Author of the Zac
Hunter thrillers ‘Justice for All’ (2008) and
‘Blood Law’ (pub date 17th
July 2009), Steven Hague has collected a raft of great reviews for his
ex-LAPD cop central character. And for a man who comes from Norwich rather than L.A. but,
that’s very impressive. SHOTS decided to send out its own
Thriller Man, Adrian Magson, to seek out Steven and get to know what
makes the man tick.
Q: Your series
is set in Los Angeles. Many writers
explored its multi-layered dark underbelly. What made you decide to do
find LA to be a fascinating city, a real melting pot where
millions of people have come together, a place of great contrasts, both
racial, cultural, and economic terms.
the affluence of Beverly Hills to the poverty of the EastLos barrios,
white-collar workers downtown to the blue collar workers at the
ports, from the golden sandy beaches at Venice and Malibu to the urban
of South Central, from the make-believe of Hollywood to the harsh
Inglewood, whites, blacks, Latinos, Asian – all walks of life
are on display,
and where there’s contrast as great as this, then conflict is
sure to follow.
a brash city, a city that revels in itself, and as so
many books, films, and TV series are set there, it has more than its
of iconic landmarks that help to give readers a sense of familiarity. But what really fascinates
me is the idea of ‘The
American Dream’, the great experiment, the way that a country
that strives so
hard for perfection is falling short in so many ways, and where better
into this metaphorical mire than La-La land itself?
You’ve got the infamous ‘elevator pitch’
(the width of the sidewalk
and the distance to the film studio’s elevator) to describe
the background to
Zac Hunter, your central character.
Hunter’s not your all-American hero –
he’s a good guy to
have in the trenches, but a bad guy to have on your case. A maverick ex-cop
who’ll walk through walls
to bring down the bad guys, his desire to see justice served stems from
fact that his father’s murderers were never identified.
tough, taciturn, and sardonic, and
he’s not afraid to cross the line.
he’s a loner – someone that’s
self-reliant and unencumbered by the day-to-day
baggage that a wife and family can bring.
And most of all, he’s a man of action
– someone that’s focussed on where
he’s going rather than where he’s been.
thrillers and why American? Is there a single event, film or
book which started you on that road?
a single event, but more a lifetime of immersing myself
in that genre. From
my teens onwards I’d
guess that around eighty to ninety per cent of what I’ve read
has been American
crime fiction, so when it came to writing a novel, setting it in America
seemed like the natural choice.
Q: Who do you
read and what, if any, are your literary influences, past
as you know, I’m a sucker for great American crime
fiction, so I have a long list of favourite authors, but for the sake
brevity I’ll mention just three:
Robert Crais, for his excellent plotting and strong
dynamic between his two principal characters, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.
Andrew Vachss, for his tough protagonist, the urban
survivalist, Burke, his unsurpassed knowledge of the gutter (both urban
human), and his razor sharp black humour.
third, James Ellroy, the demon dog himself, for his
refusal to compromise in anything that he does, and for being the man
us L.A. Confidential and American Tabloid.
I also draw inspiration from quality American cop shows
– stuff like ‘The Shield’ and
‘The Wire’ – which I’m told has
helped to give my
writing a cinematic quality.
Q: Zac Hunter
is rough, tough and doesn’t take crims lightly. Any
particular ‘face’ you’d imagine playing
him if the elevator pitch worked?
That’s an easy one, as when I created
Hunter, I always had a young Clint Eastwood in mind – but not
Dirty Harry, more
the poncho wearing, cheroot chewing ‘man with no
name’ of the iconic spaghetti
that’s not to say that Hunter rides
around L.A. on a horse – what I wanted to capture was the
essence of the
character – the tough, taciturn, sardonic guy whose motives
shady, but whose morality was never in doubt.
Q: The settings
in your books are probably the best known on the
planet, through coverage in books, film and television. Do you find it
to blur the lines a little or do you aim for scenic accuracy?
combination of the two.
I try to make everything as accurate as possible at the
macro level by
researching street names, journey times, major physical locations, etc,
look into the cultural, political, and ethnic mix of a locale to make
any events I’ve set there are a sensible fit.
But when I get down to the micro level I cut myself a
little slack, as
smaller locations such as houses, restaurants, bars, motels, etc, are
figments of my over active imagination.
think that the most important thing is to capture a feel
of the place – to immerse the reader in the setting without
with excessive locational detail.
Q: What sort of
research do you do and how far do you go to do it?
research generally falls into one of two categories:
either reference books or the Internet.
On the books side, I’ve read encyclopaedias on
illegal drugs and Native
Americans, biographies of black and Latino gangbangers, and tomes on
combat, body language and human trafficking, but its fair to say that
of my research is done on-line. I
variety of sites and search engines to garner information, and I try to
reference as much as possible to reduce the risk of using erroneous
when you ask ‘how far do
I go to do it?’ I guess the answer is the ten yards or so
from my bedroom to my
study each morning.
did I say that my research fell into two
there’s a third –
my years of reading US
fiction and watching the shows like the aforementioned ‘The
Shield’ and ‘The
research by osmosis has been
a vital part of my formation as a writer, and it means that setting my
fairly naturally to me.
Q: Pen or PC?
afraid I’m going to have to disappoint any bluff old
traditionalists out there by saying PC all the way.
I tend to write in fits and starts,
constantly going back to change lines and move sections around, and if
to do that with a pen I’d end up with a page of illegible
arrows, and crossing outs. On
side, I have become a pretty good typist though.
delights your creative muscles most - heroes or villains?
and neither. Let
me explain. I try
to make sure that all
my characters are shades of grey rather than black or white, so the
sometimes do things that the reader feels uncomfortable about, while
villain’s actions should always be driven by a well-defined
all about empathy – if I can get the reader
to understand what my characters are going through, and have them feel
characters are feeling, then I think that I’m half way there.
Q: Do you have
a specific audience in mind as you write?
– a very specific audience – me.
When I first started out, my original goal
was to write a novel from start to finish for my own satisfaction, and
goal was for me to like it! If
find one other person that liked it, then so much the better, and
after that was a bonus.
still approach writing that way now – I write the kind of
books that I like to read, then I hope that someone else likes them too. If I tried to second-guess
what an audience
wanted, I’d probably spend half my time procrastinating and
the other half
re-writing, depending on whatever happened to be flavour of the month. I think it’s
important than an author writes
from the heart more than the head, by which I mean the process should
by passion rather than commercial considerations.
Now that’s not to say that I don’t
become commercially successful (we’ve all gotta eat!) but I
questions of audience, publicity, commerciality, etc, are best
the book’s written, not during.
Q: Are you a
push-with-the-nose sort of writer or a planner?
planner for sure. I
tried to push with my nose and ended up writing myself down some dark
alleyways. Before I
write a book I work
on a scene-by-scene outline that can run to thirty pages or so. The outline gives me a
route map to follow,
although it’s not set in stone – scenes will be
cut, added, or amended as I
work my through, and the order of them usually changes several times.
Q: Rock music
clearly inspires and motivates you. Does that extend to
playing it while you write?
no, and believe me, I’ve tried.
I’m easily distracted, and if I have music on
I find myself singing along rather than getting words down on the page,
me, silence is golden when it comes to writing.
On the other hand, if I’m busy with research,
plotting, or ShotsMag
Q&A’s then it’s definitely time to crank up
the stereo and rock out!
Q: Where do
most of your ideas occur – bath, bed… or elsewhere?
in bed in the wee small hours. I’m
a pretty light sleeper, and if I wake up
in the middle of the night my mind tends to kick into gear and I lay
thinking things through. Only
is, I’ve often forgotten half my ideas by the morning
– I tried writing them
down but the wife got fed up with me turning on my bedside light.
also come up with ideas while I’m out walking my chocolate
the nearby woods – a bit of fresh air and exercise does
wonder for the old grey
Q: Family and
friends got used to your success yet?
let you know if I ever get to the point where I
consider myself successful.
Q: You were
commendably down-to-earth enough at Crimefest in Bristol in
that you (and the other authors present) are doing what you had all
so you clearly don’t take anything for granted.
no, I’m just starting out at this and I’m still at
stage where I need to do everything I can to try to build an audience. And while it might have
sounded corny, I
really am living the dream – as a kid, all I ever wanted to
be was an author,
but it wasn’t something I ever seriously considered as a
career choice as it
seemed totally unachievable. Through
combination of hard work, blind luck, the planets aligning, etc,
managed to get two books published, and I still have to pinch myself
to make sure it’s real.
Q: When can we
expect to see the next Steven Hague/Zac Hunter title on
second novel in the Zac Hunter series, entitled Blood
Law, is released on the
17th July 2009.
Please buy a copy so I can keep living the dream! The back cover blurb is as
Hunter receives a cry for help from former snitch,
Angel Cortez, he rushes to her aid.
Angel’s daughter Gracie is missing, and Lunatic,
Angel’s gang leader
boyfriend, knows more than he’s letting on.
that a rival crew grabbed Gracie from an East
park, Hunter agrees to do what he can to find the missing
girl. As two rival
gangs wage war, only
Hunter and the mysterious vigilante Stone will be able to save Gracie
prevent a city from going up in flames.
LAW, MIRA £6,99 pbk July 2009
Hague’s website is: http://stevenhague.com/index.html
a signed copy of the book here
Adrian Magson’s website is www.adrianmagson.com