I'm sure I wasn't the only one to feel both a yearning for change and the desire to visit exotic places during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020-21. For me as a writer, this expressed itself in a change of direction from fantasy to crime fiction. The result has been three crime novels set in Barcelona. You can learn a bit more about them below.
I once had a girlfriend back in Scotland, Lorna, who was into astrology, karma, healing crystals and all that shite. She always said the universe had a way of knowing when you needed something and providing for you. In my experience, what it generally provides is a kick in the bollocks.
Tommy Chisholm is in trouble.
His dream life in Barcelona is unravelling. He’s broke, his writing career has stalled, and maybe it’s time to pack up and go home.
But then he’s recruited by an organised crime gang to help them rob an art gallery. His financial worries will be over at a stroke, and all he needs to do is seduce someone he’s never met.
Everything is going perfectly. Until he loses his head over the woman he is meant to be exploiting.
Catfish Alley is inspired as much by film as by other books. Readers will enjoy echoes of classic film noir, as well as movies like To Catch A Thief and The Thomas Crown Affair. Below, some images from my research trip in November 2022 (l-r): Carrer del Tigre, the heroine's shady address; one of the many cafes that features in the novel; and the original 'Catfish Alley'.
Catfish Alley is available now from SpellBound Books.
Another bartender, short and slim with black hair pinned up on her head, is spraying disinfectant on the surface. I see from her tag that she is ‘Lara K’ and British. Maybe we’re in luck.
“Excuse me,” I say. “Is anyone sitting there?”
She runs her eyes up and down my suit that probably cost three months of her wages. “Not unless they’re fucking invisible.”
If this is ‘Happy Hour’, Lara K hasn’t got the memo.
Her brown eyes are fixed on mine like heat-seeking missiles. “Well? You want the table or not? We’re busy, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
I move past her, keeping as far away as possible in case she bites, and take a seat facing out into the bar.
Things are looking up for Dexter. He's in line for a promotion at the bank where he works, he's found a new girlfriend, and life's good. If his new client is a bit shady, well surely that goes with job.
But before he knows it, he's caught up in a murder investigation, and so deep into a money-laundering scheme that it looks like he might be the next victim.
How did it come to this?
Casanova Street is a homage to the great Hitchcock movies of the 1950s, with a modern twist. With gangsters, murders and a femme fatale, it's an old-fashioned noir tale and if you want to root for the good guys, you'll have to find them first. Here are some of the locations I used. L-R: a petrol station which is also the scene of a violent beating; the HQ of 'Fidelitat Capital', the dodgiest bank you'll ever find; the view from the Bunkers of Carmel, overlooking Barcelona.
Casanova Street is the second in the Barcelonoir trilogy, and news on its publication will be coming soon!
Sofía’s never been to my flat before, and I can’t say she looks impressed. She perches on the edge of the IKEA sofa as I put the coffee machine on. Decaf, I think. It’s already gone 2:30. The light is dim, not because I have spotlights like her; two of my three ceiling bulbs are out.
She examines her face in her phone’s camera and plumps her hair. I don’t want a heart-to-heart, and I’m not going to start the conversation. I put her cup down on the table along with a couple of sugar sachets I've stolen from a café. At last she lowers her phone and looks up at me, standing in the kitchen doorway.
“So.” I notice her eyeshadow has smudged in the heat of Razzmatazz.
She sighs. “It’s done?”
For a moment I don’t recognise her, pulling her mini-dress down over her thighs, an expression of dark avidity lurking behind her mascara.
“I don’t want to talk about it, Sof.” I stand by the shuttered window, not the sofa seat next to her.
She kicks off her heels and tucks her feet under her on the sofa. “Rob.”
I turn my head to her.
“Is he dead?” she says. “The rest can wait.”
I see the inside of his head on the warehouse floor. “He’s dead.”
Rob Jardine is the last man to take part in a diamond heist. Responsible, sober (if you ignore a little recreational cocaine) and an office manager. But then his new boss threatens to ship him back to England, and he meets diamond dealer Sofía. She has a plan - and Rob is just the man to help her with it.
Diamond Boulevard is the story of a meticulously planned heist, put together by a team of master criminals. Some of the details are drawn from real-life heists, and of course there's a slab of inspiration from the classic heist movies: Reservoir Dogs, Oceans Eleven and most all of the 1950s French masterpiece Rififi.