In New Orleans, Texas Ranger John Q is out of his jurisdiction, and possibly out of his depth. It seems everyone in Louisiana wants to send him home, and every time he asks questions there's trouble: from the pharmacist to the detective running scared to the pimp who turned to him as a last resort. Before John Q knows it, he looks the only link between a series of murders.
So who could be trying to set him up, and why, and who can he turn to in a city where Southern tradition and family ties rule?Infused with the rhythms of its iconic setting, The Contract is a thriller to keep even the most seasoned crime readers gripped and guessing all the way to its endgame.
The Contract by J M Gulvin is published in paperback on 6 April 2017 by Faber & Faber and is the second in the John Q series.
I featured the first in the series, The Long Count here on Random Things in March last year.
I'm delighted to welcome the author here today as part of the Blog Tour, he's talking about the books that have inspired him and left a lasting impression on his life, for My Life In Books.
My Life In Books ~ J M Gulvin
I love this kind of feature - where people like me get to reminisce about the books that have shaped the kind of writers we’ve become. For me it started way back when I was a child growing up in Edinburgh: nervous, no confidence, no belief in my ability to do anything at all. I attended “Gillespie’s Boys” and hated every moment of school life from then on.
I loved to read though, and the first book I remember was a child’s version of THE SONG OF HIAWATHA by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, it sucked me in and held me and so started a lifelong love affair with the American West.
That was followed by SQUANTO FRIEND OF THE PILGRIMS, a tale I thought was fiction about a young native American from the Iroquois confederacy taken to London on a boat only to return to his village to find it decimated by smallpox. Later, when I’d read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, I’d discover that Squanto was real.
From the age of 11 to 18 I read THE LORD OF THE RINGS once a year. I devoured it, could not get enough and when my grown-up children visit now – we have a fest on the Peter Jackson movies. It got to the point where I could recite the book almost line by line. “I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, if, by my life or death I can save you, I will”.
As I moved into my twenties I knew I was a pretty good storyteller but I was uneducated and needed to hone my skills as a craftsman. From that day on I only read top drawer writers who were way better than I’d ever be. I started with Graham Greene, all his work, and THE QUIET AMERICAN is one of the most amazing and prophetic novels I’ve ever read. Written in the days of France and Indo-Chine, it foretold the catastrophic American involvement in Vietnam.
After Greene, it was Hemingway with THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA being my favourite. There was something about that old guy in the boat and the marlin he catches being taken by sharks…it summed up the challenges of life as a writer for me.
As I said above, I read about Squanto then years later I picked up a copy of BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. Written by Dee Brown, it’s a native history of the American West: Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Geronimo and Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, to this day I’d suggest it as a study document for anyone who really wants to know how the America I write about with John Q was actually settled. The book affected me so greatly I made a pilgrimage to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where the remnants of Custer’s 7th Cavalry massacred those involved in the last, peaceful resistance against domination from the east.
People comment about the relationships I’m creating in the John Q novels and the elements of racism that occur given the 1960’s setting. I think that was born of James Baldwin and ANOTHER COUNTRY. Set in New York it influenced part of what I’m doing at least, in Texas. There’s a scene near the beginning when the predicament of a young, black jazz drummer creates a sense of despair and poverty that’s as tough and poignant as anything I can remember.
Now, we’re getting to the heart of the matter (to borrow a title from Graham Greene). In 1992 I picked up the book that would change my life forever. It’s not actually my favourite McCarthy novel, but ALL THE PRETTY HORSES was like nothing I had read before. I was on vacation on the Norfolk Broads in England, and all I could think about each day was getting my daughters to bed so I could grab that book and go back to Mexico. In my opinion there’s no finer writer alive right now than Cormac McCarthy. I owe him everything. If I hadn’t read that book there would be no John Q today.
Since then I’ve continued to read those who are so much better than I’ll ever be. I don’t read much crime for fear of inadvertently pinching something from someone and it’s been these literary figures who have assisted my writing life to date.
Briefly, I want to mention two Jeffrey Lent novels IN THE FALL & LOST NATION that are so beautifully put together it blows you away. And lastly, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD written by one of America’s real unsung heroes of literature - Ron Hansen. They made a fabulous movie with Brad Britt and the brilliant Casey Affleck that stuck to the novel verbatim. Read it. See the film. They’re fantastic.
J M Gulvin ~ April 2017
J M Gulvin divides his time between Wales and the western United States. He is the author of many previous novels, as well as Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's bestselling travel book Long Way Down.
The Contract is his second John Q mystery, following The Long Count (May 2016).
Follow him on Twitter @jmgulvin