Novelist Martina Cole, has rarely been off U.K. bestseller lists for some 17 years now. I had the opportunity to talk on the phone with Cole recently, and her quick wit and street smarts were evident in every response. When her first book, Dangerous Lady, was published, she received the requisite large check from her publisher. I asked her what she did for a first-time splurge: "Well, my accountant told me if I wanted to buy a new car, I needed to do it quickly; it had something to do with English tax law and saving buckets of money. I was painting my bedroom, and had paint all over me, and I went to the BMW dealer that way. The salesman couldn't be bothered with me until I told him that I wanted to buy a new BMW and pay cash for it. I think he nearly fainted!" With the royalties from successive books she has bought a country home that dates back to Elizabethan times ("It has a resident ghost") a garage full of lovely automobiles and a motorboat ("No sailboats for me; I'm a power boat girl.").
It was not always the high life for Martina Cole. She grew up in a working-class family; at times she had to hold down three jobs at once just to make ends meet. Nowadays, that's not a problem, of course, as her books have hit the bestseller lists all over the world, and she is poised to do just that stateside as well with her newly released American debut, Close. Like Cole's previous books, Close is a tale of the London underground, gritty and harsh, not for the weak of heart (or stomach). It is a milieu with which Cole is very familiar, the hardscrabble turf of a poor urban neighborhood, where "the Wall of Silence" prevailed, and folks turned a blind eye to the violent crimes happening all around them with startling regularity. This ambitious novel spans a 40-year period in the life of Clan Brodie, a notorious London crime family, starting in the swinging '60s and moving forward to the present. Think "The Sopranos" with a Cockney accent, and you would not be far off. And like "The Sopranos," it is brutally hard-hitting, superbly crafted and deserving of a rabid fan base in America, as well as the rest of the world.