John Barlow Guest Post and Giveaway!
Last year I discovered that my uncle John had been an international arms dealer. He was found dead on a flight from Amsterdam in ’84, his throat cut. The police had been waiting for him at Heathrow, in connection with the theft of munitions from the British army. No one in the family had ever told me this. Never.
Many rumours surrounded his death. His wife claimed that he’d been involved in some sort of under-cover work, and elsewhere a security report suggested that he had been supplying Irish terrorist groups. But he was dead, and these links were never proved, although the stolen munitions were indeed found at his premises.
It’s not such a great thing to find out that there was a criminal in your family. However, as a novelist what interested me about this case was that his activities were never mentioned in the family. He was an official, registered arms dealer by trade, but even that was never mentioned. He had two young children and lived in a nice suburb of Leeds, in the north of England. He had, to any observer, a normal life. Yet he was not an ordinary man. He was a criminal.
I’d been thinking about writing a crime novel for some time. I had an idea for a plot involving counterfeit money, but it wasn’t coming together. When I learned about my uncle, it got me thinking about families and what happens when there’s a criminal in them. In crime fiction the criminals are often nasty, violent thugs, or devious criminal masterminds. We tend to think about crime like that, all black and white. But in my own family, this wasn’t the case. I wanted to take a closer look at the human angle of criminal families.
In Hope Road, the main character is the son of a career criminal. He’s called John Ray and he grew up surrounded by crime, but had decided to go ‘straight’. As the book opens he is running a successful automobile business, and as if to complete the legitimate, law-abiding nature of his life, his girlfriend is a young police detective. But then he becomes involved in a murder investigation, and things begin to unravel.
I love crime novels. I love following the clues, weighing up the evidence as the truth behind the crime is slowly revealed to us. But that idea about families kept coming back to me. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that what I wanted to write was a novel about deception. Personally, I’ve never been involved in crime, but I think it’s fair to say that at the heart of all crime is the need to conceal it. Crime is shameful, transgressive, morally repellent. I wanted to put a character in the position of having to deal with these feelings from the inside.
Most people reading this blog will be good, up-standing members of the community. But are there situations in which you might turn to crime? And if so, how would that make you feel? What about those around you, the people you love, and who love you? Extreme circumstances effect people in strange ways, and the great thing about being a novelist is that you can explore these effects in depth. I know what it’s like to have secrets in the family, secrets that nobody wants to talk about. With this book, I have tried to talk about them.
Hope Road is a novel about a criminal family. It asks why our relationship to crime is so complex, why we are repelled but sometimes also drawn to crime. Have you ever thought about a crime and how you might carry it out? What about if you had the opportunity? What if you had no choice? Who knows. But what is clear is that crime affects people and their relationships, be they family, lovers, friends... Crime forces us to deceive those who love us the most. And that’s what Hope Road is about.
About the author:
John Barlow was born in Leeds, England in 1967. He studied English Literature at Cambridge University and worked as a university teacher before becoming a full-time writer in
2004. In the US his fiction has been published by HarperCollins and his
non-fiction by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His work has been translated into
The first five people to email (click here) John will receive an ebook of Hope Road in the format of their choice. You must be at least 13 years old to enter.
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