Briefly tell us about your new thriller Trust
Trust again features Martin Scarsden and Mandalay Blonde, the main characters from Scrublands and Trust, although it can absolutely be read as a standalone.
It starts with Mandy being kidnapped, and the discovery of the body of a man murdered five years ago, and an unconscious policeman. From there the pace picks up, as we leave the North Coast behind and venture into a grim, post-covid Sydney.
Unlike the first two books, Trust is not told exclusively from Martin’s point of view, but also from Mandy’s. The point of view alternates with the chapters, which adds pace and momentum. It also allows us to discover what Mandy is thinking as we dive down into her troubled past.
Your previous titles Scrublands and Silver are inspired by their settings. Where did the title Trust come from?
In many ways, trust is a central motif of the book: who trusts whom? Should Martin trust Mandy and should she trust him? Can they trust the police? Who is above suspicion and who isn’t? And what happens if you trust the wrong people.
So although this is a crime book, it’s also about human relations.
Your books are renowned for their tight plotting and unexpected twists. Do you plot out your novels before you begin or do you see where the story takes you?
I don’t plot out the stories first. Rather I begin with a general idea about where some of the storylines might end up. But then, as I write, elements of the plot evolve as more and (hopefully) better ideas come to me. This isn’t the most efficient way of writing, but it seems to work for me. And it’s more fun: sometimes I can’t wait to find out myself how various plot lines will resolve themselves!
How has your background in journalism helped in writing Martin and in writing the books overall?
Martin is based loosely on some of the war correspondents I encountered when I was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS. Many of them were damaged by what they had encountered, suffering from PTSD and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
And, of course, having been a journalist for some thirty years gives me some insight into the mentality and work practices of Australian journos on the trail of a big story.
Journalism also gives me some of the craft skills that help in writing a book. For example, when it comes to the discipline of writing, no journalist can wait around for inspiration. We just get on and do the best we can in the time we have. It also gave me lots of interesting experiences and insights into how the world works. Also, I met a lot of unusual people: the powerful and the vulnerable, the noble and the criminal. All sorts.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Trust?
First and foremost, I hope people enjoy it, that they like the story and enjoy the writing. If they then take anything additional from it, such as reflecting on the nature of human relations, or of personal redemption, or whatever the book triggers for them, that’s a bonus. I hope they do find reading it rewarding, but I’m not about to dictate what they should or shouldn’t get from it.