CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Shortlist 2019 – Interview with Dan Fesperman

In preparation for the announcement of the winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award next month, we will interview all the shortlisted authors. This week we talk to Dan Fesperman to discuss his shortlisted book, Safe Houses.

How does it feel to be on the shortlist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger?

It feels wonderful, of course, but also fortunate, because even when you’ve written what you think is a fine book, the stars have to line up in your favor to make a list like this.

If you could summarise Safe Houses in ten words, what would you say?

Two sharp women untangle web of malignant secrecy from within.

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

It’s different with every book, but in this one I dove in headlong, immediately found myself sinking in mire and muck, extricated myself spluttering and gasping, deliberated for a while on the complexities of writing two intertwined narratives set 35 years apart, and then gingerly stepped back in.

Which thriller writers do you most admire?

 In alphabetical order among current practitioners, my Big Three is Lee Child, Mick Herron and John Le Carre.

What makes a killer thriller?

My taste favors character over consequences, and brains over brawn. Clean, graceful prose, illuminated by flashes of wit and intelligence, always pulls me along more effectively than chases and shootouts, although those had better be sharply and realistically rendered. Beyond that, it’s all about pacing, timing and the artful withholding of key information until just the right moment.

The winner of the 2019 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger will be announced on 24th October.  The other shortlisted authors are Luke Jennings, Holly Watt, Stephen Mach Jones, Megan Abbott and Tim Willocks.  Look out for the next instalment from the shortlisted authors next week.Safe Houses

Photo of Dan Fesperman by Lloyd Fox.