Crime king | 

Ulster crime novelist Simon Maltman curates new book of stories based on local music legends

‘Colin’s story is very funny. It starts with Van demanding that his roadie goes and kneecaps someone.’

From left, Simon Maltman, Colin Bateman and Gerard Brennan.

The Wolf is at Your Door by Simon Maltman

Roisin GormanSunday World

Writer Simon Maltman is a one-man crime wave.

The Bangor man is the author of six crime novels, created the Belfast Noir walking tours and came up with the idea of a book of crime stories inspired by local music legends.

Alternative Ulster Noir was such a hit when it was released in February with stories from big hitters like Colin Bateman and Stuart Neville that Simon is thinking of doing it all again.

But first the dad-of-two, who’s also helped with crime scripts for TV is going solo with his serial killer thriller The Wolf is at Your Door.

He says the Northern Ireland noir crime boom lead by bestsellers like Steve Cavanagh and Adrian McKinty shows no signs of slowing down and he’s joined them with an American setting for his sixth book.

Simon came up with a killer who leaves obscure messages in public spaces which hint at murders, but only Belfast thief Rory believes anyone has really been killed.

The Wolf is at Your Door by Simon Maltman

“It’s set in the eighties and he’s trying to get away from the Troubles and instead becomes entwined in what this killer is up to,” says Simon.

“He’s trying to track him down, but it becomes trickier because the police aren’t sure anyone has been killed.

“I’ve been inspired by American crime fiction and the evidence suggests there are hundreds of serial killers at work in the US, and in Northern Ireland with the Troubles you could claim some people were serial killers.”

Simon, a rock and blues musician started out with his debut Chaser on the Rocks in 2016 and since then he’s branched out into every area of crime. He’s been asked to help with TV scripts which are still in development and came up with the idea of crime walking tours, helped by the massive following for The Fall and Line of Duty.

“It’s a good chance to give a plug to all the Northern Ireland writers and introduce people on the tour to new ones,” says Simon.

“I take them to Botanic Gardens where there was a chase scene in The Fall, the Crown Bar which featured in Odd Man Out and Divorcing Jack, the Invest NI building which was the AC12 headquarters in Line of Duty, and we always finish at No Alibis bookshop.”

The 40-year-old says his love of music – the title of his latest novel is from a Howlin’ Wolf song – inspired him to combine local music with crime for Alternative Ulster Noir, on which he was a writer, curator and editor.

Local talent including Kelly Creighton, Gerard Brennan, and Sharon Dempsey took well-known tracks like Teenage Kicks and wrote a short crime story around them, and the readers loved it.

Downpatrick band Ash said they were honoured to have inspired a story and writing legend Colin Bateman let his imagination run riot with Van Morrison.

“Colin’s story is very funny. It starts with Van demanding that his roadie goes and kneecaps someone. I left it all in because it’s the crux of the story.

“The idea just popped into my head and I asked six other authors and they all said yes. The Arts Council funded it and it’s sold all over the world.

“I know some of the writers I didn’t get to ask would do it so I will get around to doing another book,” says Simon.

He believes the recent boom in local crime writers kickstarted by Bateman and Eoin McNamee came about because of the distance from the Troubles.

While most Northern Ireland authors didn’t write about the decades of conflict, other writers did, and often didn’t have a clue.

“There was a lot of bad fiction written about here by people who weren’t from here, known as Troubles Trash where you’d have the IRA fighting to save the Queen and they’d get everything back to front.

“When there was a lot of violence on the streets you didn’t see reading about the Troubles as escapism,” he says.

“Although I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a straight-out book about the Troubles now became of the distance from it.”

He says the crime fraternity in Northern Ireland are a tight-knit bunch, and despite the blood-curdling murders they dream up they’re decent people.

“I don’t know if everyone gets their darkness out on the page but they’re all nice people, who are not going around murdering anyone.

“But that would be an interesting remake of Murder, She Wrote if Jessica Fletcher committed all the killings so she could write about them,” says Simon.

The Wolf is at Your Door published by Aesthetic Press is available now.

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