Author Q&A with Matthew Pritchard! One of my favourite writers of 2016!

scarecrow-coverwerewolf-cover

Matthew Pritchard author of Scarecrow & werewolf – Q&A

matthew-pritchard-headshot

Q) I found the character of Danny Sanchez very unique. I loved the investigative journalism edge & the Spanish/English/ex-pat themes in the novel. Can you explain for the readers the background & creation of the character Danny Sanchez?

A) Danny is my alter ego. Physically we are the same, our music tastes are the same, as is our clothing and sense of humour; we are also both obsessive about writing and research, and are both loners.
I was a journalist in Spain for 10 years and worked closely with the expat community, hence the ring of authenticity to some of the scenes depicted in the book.
Danny, however, is a far better reporter than I ever was and he works the sort of juicy stories I dreamt of discovering, so I guess there is an element of wish fulfilment in the character, too.
However, unlike Danny, I have managed to give up smoking, eat well and get myself relatively fit, but he is still the conduit through which I examine the world, and his progression over the three books I have written that feature him closely mirrors my own life experiences. 

Q) The book briefly covers the realms of mental health & psychiatry. Also the damage of abusive childhoods on an individual’s growth. I found this fascinating as it is well documented & society is desperate to uncover what causes a warped mind. Did you research mental health?  Were there any particular cases in the media that have stuck with you or you were reminded of in the writing process?

A) I did a lot of research on serial killers during the writing of the book, and the one factor 95% of them had in common was abusive, miserable childhoods.
Also, since Hannibal Lector became a cultural icon, many other writers have chosen to portray serial killers as suave, intelligent and sophisticated individuals, when the opposite is almost always true – the majority of serial killers are really very mundane people with a history of failure, who are only distinguished by their complete lack of empathy with other human beings and their manipulative, predatory nature, and I wanted to really hammer that point home in Scarecrow.

Q) As stated in my review, several times Scarecrow is a very dark & gritty novel. It certainly isn’t a novel you forget too quickly. Was that always the intention, to write a novel that also had a shock feel to it?

A) I knew from the start I wanted to do something different and unusual with my book, so I decided to make men the victims of my serial killer rather than women, and began to research killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Dennis Nilsen.
When you begin to realise how disturbing, violent and bizarre their crimes were, it is very difficult not to write something that deeply affects the reader. 

Q) In my review I reference a recent factual case with similar themes as the motive of The Scarecrow killer. As a former journalist yourself, are you influenced by real life criminal cases?

A) Some writers seem to delight in imagining crimes of an almost impossibly grotesque nature and then describing them in  pornographic detail.
I, however, always stick to things that have actually occurred in real life and use a “less is more” approach, only hinting at the most disturbing elements of the crimes depicted in my stories.
I have also befriended a professor of forensic science, so he checks all the details in my books, and sends me examples of real life case studies of murders – truth is not only stranger than fiction, it is usually also better.

Questions re: Detective Inspector Silas Payne series

Q) Werewolf was in my favourites of 2016 list. This is how I discovered your writing & was previously unaware of the Danny Sanchez novels. Does it benefit authors to have various different series?  Is it difficult in the writing experience?

A) I can’t speak for other authors, but I enjoyed the change in setting immensely. I did not find the transition particularly difficult, mainly because discovering the historical details about the period – especially the demobilisation of the German army and the constant search for SS and Nazi Party members hiding among normal soldiers – was so fascinating.

Q) Where did the idea behind Werewolf come from? Why the WW2 era?

A) My father is a collector of WWI and WWII books and military memorabilia, so I grew up in a house filled with gas masks, helmets, uniforms and rifles – it was pretty much a given I would write a book set around that particular time period.
The specific genesis of Werewolf came when, as a teenager, I met a man who had served in Germany in August, 1945, when the British Zone of Occupation was being established. He described the chaos the country was in and the fear of attack by “werewolves” (German soldiers who had taken to the forests to continue fighting) while doing night time sentry duty.
The name stuck in my mind and 20 years later I began writing and researching the project. 

Q) Both novels are incredibly well written, how long is the process from idea to publication?  Can you talk us through your writing process?

A) It takes me roughly 10 months to start and finish a project. My writing style developed as a result of reading authors such as Elmore Leonard and Cormac McCarthy, both of whom use simple, declarative sentences filled with nouns and verbs, and only sparsely seasoned with the odd adjective or adverb.
I am ruthless in paring down my own work, and normally only use 30% of what I actually write for any given project. I also try to avoid using metaphors and similes whenever possible – instead, I seek concrete specific nouns that require no further explanation. This is what (I hope) gives my writing style its edge and relentless pace.
As for my routine, I wake around midnight and work through the night until about 08:00. Then I sleep for a while, do a bit of reading then hit the hay around 16:00. I don’t like socialising, so the weird hours I keep are not a problem – I love solitude and, apart from my girlfriend and a very few specific friends and family members, I try to minimise my contact with the outside world as much as possible. 

*Huge Thank you to Matthew for answering my questions!

Review: Scarecrow by Matthew Pritchard 5*

I recently discovered the author Matthew Pritchard when I read his post WW2 novel Werewolf for review via netgalley. It ended up on my list of favourites of the year. From a staggering 242 novels I picked just 20 fiction novels as favourites. When I am this impressed by an author I immediately go & seek out their other work. This led me to Sacrecrow!

scarecrow-cover

Scarecrow by Matthew Pritchard 5/5*

The blurb:

Follow the road to murder…

Investigative reporter, Danny Sanchez, has lived eight years in Almeria, southern Spain, working for the British expat paper, Sureste News.

While working on his latest story – Kafkaesque bureaucracy leading to the demolition of an elderly couples’ home – a startling discovery is made: as the diggers begin to tear down the house, a decomposed body is revealed dangling between two walls, its head swathed in Gaffa Tape.

From this sinister beginning, Danny follows a trail of bodies that takes him back and forth between Spain and England, as he is led to revisit the first story he ever covered, the trial and conviction of the serial killer known as The Scarecrow.

But with that man behind bars, how can bodies bearing the same distinctive pattern of mutilation be turning up in Spain?

The Spanish police insist there is no connection – but then times are hard in Almeria and no one wants to admit a murderer is on the loose, and Danny finds himself struggling against corrupt bureaucracy, cowboy builders and a monstrous killer whose motives are so perverse as to defy description…

My Review:

This novel is not for the faint hearted, I repeat definitely, not for the faint hearted! The novel is of the crime genre but it is extremely dark & edgy. It reminded me in a way of The Poet by Michael Connelly but the author gives it his own unique stamp!

The novel opens & we are instantly transported to Almeria Spain; investigative journalist Danny Sanchez is covering the unjust demolition of an elderly retired ex-pat couple’s villa. I liked that the author had featured something we do hear about occurring to ex-pat’s living abroad and found this added authenticity to the story. Danny is well known in the ex-pat community & we learn how such a community exists and operates in Spain. When the dust settles from the demolition a body is discovered amongst the rubbles and not just any body this one is wearing a gimp mask! The body is clearly that of a murder victim. But how did it get there? Why has someone been murdered in such a way? When the builder of the property is attacked with a hammer, Danny & his photographer Paco decide to dig a little deeper.

The builder Hacker & his 3 sons are by no means nice people. They are nasty, violent bullies whom have been terrorising the people of Spain for some time. They’re ex-pat’s themselves but with Rottweilers named Yorkshire & Ripper have done nothing to improve the image of the British. Danny & Paco discover that Alan Reade’s (Hacker’s plumber) villa is also rumoured to have a perfuse scent of death. Cue a little unethical detective work & another body is discovered. The body is covered in perverse clown make-up and appears to have experienced torture/humiliation prior to death. Who is sealing murder victims into walls? Is this the work of a serial killer? Why are the victims being tortured & humiliated in this way? Who is stalking the local community?

This reminds Danny of a previous case he has worked in England & quickly we are brought up to speed on the ‘Scarecrow killer’. Ishmael Vertaness is incarcerated in a high secure psychiatric facility in the UK after his spate of 5 murders. The Scarecrow humiliated, tortured, raped and emasculated his victims. He is rumoured to be on the autism spectrum but due to his failing mental health and abusive childhood, no-one can know with absolute certainty what made him do it. Four of the Scarecrow’s victims were known to be heterosexual men and not linked to the gay community. The Spanish authorities refuse to link the recent victims or have any belief in a link to a UK case. They do this in part to protect the image of Spain & prevent widespread possible international hysteria in relation to the crimes. Danny continues to gather information & evidence. This novel is heavily layered and thoroughly gripping reading! Danny decides that in order to gather more information he must return to the UK and work with old contacts. Did the Scarecrow have an accomplice? Will he agree to see Danny? Is he really autistic & how did this impact his criminal behaviour? With Danny’s return to the Uk we learn a more in-depth scope of the Scarecrow murders & the cross border murders. We learn more about the victim and hear the surviving family’s story’s. As stated before this novel covers the crimes of a violent, dominant & sadist serial killer. It covers a wide-range of issues from cocaine use to rent boys & even gay men who experience self-hatred. How do wealthy boys go from privilege to charging 20 euros a trick? What makes men vulnerable to rape?

But what it also covers without really trying to, is the real life modern day media reporting of covering stories with a possibly theme of gay sex or male rape. In the UK in August 2016 a man named Nigel Wilkinson was arrested & sentenced. Nigel was a serial rapist, whom posed as a male fitness photographer to allow him the trust & access to drug and rape many male victims. What is also frightening about Nigel is he was known to specifically target straight men. Even stating he liked to ‘take their masculinity’. Nigel was able to get away with his crimes for so long, that when finally caught he had amassed far too many victims. I think this novel highlights an area where the media fail & I applaud the author for covering such a crime, despite its dark nature. The issues/themes are covered with sensitivity.

The case builds and builds, with the Scarecrow & one of Hacker’s sons making threats, Paco’s daughter being kidnapped. Danny needs to uncover the killer & fast! The novel has a huge twist, that even I didn’t spot coming! It is one that will shock most readers & also reveals a dark theme not explored earlier. I read this in 24hrs & can’t praise it enough. If you seek a crime novel that breaks the mould, then this is the one for you! Scarecrow is available free for members of Kindle unlimited or available for the bargain price of £2.99 on Kindle E-book. It will scare you……………..You have been warned! 5/5*