Sam Alexander is… Paul Johnston!

After weeks of torture from Arcadia Books and the #WhoIsSamAlexander campaign, the author was finally revealed yesterday on the Bloody Scotland website – cue much ‘ah, I should’ve guessed’ shouts from the crime writing readers and writers who failed to get it right 🙂

Sam Alexander is none other than CWA Dagger Award winner Paul Johnston, author of three bestselling series of crime novels, including Greek detective Mavros.

Bloody Scotland will be hosting Sam Alexander aka Paul Johnston at an exclusive event during Book Week Scotland 2014 in November. You can read the full press release here.

Sam… Paul… (Pam?!) has kindly supplied some further info on some of his cryptic answers from last week’s interview below:

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Other authors I was pleased to be identified with include: William McIlvanney, Sophie Hannah, Laura Wilson, Laura Lippman, Mo Hayder, Mark Billingham, Martyn Waites, Stav Sherez (the last three kept shtum, but Stav forgot and almost blew it…), John Connolly, Denise Mina, Helen Fielding, Irvine Welsh, Lee Child, Colin Dexter and AL Kennedy. Not so keen on Agatha Christie (didn’t you know? She’s living in a grace and favour apartment in Buckingham Palace). Or Stephanie Meyer, though to be fair I’m hardly her target audience. Arthur Conan Doyle’s my hero and, being a spiritualist/ spirit, he did nudge my elbow a few times, but he was revolted by the sex and violence (this from an author who cut off an engineer’s thumb and sent a snake through a hole into a young lady’s bedroom…)

– It was also pleasing that there was a pretty much equal split between female and male authors. I was paranoid that my female characters weren’t convincing.

– The person who suggested Jeffrey Archer also guessed who I was. Her reward is to be killed in the sequel to Carnal Acts. [*evil laughter* – SJIH]

Although there have been cops in all three of my previous series, Quint Dalrymple, Alex Mavros and Matt Wells are basically private eyes (Wells is a crime novelist, for pity’s sake…). So tackling the police procedural was a big issue. It was why I invented Corham and the new force – so I could set up a world that isn’t quite ours. That didn’t stop a particularly bilious critic attacking me for getting dog licences wrong. I’m sorry, in my fictional world they still exist. (Neat get-out clause, non?)

Cancer – I’ve had surgery and other therapy three times, so Heck’s a wimp.

Rugby – I was a keen player when I was young and have mentioned the sport in other novels.

Albanians – having spent much of my time in Greece, I’ve met plenty of Albanian immigrants and have educated myself about their country. Of course, only very few Albanians are gangsters – just as well, as the Albanian clan-based mob is seen as more vicious than the Italian equivalent. Matt Wells, crime novelist hero of my third series (The Death List etc), wrote a series starring an Albanian detective called Zog Hadzhi. Amazingly, it wasn’t a success.

Scotland – mentioned since I’m from Edinburgh (in England, according to Glaswegians). Some people spotted the Scottish link and went through every Scottish writer they could think of. Except moi. (Apart from a couple of bright sparks, including the doomed individual mentioned above.) Until earlier this year we had a family house in the Scottish borders, so visiting Northumbria was easy.

People trafficking – it’s a major contemporary social problem, but I think I was also drawn to it because I’ve spent so much time abroad. Clue – ‘Do they miss home?’ When you’re away from your place of birth, you automatically start to think about your ties to it.

I do share some qualities with Joni and Heck, though probably more with the latter. I enjoyed writing Joni – apart from the paranoia mentioned above – because I was able to combine my experience of women I’ve known plus use my imagination. Oh, and nick stuff from female cops in other people’s novels. Actually, I didn’t do much of the latter – I wanted to go my own way. And then there’s the wish fulfilment. I wish I’d been as good a rugby player as Heck (I was a fly boy out on the wing, carefully avoiding the hard-man stuff), I wish I’d won an athletics blue (I didn’t have the nerve to go for a trial, even though I’d been a reasonable long jumper and sprinter at school); and I wish I had their integrity. For good reason, readers like cops in leading roles to have a coherent system of ethics. Those of us who only write about them can be much less ‘good’.

More people were involved in the writing process – this refers to the fact that I recently finished a PhD in creative writing at St Andrews University, and Carnal Acts was the novel that I submitted. Well, a third of it – the rest of the thesis consisted of me arguing myself in circles about the main issues in the book; the so-called critical section. So I went into great detail about the issues of pseudonym, plot, character, genre, gender, the body, race and class. Hope that isn’t too obvious in the novel… The book’s dedicated to my professor Gill Plain. She kept me right, especially on issues of gender, the body and race. I learned a huge amount from her and her colleagues and think I’m a much better writer since doing the PhD.

The main structural difference between Carnal Acts and all the other novels I’ve written is the short chapters. That didn’t happen till the second draft. I – and my agent and my prof – felt the story wasn’t moving quickly enough and brief, filmic scenes seemed to do the trick. Let’s hope a producer picks the book up… [I hope so too! – SJIH]

The lawnmower quote – it’s from the old, good Genesis (with Peter Gabriel), a song called ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ – I mentioned it as a tip of the hat to my pal Mark Billingham, who’s an even bigger fan than I am. The lyrics are barking, which is what we want…

The sequel to Carnal Acts has now been commissioned by Arcadia Books – see what a good publicity campaign can do! It’ll be out next July (if I manage to write it in time…)

Actually, I don’t mind Swedish meatballs. [Glad to hear it – SJIH]

Yes! I’m Paul Johnston. ‘No, I’m Paul Johnston and so’s my wife.’ Actually, I like having two writing personas. Hang on, why stop there? Stand by for persona number 3 – I’ve always wanted to write full blown science fiction. As Margaret Wells (got to let my daughter Maggie have a crack of the pseudonym whip – ow – since my son’s name is Alexander.) Hello? Arcadia Books? Can you hear me?

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Thank you, Paul – I hope Carnal Acts continues to fly off the shelves 🙂

Find out more about Paul at his website: www.paul-johnston.co.uk. He can also be found on twitter.

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