SOME RELATIONSHIPS ARE JUST MURDER
It’s 1985, and Joe Stone is excited to be joining his old school friend, and lifelong crush, Chris, for a long weekend in London’s Soho—home to a vibrant, developing gay scene, and a million miles from the small town Joe and Chris grew up in.
When Chris is found brutally murdered, the police write his death off as another rent boy fallen foul of a bad hook up. But Joe knows his best friend was killed deliberately, and joins forces with former police detective, Russell Dixon—Chris’s flatmate—to find out why.
Spiralling debt, illicit sex, blackmail, spurned lovers and hard-nosed gangsters all play their part, but who among the celebrities, fashionistas, drag queens, ex-lovers and so-called friends is Chris’s killer?
A noirish whodunit set in 1980s London, with all the big hair, electro-pop, shoulder pads, police discrimination and lethal killers that the era had to offer.
TAINTED LOVE IS THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SOHO NOIR SERIES OF COZY CRIME NOVELLAS.
I am really excited about this new series, so I grabbed a quick chat with T S Hunter to find out more about him and his work.
Who were the biggest influences on you growing up that led you to be a writer?
My grandmother was a great reader. When her eyesight failed, she turned to audiobooks and, when her hearing failed, she told me that she hated not being able to escape into her stories anymore. I’m not sure whether that was a direct influence on me being a writer, but it made me a deeply appreciative reader, and I think one often leads to the other.
I always enjoyed writing at school—though I once had an English teacher tell me I’d been too creative for the exam question we’d been set. I guess no one on the Welsh Joint Exam Board was ready for my “Papa didn’t bleed” horror story in response to the “My Family” stimulus.
Still, I always liked making things up, and was often accused of living in a fantasy world, so I guess I was perpetually in training. Not to paint a negative picture of my experience, my mother has always supported and encouraged my creativity, so I guess she was my first and most consistent influence.
What do you want your readers to feel at the end of your books?
With this particular book, I want readers to feel keen to read the next in the series, of course, but I would also like them to feel like they’ve learned a little about what it was like to be gay in the eighties. It’s such a relatively short time ago, and yet there have been so many advances in terms of rights, understanding, freedoms. I want people to understand that for every right and freedom we have today, somebody had to suffer in the past.
But I also want them to feel like they’ve just read a romping good crime story, and that they almost forgot that the majority of the characters were LGBTQ…
Do your characters always do what you tell them?
Well, if they don’t, I’ll kill them! I’m joking. I like a good plotting session, so I spend a fair bit of time making sure that everybody knows what they’re meant to be doing—who the actual killer is, who the red herrings are and when they need to reveal themselves, who’s going to have a bit-part in this book but a bigger one in the next. Usually my characters all do as they’re told, although sometimes they will get there a bit too quickly, or other times just dig their heels in and make life difficult for me.
The biggest problem I have with my characters is when they refuse to speak to me. It’s really annoying, but there are some days when the voices don’t come. I find that if I go out for a run or a long walk, they make themselves heard at the point where I am furthest away from either a notebook or my computer. Then I have to negotiate with them the whole way home so that they don’t abandon me before I get to write down what they said.
How many drafts do you tend to do of each book?
Quite a few, but most of them are for me. I tend to write very quickly, skimming over bits I’m not sure about yet—especially dialogue and names, and details. I like to get a feel for the book first, because invariably, detail will change. When everything is basically hanging together, I start redrafting until it is the best I can get it in a reasonable time frame. By the time it goes to the editors it’s already probably three or four drafts in, but there is nothing more I can do with it at that stage—it needs fresh eyes.
Once my editor has had a first pass, I sit and read through all of her comments and digest everything. I then sit on it for a few more days, before opening the editor’s notes again and working through the changes.
A good editor—which I certainly have in Eleanor—is invaluable at this stage. They are able to highlight all the crap, everything that either makes no sense, is a bit trite or predictable, or is just completely wrong, and they are able to word their suggestions to make you still feel like you are the brains behind the machine! It’s a real skill. Usually we push through another two drafts together and then it’s ready for proofreading and final tweaks.
What’s next for you?
Well, I have five more books in this series to publish this year, so I will be pretty busy! I do have an idea for another book. A standalone novel that taps on my brain every day, but for now it must wait. The 80s are still calling and the soundtrack is just so good!
What is a dream scenario for you as a writer?
Fame! Fortune! Great sex! Or a handful of nice reviews and enough royalties to cover the cost of a slap up meal. It’s a tough old world, writing and publishing, and finding an audience for your made up world. I still think it’s hard for me to think of myself as a writer, even though that is what I do. It’s such a strange concept, don’t you think? I would love to be a household name, and you did ask for a dream scenario. I would love to make a living from my words. Realistically, I’d settle for making a difference.
What are your hopes and fears for the Soho Noir series?
The biggest hope is that people love the series and follow the characters through all the books, and the biggest fear, of course, is that they don’t. I really wanted to create a series of good crime stories, that all crime lovers want to share, which just happen to be set in a predominantly LGBTQ community, with gay characters in most of the good roles. I would love this series to become part of the discourse on LGBT fiction, and another step in breaking down barriers for gay characters, but I would also love for people to simply recognise it as good crime writing. It may only ever preach to the choir, but I hope some readers surprise themselves by finding the characters as appealing as any straight detective hero—and preferably more so.
Thanks T S Hunter x
Claiming to be only half-Welsh, T.S. Hunter lived in South Wales for much of his latter teens, moving to London as soon as confidence and finances allowed. He never looked back.
He has variously been a teacher, a cocktail waiter, a podium dancer and a removal man, but his passion for writing has been the only constant.
He’s a confident and engaging speaker and guest, who is as passionate about writing and storytelling as he is about promoting mainstream LGBT fiction.
He now lives with his husband in the country, and is active on social media as @TSHunter5.
Buy T S Hunter’s new book below:
To win: a Signed Copy of Tainted Love, a fabulous “Go Away I’m Reading” tote bag, a rainbow button badge, and some chocolate
More about the Soho Noir Series
The Soho Noir series is set in the decade of big hair, shoulder pads, pastel suits and bright, cheesy pop, in a part of London which, on the surface at least, seemed to accept and adore people from all walks of life—a melting pot of gender, sexuality, colour and race, where celebrities rubbed up against the average Joe in cafes, bars and hair salons on every street.
But the 1980s had a darker underbelly, even in Soho. This was a time when gay rights were hard fought, where the police actively targeted gay men as easy victims for arrest and extortion, the government deliberately restricted gay rights and the tabloids screamed about The Gay Plague—the AIDS epidemic. And yet, gay icons who would go on to endure lasting fame and success were springing up all over the pop and fashion world.
The 1980s forms a strangely fitting, sometimes nostalgic, always entertaining backdrop to this colourful series of cozy crime stories.
Noirish, sexy and delicious.
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