Noel Mealey, author of The Icon Murders
Tell us about your latest creation…
The Icon Murders is a crime thriller, a tale of murder and of why people commit murder, and of the people who occupy our world, but are invisible to us, the ordinaery law abiding citizens. The story is about Syd Fielding, now very senior in the WA police, who is accused by his best friends of multiple and brutal murders. Syd is emotionally scarred, a romantic man and a loyal friend. He has a flawed religious philosophy and a conscience that is flexible enough to accommodate violence. As he struggles to control his own inner voices, Syd must defend himself, without mercy to those who have set him up. After all, when right and wrong, good and bad, co-exist in every person … who deserves to live and who to die? It is a story about political corruption and evil, and a love story with a different ending.
I live in an apartment in Brisbane, with my wife of 50 years. We travel a lot, and spend a lot of time in Phnom Penh, where we have a hotel in partnership with our daughter. The hotel is an endless source of interesting characters.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?
I always wanted to write, but circumstances demanded that I should not dream but should have a career that might bring in some income. Looking back now, I realise that sometimes one should follow childhood dreams. Easy to say from a distance.
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?
This is only my second book. I do believe that I have improved upon a very good debut novel. I have completed the third draft of my third book, and I am very excited about it. I have enjoyed immensely writing all 3 books, but this one is the tragicomedy that I always wanted to write
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?
I am an orderly person in my usual life, however when I’m writing (which is almost always these days) I become obsessive and my concentration is entirely upon my characters and my story, to the
point where I forget to pay the bills and to take care of my basic every day living. I start at 8 am every day and spend the first few hours dealing with stuff concerning the hotel and my superannuation, and then straight into the writing until 6pm with a short time off for lunch and maybe a long walk sometimes to clear the head. I love it.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?
I’ve read a lot of crime. Lee Child, Nelson de Mille and much history and many historical novels. Before and while I was writing The Icon Murders, I read Graham Greene, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Dostoevsky. I think this combination has had a positive influence upon my writing this novel. Right now I’m reading Christopher Hitchens (“Arguably”) and hope to be able to write with his light touch.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?
In Grade 7 we studied Macbeth, and I’ve had a great love of Shakespeare’s plays ever since then. To this day, I have books that I’ve kept over the years, by Ion Idriess, and Rolf Boldrewood. Wonderful adventure stories with Australian flavour, and A.W Horning and Jacques Weygand. Tom Sawyer was another favourite and is still on my bookshelf.
If you were a literary character, who would you be?
Whenever I read “A Farewell to France” by Noel Barber, I envy the main character, the young Astill (cannot remember his first name) for his carefree youth in the champagne district of France, and for the elegant style of living he managed during the war years in Paris.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?
I have the hotel in Phnom Penh. My wife and I helped to get it started two years ago, and that has been an incredible learning curve for all of us. We both play bridge and love to travel. About every 12 weeks we go to Cambodia and we seem to manage to get to Paris every so often, where we have a friend who gives us his apartment at an economical rent. Love that city.
What is your favourite food and favourite drink?
I like white wine, but I suppose I have to say that a single malt scotch is hard to beat. I get no great fun from going to expensive ( pretentious ?) restaurants and when we eat out it is to a smaller Italian, or a good fish and chips place. I like Thai food and find it hard to go past pie and peas. Right now I’m doing the 2:5 diet which is so easy.
Who is your hero? Why?
It would be Winston Churchill, despite his terrible record in Ireland and India and his supposed dislike of Australians. I think anyone who could lead England out of the tragedy of the WWII, and who
foresaw many of the problems that would beset the remainder of the century, is worth a bit of hero-worshiping. Besides anything else, he was a great writer, with an incredible command of the language and an elegant style that holds my attention.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?
I believe that we will come to see electronic readers as being a positive influence. If, of course you are a bookshop owner, then that is a challenge to be overcome. Books have been written and read for centuries. Often for the enjoyment of the reader. I cannot see that this will ever change. TV has been absorbed; we are coming to grips with Kindle etc. I don’t see a problem except for the usual challenge that we must, as writers continue to challenge and entertain and/or educate our readers.
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