Temple, – The Broken Shore
Leigh Redhead – Thrill City
As for movies. Realistic, confronting and hard boiled, although I am human and do love a laugh. Favorites are:
End of Watch
Tell Them Lucifer Was Here
Made In Australia
TF When did you know that you were born to be a writer? (Q stolen from Kathy Reinhart atwww.inkdropinterviews.com)
JH I was a rebel in high school. After a trip to the US, I was bullied by jealous kids but I fought back, got suspended and landed in quite a bit of trouble. Outside school I hung around with local thugs and losers, who all did drugs and ended up robbing our house. Then I got caught doing graffiti. My parents were at their wits-end and they felt I had some artistic talent that was displaced, so they sent me off to learn ceramics, which I loved and did well in.
Finally my parents were proud of me and as I approached the last two years of school, I decided I wanted two things – to be popular at school, but also do well and to prove that I could do both. In English class one of the core assessment tasks was to write a short story. I wrote a story of an old man watching a young person doing graffiti on a train and what he thought of it. I enjoyed the experience and I ended up getting an A+ for the assignment. It was the first time I’d ever got anything above a C.
I showed my parents and the look of relief and pride was like a drug itself. It felt fantastic. I was going to all the cool parties, had lots of friends and I took the hottest girl in school to the prom, and I was now getting good grades as well. So I worked hard in the final year and ended up getting into Melbourne University, which isn’t easy. It’s the best university in the country, and I scraped in.
There I studied criminology but found it so damn boring I ended up in the library where I found a whole range of books on crime. Biographies of gangsters, drug smugglers, kingpins, detectives, crooked politicians, the works. I loved it. I learnt more about crime in the library than I did in the lectures.
Outside university I was hitting the nightclubs every week where drugs and gangsters were everywhere. Drugs were cheaper than alcohol and no one got into fights on drugs, but the party scene was something that could only be part of your life. You wouldn’t want to live it. A lot of people I knew got right into that scene and many never got out. Some guys I knew (who joined the Army) even got involved in stealing guns and selling them to gangsters in exchange for drugs.
So I had a twofold education. Street smart and school smart. This made a good foundation on which to write a book. It was during these years that I decided to do just that.
I wrote a blurb or synopsis for what would later become my first book, Head Shot. I showed it to my partner at the time whilst celebrating Chinese New Year.
She read it and said,”Sounds pretty good. Is that a book you’re going to buy?”
And I replied, “No it’s a book I’m going to write.”
“Yeah, right,” she said. “Bullshit!”
That was it. The challenge was on. I had to write the book and get it published. It took five years, many re-writes and a lot of persistence, but I didn’t give up until I had it in print. That was about 7 years ago.
TF If you were a traveling genre salesman, going from door to door and trying to interest people in a specific genre, what would be your sales pitch for CRIME FICTION? (Q stolen from Timothy Hallinan at The Blog Cabin www.Timothy Hallinan.com)
JH Crime Fiction has evolved since the old fashioned murder mysteries set in some English mansion where someone ends up dead at a dinner party. In the end it’s always the butler who did it.
These days crime fiction is a lens to look at any social, political or cultural issue you want to read or learn about and be entertained at the same time. It’s part info-tainment, part-atlas, so you can go places you never would on your own.
TF Is crime in something you have researched, studied for your books? Is it something you have to do, or does your imagination provide enough fuel for the fire to write crime fiction? (Q stolen from James Austin Farrell at www.chiangmaicitynews.com)
JH Part of this I guess is covered in question 2, but people often ask this same question referenced to my work. Yes my job provides a good insight into police procedure and culture, but I wrote my first book before I worked in justice. Also, there are very strict rules about disclosing information so everything I put in my books is in the public domain, and I never write or do appearances, etc, as anything other than Jarad Henry, the writer / author.
Anyway, there was a lot of research through reading what I wanted to write about. I followed crime in the papers, listened to hard core dance music and hung out in raves and clubs where the gangsters did business. Eventually a war started and the gangsters all started killing each other, which became the subject of many books and movies, but I had witnessed it all from both perspectives.
I could walk into a club or dance party and know who the players were, then go home and write about that scene with a criminology degree and day-job in the justice system filling in the blanks.
TF Tell me about PINK TIDE in 50 words or less – who would you want to play Sgt McCauley if it made it to the big screen? (I cannot even remember who I stole that question from).
JH Pink Tide is a story of forbidden love and what is considered an accepted relationship in modern Australia, with all its stigmas, prejudices and flaws built into a lead detective named Rubens McCauley, who would be perfect casting for Russell Crowe.
TF Well, Jarad it’s taken me until question number six to see the light. Your own true story may have scared me straight. I’m not going to hang out with the wrong crowd anymore. And I’m not going to steal any questions from other authors and interviewers either. Though I must confess to a bit of plagiarism while I was at University. No more short-cuts. I don’t want to end up like Russell Crowe after he threw that phone in New York City. You’ve piqued my interest about Pink Tide. Tell me more. What are you particularly proud of that your novel PINK TIDE conveys? And where can our readers find it.
JH Hahaha. Nothing to worry about Khun Kevin! Go forth and steal!
I am proud of Pink Tide in the sense that is not a traditional crime novel or story simply about crime. It is about themes of what it’s like to be an outsider, whether that be for the mentally ill, ethnicity, sexual preferences, what religion you practice, where you have grown up or whether or not can play a macho sport like football. In essence, it questions what it means to be Australian and what is considered by the mainstream to be acceptable.
Pink Tide covers all these themes, while at the same time gives the reader a genuine insight into the stress of policing in the modern world where everyone has a phone with a camera in it and everyone has an opinion about how police ought to do their job.
One particularly poignant moment describes a death notification. These are never easy and the scene shows the emotional impact delivering the notice of death to the parents of a young man and the effect it has on a young Asian police woman as well as the victim’s family.
It will be available as eBook soon, but at the moment the best place to buy a copy is online direct from the publisher via the following link:
TF Tell us about your previous crime novel BLOOD SUNSET and your upcoming novel, HEAD SHOT … how are they similar and how are they different?
JH Blood Sunset looks at themes of peadophiles and street kids in the red light / party district of Melbourne, known as St Kilda. Again it’s a police procedural but the underlying themes of injustice to children in state care underpins the story. The title itself is also major theme. On hot summer days the sun sets over the bay and half a million people head into St Kilda to party, but every cop and ambulance worker knows that the hotter it gets the more blood will be spilt on the streets through fights, stabbings, brawls and shootings. People go crazy, drink too much and it’s the cops and ambulance officers who have to deal with it. So when they see the sun going down, they call it a Blood Sunset. Blood Sunset can be purchased as a paperback or eBook through Amazon.com.
Head Shot was initially my first book, the first in the McCauley trilogy , but it has been completely re-written , revamped and modernized to reflect contemporary times and issues. It centers around the issue of police corruption and linkages with the underworld, outlaw motorcycle gangs in particular. Drug trafficking and the notion drug money and the lifestyle being more addictive than the drugs themselves is a core theme also, with many other wise ordinary citizens caught up in a very violent and dirty business.
The Head Shot trailer is good, but it won’t be out until November or December via the publisher first, then as an eBook.
TF There is an old lawyer joke that goes something like this: a lawyer is defending a hardened criminal regarding a horrific crime. He goes back to the law office and his law partner asks, “How did it go at trial?” Smiling the lawyer says, “Justice prevailed.” The partner not missing a beat says, “Appeal immediately.” Because of your background in criminal justice, must justice always prevail in your novels? Because as we know in real life it often does not. In other words, could the bad guy ever get away with it in a Jarad Henry novel or do you make sure to dish out an extra helping of street justice?
JH Justice never prevails in my books in the traditional sense. While i do create chaos and then restore a sense of order (which is a form of justice), much of the narrative in my books describes how the wheels of justice do and don’t turn. The good guys don’t always win and the bad guys don’t always lose, but somehow the universe eventually takes out its trash and that comes in many ways.
Pink Tide especially goes into this about how the justice machine doesn’t and cannot ever live up to the complete expectations of what people expect it to. My books don’t proffer solutions, since most of the time the problems are complex and complex problems aren’t easily solved. However, they do highlight the complexities and I hope give the reader an insight into some of the issues the adversarial system faces when trying to restore justice.
TF What’s on the horizon on the Pacific Rim for Jarad Henry? What are you working on now? What’s going on in the artistic, book-writing, ceramic factory nowadays?
JH I have moved on from ceramics and have done a series of paintings to decorate my apartment / condo, which I find enjoyable when I get time and find the muse. As for writing, I’m giving McCauley a rest for a while and focusing on a potential project that involves ghost writing a person’s memoirs. I can’t say too much about it, however it is something that has not been done before and I am currently in discussions with a major publisher about how we might pursue the project.
As for my day job, I have applied for a consultancy role as drug analyst with the UN head quarters in Bangkok, which if successful would see me working part time in Thailand and part time in Australia, on the next book project.
I am also working with some brilliant young film makers of Asian background here in Melbourne, assisting them to promote a noir story about losing and saving face for young Australians of Asian background.
The film is called “Made In Australia”, written, directed and produced by Matt Pastor. The trailer can be seen here on You Tube: (Warning:harsh language)
Khap khun na krup Khun Kevin. Great to be a part of all things ASEAN and the Thailand Footprint Site.
Catch you at CheckInn99 for a beer October 25. Mauw mak mak 555
TF No worries. Thanks for the ride, Jarad. My shout – wait until you hear, Music of the Heart Band. They are the ducks guts.
You can learn more about Jarad Henry and his books by visiting his web page at http://www.jaradhenry.com.au/
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