Afternoon everyone! First up today I’m on the blog tour for Rat Island, and bringing you a Q&A with author, John Steele. But first up, here’s all the info on the book…..
about the book
Title: Rat Island
Author: John Steele
Genre: Crime and thriller
Series/Standalone: Standalone First Book in a series
Estimated page count: 376
Formats available: Paperback and eBook. Available on Kindle Unlimited
Publisher: Silvertail Books (22 July 2021)
Tour organised by: Rachel’s Random Resources
‘A REAL CONTENDER FOR CRIME BOOK OF THE YEAR’ David Peace
‘FANS OF DON WINSLOW WILL LOVE THIS’ Claire McGowan
New York, 1995. Cop Callum Burke arrives in New York from Hong Kong, drafted in as part of an international investigation into organised crime.
With the handover of Hong Kong to China only a couple of years away, gangsters are moving their operations out of the territory and into New York ahead of the looming deadline.
Burke’s experiences with East Asian crime and the Triads’ links to the Irish Mob make him the perfect man to send in undercover.
But as he infiltrates these vast and lethal criminal networks, bodies start to pile up in his wake and his conscience threatens to send him over the edge.
And when Burke’s NYPD handlers push him to continue the investigation at all costs, he may have to cross the line from cop to criminal just to stay alive…
Readers of Don Winslow, Michael Connelly, Steve Cavanagh, Richard Price and John Sandford will love this dark and morally complex novel which presents a searing portrait of mid-1990s New York as you’ve never seen it before.
PRAISE FOR RAT ISLAND AND JOHN STEELE:
‘A nonstop thrill ride… a lyrical, super read filled with plenty of intrigue, action and suspense and sent against an exotic and seldom explored corner of crime fiction’ Gerald Posner
‘RAT ISLAND speeds and thrashes with the dangerous energy of the Manhattan streets which are so vividly recalled’ Gary Donnelly
‘John Steele writes with grit, pace and authenticity’ Claire McGowan
q&A with John Steele
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m a late starter as an author and was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland back in the seventies. I’m also a late starter as a father, with a beautiful six-year-old daughter, Hana, who thankfully takes after her mother, Tomoe. I’ve lived and worked in several countries around the world and relocated to England in 2011, where I still live, do the day job, and write when I can find the time.
What inspired you to start writing?
It was partly a bet; partly my daughter. I had published a few short stories in American anthologies and on US websites, and a friend bet me a night of beers in the pub that I couldn’t write a novel by the time Hana was born. Tomoe was two months pregnant at this stage and it was a great impetus to get a first draft down by the birth. As I began writing about Belfast, my hometown, I realised this was a great opportunity to help Hana understand the very complex place from which I come – at least to some degree. With a Japanese mother and living in England, the ‘Troubles’ of Northern Ireland’s bad old days are going to be hard for her to grasp. My first novel, Ravenhill, hopefully gives her a chance to see it from a human perspective among the sectarianism and violence.
How many books have you written and published?
I have written five books, four of which have been published by Silvertail Books. My latest, The Sky Turned Black, is on submission now.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
I love Ravenhill as it was my first and is very personal, and Rat Island, published in July 2021, for the same reason. They’re all special, though.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
Jackie Shaw, the protagonist of the first three, is comprised of my father’s nickname and the surname of a favourite actor, Robert Shaw. Some names just leap out at me and others I choose because of their meaning. In Rat Island, I just went for solid Irish names for some of the Irish gang – Paddy Doolan, Jimmy Mulligan and the like. The Chinese characters are given Anglicised names for the most part as they’re from Hong Kong, pre-handover as the book is set in 1995.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
Callum Burke, the protagonist of Rat Island. He has plenty of flaws but he’s nothing if not resilient. His sheer force of will would be handy in that situation.
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
I don’t have a definitive favourite. There are plenty I admire: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson, Derek Raymond, Richard Price etc. Recently, I’m hunting down Harry Crews novels – not easy when so many are out of print. I love his honesty, the complete lack of any filter as to what might offend his reader, and the fact that he writes the story with complete integrity. He’s very strong coffee, but he puts it all out there on the page.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I started writing a Flash Gordon adventure on a typewriter one of my sisters bought for me, after I saw the 1980 movie with Sam Jones et al as a kid. I was too young to understand the campiness of the film and began writing an epic adventure set on a desert planet that lasted about three pages before I lost interest and went off to play with my action figures.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
A lot – being an author is sadly not a full time occupation for me. I’ve been a truck driver, worked in warehouses and print shops, restaurants and pubs, delivered drinks to bars and supermarkets; I was drummer in a rock band (again, not full time but we did record a CD). The longest job I had was teaching English in Hungary and Japan for over thirteen years but one of my best was stocking lakes and rivers in Ireland with fish. I’d drive a truck around with a big tank of live fish on the back to the most beautiful locations, then dump them in the lakes and rivers to live and breed. Probably my worst occupation, used in Rat Island, was cleaning rooms in a very scuzzy hotel for a free bed in New York.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
It isn’t earth-shattering, but I never got a chance to see The Rolling Stones in concert with Bill Wyman, or AC DC with Malcolm Young and Bon Scott. I’d probably zip back to catch a gig with each. It would be nice to see George Best play in his prime, too.
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My dad. He passed when I was twenty-five and I wish I could see him again. I miss him a lot and as a father myself now, there’d be so much we could talk about.
What are your favourite things to do?
Spend time with my family, watch football and read. I love walking in big cities, too, especially at night; and I enjoy settling down with a movie and some good beer. Also, I used to run half-marathons back in the day and would like to get back into that again some time – maybe after I’ve finished all that beer.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
I was in Atlanta, Georgia, travelling around the US on an open Greyhound bus ticket. This guy got chatting to me who said he was there to pick up some labourers and he talked so much I missed my connection to Memphis. It was past midnight and this stranger offered to show me around Atlanta in his car until the next bus in the morning. Even then, as a raw twenty-two-year-old, I knew it was incredibly stupid but I agreed. He showed me the Olympic stadium being built, the Fox Theatre, and then drove out to this deserted trailer park in the country. I was really scared then, and thought I was dead for sure – that he’d be wearing part of me and dancing around in the moonlight in an hour or so. But he made me a cup of coffee and started explaining how he was a gypsy, and he knew I was Irish, and he didn’t want me to have a bad impression of travellers as he heard they had a bad reputation back home. Then he put me in his car, drove back to the city, bought me grits for breakfast, saw me on the bus and insisted I take a hundred dollars with me for my travels. Part of me still thinks I had a lucky escape but I’ll never forget it.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
Don’t wait so long to get started!
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
Roald Dahl’s kids’ books. They’ve got so much imagination; horror, emotion, love, everything. They’re also a lesson in writing cleanly and connecting with your audience.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
Rat Island is a big, bruising crime thriller set in New York in 1995. Callum Burke is a Belfast-born Inspector in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, sent to the US as part of a DEA/NYPD/RHKP task force investigating criminal links between Hong Kong, New York Chinatown and Irish-American organised crime groups. Callum’s job is to infiltrate the Irish mob and work undercover gathering evidence for eventual prosecution while the task force investigates a Hong Kong Triad move on Chinatown. Bodies drop, and Callum gets in deep, losing further touch with his estranged wife and daughter, and the man he wants to be. Meanwhile, a large shipment of heroin is making its way from Myanmar, to Thailand, to Hong Kong, bound for New York. And with it, some very dark and murderous secrets.
I really set out to write a New York police thriller. I used some foreign rights cash to fly to New York – where I lived in 1995 – a couple of years ago to interview former NYPD narcotics cops and research some locations in Queens. Hopefully, the book is as tough and uncompromising as the city itself back in the mid-nineties.
Rat Island can be bought from Amazon, or ordered online from Waterstones and WH Smiths in the UK, or Target and Barnes & Noble in the US; and other, independent bookshops.
Where to find John online:Twitter | @JohnSte_author
follow the tour
Thanks to Rachel for inviting me on to the tour and to John for coming and chatting with us.
I’ll be back soon with my second post of the day.