Richard Crompton's debut mystery novel, Hour of the Red God, is "character-driven from the get-go" according to our Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney. Crompton introduces Maasai protagonist Detective Mollel, who is "outwardly ritually scarred, inwardly emotionally scarred and always a bit at odds with fellow cops."
We chatted with Crompton about the fascinating Nairobi setting, Detective Mollel and more in a 7 questions interview.
Describe your book in one sentence.
A gritty thriller and a vivid portrait of a city on the edge.
What do you think readers will most like about Detective Mollel?
He combines two very different worlds. Raised in the tribal Maasai heritage and translocated to the modern city, he feels at home in neither. But his sense of family, duty and justice ring true across all cultures.
Why does Nairobi make for such a compelling mystery setting?
It's a city of contrasts. Sky-scrapers and slums. Wealth, poverty, corruption and ethnic tension. The police force is strained to its limits. This, however, works for the mystery writer. Instead of relying on high-tech solutions, it's back-to-basics detective work which will ultimately prevail.
What's one book you think everyone should read?
Would you make a good detective?
No. Real-life crime is usually casual, cruel and random. As a writer I would be looking for patterns and motives which do not exist.
Your website's header states, "Anyone who says they enjoy writing is not trying hard enough." What does that mean to you?
I want my books to be simple, elegant and effortless to read. The craft of writing is to make the writer invisible. It takes a lot of effort to learn how to disappear.
The sequel, Hell's Gate. I am also writing a novel set between London and Africa, which is becoming a kind of homage to Bleak House. And my kids are insisting I write a book for them—which fills me with dread, as they're my toughest critics.