Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Interview with thriller author Zach Abrams

My guest today is thriller author Zach Abrams. He’s chatting with me about his newest novel, a financial crime thriller/mystery, titled Source: A Fast-Paced Financial Crime Thriller.

Welcome, Zach. Please tell us a little bit about yourself:
Having the background of a successful career in commerce and finance, I spent many years writing reports, letters and presentations and it's only fairly recently I started writing novels. I’ve discovered it’s a more honorable type of fiction (but please don’t tell the Inland Revenue I said that.)

I often refer to myself as a reformed accountant and borderline alcoholic - reformed because I don’t practice any longer and borderline as, while retaining my allegiance to my Scottish heritage, I realize more practice makes perfect.

My first novel Ring Fenced was published in November 2011. This psychological thriller is a crime story with a difference, following one man's obsession with power and control. He uses five separate personae to independently control the different divisions of his life.

After this I collaborated with Elly Grant to produce Twists and Turns, a book of short stories ranging from flash fiction to a novella, all having mystery, some horror and some more amusing.

My second novel, Made a Killing, is the first book in my Alex Warren series. It follows the investigation after the killing of a much hated criminal where an elephant tusk was used as the murder weapon. This was followed by A Measure of Trouble where Alex's team seek the murderer of a CEO killed within the cask room of his whisky distillery. The third, Written to Death, deals with a mysterious death during a writers' group meeting. These are fast moving, gripping, murder mystery novels set in the tough crime-ridden streets of Glasgow.

My quirky thriller, Source: A Fast-Paced Financial Crime Thriller has three investigative journalists travelling across the UK, Spain, and France as they research corruption and sabotage in the banking sector while trying to cope with their own fraught personal lives.

All of my books can be purchased from Amazon as e-books and paperbacks. Audiobook versions of both Ring Fenced and Made a Killing are now available and the other titles will follow.

Alike my central character in Ring Fenced, Benjamin Short, I completed my education in Scotland and went on to a career in accountancy, business and finance. Married with two children, I play no instruments but have an eclectic taste in music, although not as obsessive as Benjamin. Unlike Benjamin, I do not maintain mistresses, write pornography and (sadly) I do not have ownership of such a company. I am not a sociopath (at least by my own reckoning) and all versions of my life are aware of and freely communicate with each other.

More in keeping with 'Alex Warren', I was raised in Glasgow and have spent many years working in Central Scotland.

Please tell us about your current release.
The main theme follows an investigation by three journalists looking into corruption and share manipulation in the banking sector. Within this, the story looks into the private life and private traumas of Tom, the main protagonist.

Effects of several incidents have rocked the Royal National Bank to its core, causing its share price to tumble and world stock markets to ripple. International economic stability is at risk. 
Tom is an accomplished journalist from London, and an unhappily married workaholic seeking to advance his career. Sally is single, ambitious and independent. Visiting from Australia, she’s chasing the same story. Eager to research the alleged wrongdoings at RNB exposed by whistleblowers. Supported by Ahmed, I young trainee, they become entwined in the investigation, and their trail leads them from London to Glasgow, Manchester, Barcelona, and Collioure.

But they tread a dangerous path surrounded by cryptic warnings. Timing and diversity of the events make it almost impossible for the events to be coincidence or incompetence. They suspect someone has been powerful and ingenious enough to mastermind the demise of the largest financial institution in the world and set themselves to task to find out who and try to put a stop to it.
What inspired you to write this book?
In my working life, I’ve seen or been exposed to many different aspects of financial manipulation; added to this are the regular news reports about improprieties in the commercial sector.

I came up with the idea of writing about an investigation into a scaled up version of these practices with the potential of economic terrorism. The more I researched the idea, the more aware I became of the potential reality.

Excerpt from Source: A Fast-Paced Financial Crime Thriller:
The figure standing in the doorway was the embodiment of untidiness and bad taste. He was slight in stature, hardly any taller than Sally but this was pronounced because of his stoop and puny rounded shoulders. His narrow, pinched face was disguised behind two or three days of growth and his upper head was shrouded by greasy, straggly, straight hair which, at the back, extended to his shoulders. To say he was dressed would be misleading but his body was covered by clothing. A green-coloured, chequered shirt struggled to contain his large belly and it was tucked into his maroon jeans at one side only, the other was flapping freely when he moved. His apparel still bore evidence of the runny egg he'd had for breakfast, hopefully from that same morning.
“I'm Charlie McMillan, you wanted to see me?”
'Speak to you maybe, but I'd have sooner not seen you,' was Sally's immediate thought, but in the interests of making progress, she restrained herself from vocalising it. The contrast to Ahmed's pristine appearance couldn't have been more pronounced and even Tom's dishevelled presentation on arrival at Euston that morning was immaculate by comparison. Sally had often heard of tabloids being referred to as ‘gutter press' and she thought the term must have been coined with Charlie in mind.
“Grab a coffee and join us,” Tom said.
“I'll pass on the coffee, “I can't stand the sludge out of that machine. You need to go to the cafĂ© across the road if you want something drinkable. I've brought my own with me if you don't mind?” He produced a bottle of Highland Spring. Sally wrestled with the concept of Charlie being a coffee connoisseur and suspected the bottled water may have contained some alcoholic additive.
“I gather you're up from the smoke to follow up on some work I've done. What's this all about?” Charlie continued. There were no pleasantries or introductions.
“Well not exactly,” Tom replied. “We're working some research on large and unusual stock market movements, trying to see if we might have the basis for a story.”
“Good for you, you get the luxury of being able to take your time and research your stories. We're at the sharp end here. We pick up on something, check its authenticity and then either print it or drop it. We don't have the time to chew things over.”
“It's no picnic for us either,” Tom said. “True we may have a bit more time, but we're expected to produce results and we have to meet deadlines too.”
Looking at Charlie's stained clothing, Sally stifled a giggle at the picnic analogy.
“So what do you want me for? I've not much time and I need to make deadlines on a daily basis.” Charlie's hostility was almost tangible.
“Okay, we've all got the same problems, the same objectives and the same bosses, so we'd really appreciate any help and cooperation you can give us. We've been looking into some odd things happening at Royal National and your story last week on the insurance claims contributed to it. We need to learn more about the background,” Tom asked.
“What background? I learned about what was happening there, I checked it out and cleared it with legal department and then it ran. That's all there was to it.”
“Come on, you're doing yourself a disservice there. I know this is only a regional tabloid, but…”
“You can get off your high horse right now. We're not a regional tabloid, we're a national. Scotland is its own country and besides, we have a worldwide readership with online subscribers. Our circulation is higher than many of the broadsheets. The last time I checked it was double what your rag gets and we're a daily when your mag is a weekly, so go do the maths. And yeah, our articles may not be too high-brow, our reporting on Europe, on immigration and on the English for that matter may be a whisker within the anti-racial discrimination laws. We might concentrate on celebrities and royals and football. We may alternate medical headlines between telling our readers that alcohol or cigarettes or the latest super-food either kills you with cancer and heart disease or is the latest wonder cure for it, but we give the punters what they want. That's why they shell out their dosh six days a week.” Charlie paused only long enough to draw breath. “I chose this line of work; it was a lifestyle choice. I used to do what you do. I have my Fleet Street credentials, I have a first class honours degree to go with it and I read at Oxford, but I couldn't stand the backstabbing and the travel and the pretension, so I moved back to Glasgow and now I've got quite a cushy number. I earn well, I live the way I like and so what if I have to wear this uniform?” Charlie took a moment to run his hand over his chest smoothing out some of the creases on his shirt. “Dressed like this, I can walk into any pub and pick up on the latest gossip. I can always change first if I have a more important meeting, so I don't get chucked out of the Hilton. Mind you they know me well enough in there anyhow. So what makes you so big and important? Where did you study?”
“I took English literature at Cambridge,” Tom replied, almost in a whisper.
“Ah, Fens Polytechnic, so now that we've set the ground rules, what do you want to know?”
Ahmed barely managed to contain a snigger and Sally fought to keep from gaping in amazement. Charlie's slight frame had seemed to take on a new stature. Tom's facial reaction was less controlled as he struggled to find words.
“I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you or your newspaper. My mind's been so focussed on what I'm trying to do that I didn't think through what I was saying. I suppose it must have come across that I was really up myself. Can we turn the clock back and start again please?”
There followed a long pause, while Charlie's intense glare all but bored a hole through Tom, then he howled with laughter and blurted, “Christ, you Sassenachs are really easy to wind up. It's the best sport I've had for some time,” before offering his hand.
Ahmed immediately joined in, but it took a few seconds before Tom recovered enough to participate and even then he seemed shaken and unsettled.
“Now what can I do for you?”
“Well, as I was saying before, we're hoping to find any information which can help explain the problems Royal National have been having. From what I’ve seen, every time they start to recover from one problem or revelation then they're hit with another. It’s all too much of a coincidence and we're wanting to see if there's any pattern.”
“So you're hoping I can give you my source, so you can follow it up?”
“Exactly,” Sally intervened. Now that hostilities seemed to be over, she was eager to participate in the dialogue.
“No can do, it's not that I'm unwilling to help, but I don't have a source, at least not one that I know.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve started working on the fourth book of my Alex Warren, murder mystery series. These are tartan noir, crime thrillers set in my home town of Glasgow, Scotland. This one centers on the murder of a young Asian woman (of Islamic upbringing), who had been married to a Scots boy (from a Protestant family). Besides all the normal lines of enquiry, Alex’s team has to investigate the potential of racial motives.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Writing has always played a key part of my working life in the fields of accountancy, finance and business consultancy. However, I only started writing fiction (as opposed to embellishment) in the last six years.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Although I do not have a 9 to 5 job, I continue to have other business interests which means I have to fit writing into a busy schedule. However, this means when an idea comes in to my head, I have to at least make notes or better still take time to expand on my idea. Inevitably this often happens in the middle of the night.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I am fortunate that I’m not easily distracted while writing and I usually like to have music playing in the background. I often sit to write in the same room as my wife while she watches television.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Older. As a child I always wanted to be older so that I was beyond the restrictions of the age I was. Of course, once I became older, I started to yearn for the freedom from responsibility I had when younger. An archetypal case of the ‘the grass is always greener...’

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I now live in Scotland but spend large parts of each year in the South of France where the weather is so much better and life is more relaxed and more conducive to writing.


Thanks for being here today, Zach!

1 comment:

Mari Collier said...

Enjoyed the interview and the excerpt. Best of luck with all of your novels!