Friday, June 18, 2010

Favourite thrillers: Tom Cain on Wilbur Smith

Today's guest post is by Tom Cain, the pseudonym of an award-winning journalist with 25 years experience working for Fleet Street newspapers, as well as major magazines in Britain and the US. He is also the author of a series of thrillers featuring Samuel Carver, ‘a good man who makes bad things happen to bad people’: The Accident Man, which was shortlisted for the Theakston Peculier Thriller of the Year, and three sequels, The Survivor (published as No Survivors in the US and twice nominated for a Barry Award), Assassin and Dictator. The series has been optioned by 20th Century Fox.

Without further ado, then, here is Tom on one of his favourite thrillers.

The Leopard Hunts in Darkness by Wilbur Smith

By Tom Cain

In 1985, I was commissioned by the Sunday Times Magazine to write a story about an improbable European Cup-Winners Cup tie between the mighty Real Madrid and the minnows of Bangor Town. This necessitated an incredibly long train journey to the far north-west of Wales. By the time the train had got to Crewe I’d finished the book I’d brought with me, so I dashed onto the platform, sprinted to the bookstall and bought the first vaguely interesting-looking thing I could see: The Leopard Hunts in Darkness by Wilbur Smith.

I’d never read any of Smith’s stuff before and so had not experienced his style of unashamedly traditional swashbuckling adventure. This one was set in Zimbabwe and as I recall culminated in a brilliant, extended chase sequence across what felt like half of southern Africa that kept me completely gripped through the journey to Bangor and quite a lot of the way back. The Sunday Times piece never ran, but that book got me reading Wilbur Smith and really made me think what fun it would be to try to write books of similar scope and excitement. Almost twenty years later I finally started work on what would become my first thriller, The Accident Man. Of course, I have a host of influences, from Ian Fleming to 24, but the sheer, visceral pleasure I derived from the experience of reading The Leopard Hunts in Darkness is something I still try very hard to give my readers today. And now the wheel has come full circle. My latest book, Dictator, is set, in part, in a fictional country called Malemba, located north of South Africa, west of Mozambique… and not a million miles from Zimbabwe.

Tom Cain’s latest Sam Carver thriller, Dictator, will be published in August by Bantam Press, £12.99.

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