Connor Montrose is running for his life. All that he held dear has been ripped away. Every Western intelligence agency and all the police forces of Europe are looking for him, with orders to shoot on sight. The only man who can prove his innocence, is the man that most wants him dead.
So begins the intro to ‘Names of the Dead’, Mark Legatt’s high concept thriller that will delight fans of Lee Child and James Patterson.
Having published his debut novel in July, Mark is currently hard at work editing the second book in his series, but has taken a short break to share something of his writing inspiration and the grit and good humour that saw him find publication with Edinburgh’s Fledgling Press.
Hi Mark, thanks for taking part in this blog series. Can you tell us something about your writing process? What drew you to tell this story?
The story of ‘Names Of The Dead’ emerged from history books, things that stuck in my head, and my travels and conversations I’ve had over the years.
Travel allowed me to read widely, and I’ve spent about ten years dotting from job to job in various airport lounges three times a week. I’ve lived in every sort of hotel from a five star palace in The Hague to a seedy dive in Montmartre, where the lights of the Moulin Rouge flickered outside my window, the carpets were as sticky as treacle, and you could hear the whorehouse banging away next door. I slept fully clothed.
I noted everything down as I moved from city to city.
Most of the action takes place in Paris, and as I lived there for three years, I got to know it very well. I read widely on the history and used it as a framework, and walked the streets many times to immerse myself in the city. The other settings are Berlin, which I know, then Zurich and Rome, where I researched the settings from history books and conversations with people who had lived there. For North Africa, I did the same, and picked the brains of residents whom I knew, and travel guides, books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Any fascinating facts that didn’t make it into the final draft?
The research process was unconstructed, eclectic and very enjoyable. I had no idea what the story would turn out to be, but I knew that it would emerge as I kept writing my journals. I wasn’t worried about focussing on any one area or research, I was happy to just keep reading and writing, and knew that when I found something, I’d realise it. When I found my story, I delved deeper into the specific areas, but I didn’t want this to be a story full of exposition. The only research that I wanted to include, would be that which the main character already knew, from his education and family, or that which was strictly relevant. I left out a lot of fascinating research because it wasn’t relevant to the story, the dialogue, or the character. One area I cut out was where Swiss banks literally burned their Holocaust banking records around twenty years ago, to stop anyone finding out what they had done to the victims and their families. Fascinating, but there was no good place for it. It had to go.
Can you tell us a little about your publisher and your journey to finding them?
I submitted to every agent in the UK twice, and half the agents in the US, before I found an agent in New York. He tried all the big publishers in the States, but to no avail. Then Fledgling Press made an offer, as I knew them personally. Fledgling are now established as one of Scotland’s most dynamic publishers. I had actually submitted to them a few years back, but they were not publishing a lot of Crime/Thriller at that point.
What kept me going through the years to publication was sheer bloody-mindedness. Writing is my passion. As the old saying goes, what do you call a writer who never gives up? Published.
Can you tell us a little about the cover design process for your book?
Fledgling Press hold a cover design annual competition with the Edinburgh University College of Art, where second year undergraduates compete to design a cover for a Fledgling publication as part of their degree course.
Lucy Roscoe of the ECA introduced us to the class, and we had a fascinating chat about the possibilities of the cover.
Once we had the designs in, we whittled it down to five and then down to one, a student called Thomas Shek, whose work was superb. You can view all the final cover designs here.
What’s been the best / funniest / most surprising response to your book?
A signing event in a Waterstones in the East of Scotland
Customer Number One
Me: “Good morning, madam. May I interest you in a thriller? I’m the author, and I’m signing copies today.”
Elderly Lady: “A thriller, son? I've never had an author sign mah books before. Is there ony shooting in it?”
Me: “There most certainly is.”
Elderly Lady: “Good, make it oot tae Agnes McGarry.”
Customer Number Two
Man: "Can you make it out to Emma, my daughter. She's a great reader."
Me: (notices his daughter about 14 years of age,) "There's quite a few swear words in it."
Man: "To be honest, son, she hears worse from me at hame. Then again, I'd better read it first."
Customer Number Three, a gentleman the wrong side of eighty
Me: "Can I interest you in a thriller, sir?"
Old Man: "No son, I'm only in here because my wife's choosing clothes and I f****** hate clothes shops. And f****** shopping "
Me: "Fair enough, so what kind of books do you like?"
Old Man: "True-life alien abduction."
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