[Interview] Patrick Mackeown

Novelist Patrick Mackeown was born in London in 1966 and grew up in Turkey, Wales and in several parts of England.

He studied analytical philosophy and worked as a chef, a salesman, a computer operator and as a senior technician for Demon Internet as well as for an internationally renowned news corporation.

His debut novel, The Expendability Doctrine has been described as “a suspenseful saga” about oil, greed and murder.

In a recent interview, Patrick Mackeown spoke about his writing.

In all, how many books have you written?

So far, I’ve only written one book, a thriller called The Expendability Doctrine, published by BookScape. It’s been highly recommended by the Midwest Book Review.

It’s only been out since November of 2006. But, already it’s been featured on the front page of Independent Publisher Online Magazine, Christmas edition. Since this is my debut novel, I’m very pleased.

I also write satires as an outlet for my cynicism. President Bush has done badly by my hand, I must admit, much to the delight of several American webmasters and radio talk show hosts. Lisa Casey’s website All Hat No Cattle, and Terry Coppage’s Bartcop have posted copies of my parodies on their pages. I’d have to say that in addition to contributing a little towards the entertainment of Lisa and Terry’s website viewers, I’ve also had great fun myself.

What is your latest book about?

My next thriller, The Cardinal’s Blood, combines details from the mysterious death of an Italian banker in London in 1982 with a series of Mafia crimes.

I’m still writing it. I have been working on it for more than a year.

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?

I’d say that I find researching my books most time consuming. I wouldn’t say that it’s difficult. Perhaps it’s difficult to know when to stop. I think when the author begins to wonder exactly how much darker a carpet would have been, given a certain amount of exposure to sunlight, a decade ago, and so on, it’s time to take a break!

Which did you enjoy most?

When my characters say funny things I find it entertaining.

What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

The main difference between The Cardinal’s Blood and The Expendability Doctrine is that the former novel is written in the recent historical past.

It’s not an extraordinary challenge, because of course, I’m quite familiar with the Eighties, but still, it’s more challenging, I’d say, setting a narrative in a different time frame from the one in which the author sits.

In what way is it similar?

The fact that it’s a thriller, and that it’s international in its scope characterises it as one of my novels.

What will your next book be about?

I’m not sure yet what my third novel will be about. There are so many interesting subjects.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve decided to be a writer several times. The first time was when I must have been seven or eight years old. My parents gave me a book, and on its rear-cover the publisher encouraged its readers to send anecdotes and what-have-you to their London head office. I submitted to them The Trials Of A Young, Welsh, Hill Sheep-Farmer. Since then I moved house several times and lost the publisher’s response. But, I remember that it was a charming one.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

Very recently, Ismail Kadare’s Broken April, without question. It’s a story which haunts the reader long after its final page. It has a sadness which hangs outside the novel. It touches the subject of mankind’s beastliness in a tender and almost loving fashion.

And, of writers generally, I’d say that Gerald Durrell’s humour is rarely far from my mind. To constantly poke fun at life, I think, is a writer’s solemn duty. Any refugee from DickensHard Times, who has been made to sit through a dose of Josiah Bounderby’s insufferable rhetoric, will know that well enough. In contemplating what cannot be contemplated, William Golding’s The Inheritors showed me that an author can write magnificently about sensory perceptions which Neanderthal Man possessed, and modern humans do not.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

I can’t honestly say that many of them have, at least not that I’m aware of. Thankfully I’ve never been pursued by armed men, or tortured. That said, however, I suspect that the cynicisms, which I acquire during my researches, find an outlet in my poems. “Cruel World” is a good example. It was published only days ago, in Lionheart Press’ poetry anthology: Ancient Heart Magazine.

What are your main concerns and challenges as a writer?

That’s a difficult question, almost too difficult; I have several. The accuracy of my research troubles me to distraction. I’ve been known to telephone foreign embassies to ask them about the colour of their carpets. I must stop doing that. But, on a more sombre note, I’d have to mention corruption and genocide.

It’s a task of thriller writers to point out how political elites abuse their charges. And, it’s certainly a task I relish. However, it’s difficult to study inhumanity on a daily basis and still believe in goodness. I’d have to say that I find that aspect of my work challenging.

How do you deal with these challenges?

Put simply, the question is: How can I continuously write about abuses of authority without becoming jaded and cynical? There might be a temptation to assume that I succeed! I hope it’s possible to be cynical without becoming too jaded.

Cynicism visits all of us, occasionally, I’m sure. But, my wife reminds me, simply by being there, that life itself has a beauty which can’t be measured. I think, when pressed, I remind myself that mankind possesses the unfortunate ability to promote his own interests above everything else. And, this is a mistake. I suspect that it’s my realisation that individual men are in error which releases me from a constant cycle of worry.

Do you write every day?

I write for at least eight hours a day. But, I do include research in that calculation.

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