Will Randall (www.willrandall.co.uk)
taught languages for ten years in the West Country and then decided to
the South Pacific. Result: a travel book on his life there,
an experience he repeated with India, which produced Indian Summer,
2004, Africa which brought
forth Botswana Time in 2005, and France (Another
Long Day on the Piste, 2006). Now come his experiences with
world, Limey Gumshoe, published by Abacus on 28 May 2008, subtitled
`The hapless adventures of a high-visibility undercover detective'.
you the flavour. From missing dogs to miscarriages of justice, errant
to disappearing teenage girls, Will's book is a roller coaster ride
life of a private eye on the streets of Boston. Will is still
travelling, teaching and writing
but has kindly paused for a moment or two to talk to Shots.
Q. I've greatly
enjoyed reading Limey Gumshoe (see the
Shotsmag review pages), by and my copy has now been snatched out of my
my American-born husband. When you first arrived in the US what kind of book
were you expecting to get out
of your trip (apart from finishing the one that you were currently
semi-permanently itinerant I was pleased of the
opportunity to be able to house-sit in Boston to finish a book
about France. I also had some
vague plan to visit New England. My entry into
the world of Private
Investigation was fortuitous and not a little surprising but I have
been on the
road long enough to go with the flow and consider offers as they come
course it wasn’t long before I realised what the subject
matter of my next book
Q. Had you any
experience of the true crime world before you
became a US gumshoe, either
here or in the other countries you have
drinking in a bar in the back streets of
Marseille which turned out to be owned by the Mafia and which was
‘shaken down’ by the cops, no none at all. The bar
finally closed down when the
last gang member went to prison. I have never been able to drink Pastis
Q. If not, did your
taste of the crime world US-style tempt
you into investigating the private eye scene in the UK or any of the other
countries you have visited -
or might visit?
Yes, absolutely. I
have investigated the PI possibilities
elsewhere and also in the UK. Watch this space!
Q. In Limey
Gumshoe you make many trenchant
observations on the US, and I liked the
way you never judged, but only observed for
good or ill. Which side were the scales weighted on after your return
to the UK?
Well, perhaps not
dissimilarly from the UK, justice, legal
or natural, is very much
weighted in favour of the rich and the powerful. The poor and the
suffer at the hands of grave injustices. Unfortunately, despite my
durable optimism, I do not see that situation changing.
Q. What was your
general impression of public defenders and
the overall US criminal justice
over-burdened. Resultantly huge mistakes are made.
A PI friend of mine suggested that with funds available to properly
defendants up to a quarter of prisoners in jail in the US today would never
have been convicted!
Q. You have a gift
for meeting characters somewhat larger
than life. Are you tempted to turn your hand into creating similar
in crime fiction?
Funny you should
say that. I am mulling over some ideas – most
of which have some autobiographical dimension. I think I make rather a
detective although perhaps not undercover being much too noisy, tall
Q. You write as an
outside observer, and yet you manage to
keep the reader involved with the people you meet and the situations
themselves in, whether these are funny or tragic. Do you carry this
perspective as a traveller wherever you might be, or this how it
emerges on to
the page when reliving it afterwards?
I have never been
the type of traveller who wishes to pass
through observing. Rather I have sought close contact with the people I
living and working alongside them and inevitably sharing their
their tragedies. That is easy to report.
Q. You left your
writing desk in Boston with alacrity when
the opportunity arose to join
Chestnut Investigations (names changed to protect the innocent). Did
to be chained to your computer to write Limey Gumshoe or
did it flow as
naturally as appears from your readable style?
was a breeze to write, although sometimes
I thought I should have written it on an old-fashioned typewriter.
should have survived the process on packets of Lucky Strike and quarts
Q. You tell us in Limey
Gumshoe that Raymond
Chandler's Philip Marlowe is your alter ego. Do you see yourself as
Mitchum or Humphrey Bogart?
Either would be an
honour. Probably rather more Inspector
Clouseau, I fear.
Q. Do you ever see
yourself living full-time in the US, with or without
the gun element described in Limey
when I consider the question I realise how
important the forthcoming presidential elections will be.
Q. And the
inevitable…. Where are you off to next? And will a
new book be twinkling in your eye?
Oh, where do I
start? Costa Rica? Mexico? Or Sri Lanka. I have got some
friends in Sabah, Borneo too. Decisions,
decisions. Wherever I end up I will not be
able to prevent myself telling you all about it!
Many thanks, Will. All good wishes for your
travels and we’ll be
looking forward to reading in due course about the mean streets of
by Will Randall
is published by Abacus (
29 May 2009
in trade paperback at £11.99