All posts by maxkinnings

Hitman Rides Again

Hitman_ebook
Click on the image to read the first chapter and buy on-line at Amazon.co.uk

“A non-stop sprint to the end… a highly accomplished, confident first novel.” The Times

“The entertainment factor is high in this piece of pure pulp fiction…” The Guardian

“A black comic homage to William S Burroughs.” The Daily Telegraph

“Bonkers as you like and more fun than chasing the dragon with the Happy Mondays.” The List

“Imagine Carl Hiaasen meets Hunter S Thompson – but funnier and with more drugs. Superb.” Front Magazine.

Hitman was published by Hodder & Stoughton (Flame) in January 2000. Almost exactly ten years before, I had started my career in the advertising industry and give or take a couple of extended absences, firstly to travel around India, Thailand and Nepal for six months and secondly to relocate to Capetown for a year with my soon-to-be-wife, I had spent the intervening years planning and buying media on behalf of concert promoters, comedy and theatre producers, record companies and other assorted entertainment industry types. It had been fun but I knew that it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I wanted to write.

I had written a couple of manuscripts in the first half of the decade. The first was on off-beat rights-of-passage novel set in Ladbroke Grove and the second was a travelogue of my time in Asia but I hadn’t “found my voice” as I was often told one had to do. I read a lot of books in the nineties; many of them were American and written by the “Beats”. I was particularly drawn to the work of William Burroughs. Not only did his writing fascinate me but his life represented the perfect embodiment of the “outlaw writer”. His philosophy on life seemed to be, on the one hand, grotesque and deranged, and on the other, down-to-earth, level-headed and pragmatic. And his thorough rejection of the straight life – in all things – was appealing to a young man who had experienced, as he had, a secure – very straight – middle-class childhood.

J.G. Ballard – another literary hero – described Burroughs as “Hitman for the apocalypse” and there was something about the expression that resonated with me. I had the title of my novel before I even had the story. In May 1995, I sat down at my usual writing table in Capetown Central Library and with no clue as to how the story might progress, I wrote: “I’m doing sixty down Highgate Hill and the Laughy Woman is doing my head in.” I wanted to create a story that sounded like it was being spoken to a close friend about something strange, surreal, slightly Burroughsian. And as with Burroughs’s best writing, I also wanted it to be funny and satirical, in a dark off-kilter sort of way. I’ll let others be the judge of whether I succeeded in any of this.

The book received some strong reviews and one in The Daily Telegraph, that nailed my initial intention. I’m excited that Hitman is going to live again as an e-book (complete with new cover design) and I’ll be interested to hear what people think of it this time around. I might even give it a read myself.

The Fixer Returns

Fixerpaperback
Click on the image to read the first chapter and buy on-line at Amazon.co.uk

“There’s real humour running through the book and it’s fascinatingly off-the-wall…the beauty of it is that [Kinnings] has managed to write a novel on the subject of fame that’s just as frivolous and addictive as the reality TV it trashes.” Mirror

“A disturbingly topical satire on celebrity culture.” Heat

“A twisted gasp-a-minute page turner for our times.” Hello

“Trashy, insightful and frustratingly addictive.” Jockey Slut

If Hitman was an off-beat comedy thriller influenced by Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs and Hunter S Thompson, The Fixer, while written in a similar style, drew its inspiration from writers such as Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis. I had spent the previous three years or so working at an advertising and marketing agency in Soho whose clients were theatre and comedy producers. Two comedy producers that I had worked for, in various capacities, were self-styled “bad boys” who painted themselves as hard-nosed deal makers who would stop at nothing to drive a hard bargain on behalf of their comedy clients. In truth, it was all a front – as is so much of the bluster in the world of show business – but I decided that I wanted to create a character in whom I could amplify their worst characteristics for comic and satirical effect.

When I first started to write The Fixer in 1999, it was the first season of Channel 4’s Big Brother and the concept of taking unlikely people and elevating them to the status of celebrities for the enjoyment of the braying public was something still new and exciting. The premise that I created for The Fixer was that of a show business agent who, for his own twisted amusement, chooses to manage a notorious murderer in order to elevate him to the status of a serial killing celebrity.

With Hitman I had had no deadlines to work to, spending nearly three years writing the book. The Fixer, on the other hand, was the second book of a two book contract and I had  just over a year to write it in order to meet the publishing deadline. Working full-time as I was, it meant that the book was written during evenings, early mornings, and much of it commuting to and from Soho from south London on the Tube, a stretch of Tube line that would take centre stage in Baptism some years later.

The anti-hero of The Fixer is Tobe Darling, a character I particularly enjoyed creating. Tobe is morally repellent and yet, I wanted him to be someone who would be redeemed in the eyes of the reader because he is funny, often because what he says contains fundamental truths about the entertainment industry and society’s fixation with celebrity. Tobe’s misanthropy is something that I can feel in myself and writing an entire novel in his voice, was maybe something of an exorcism. I’ve often thought I might write something else as him.

Now released as an e-book in July 2013, I hope that Tobe Darling’s caustic observations on the nature of the show business dream are as relevant as ever. I suspect they are.

Baptism reading and discussion

CWA logo
As part of The Crime Writers’ Association National Crime Writing Month, I will be reading from and talking about Baptism and its follow-up, Sacrifice, at Faringdon Library (Oxfordshire) on Monday 10th June at 6.45pm. Please call 01367 240311 or email Faringdon.Library@oxfordshire.gov.uk to reserve a place (admission free).

Shooting the Baptism Trailer

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When director/producer Phil Hawkins told me that he was going to start the process of bringing Baptism to the screen by shooting a trailer for the feature film, I wasn’t quite sure what he had in mind. So many spec trailers for films and books are basic affairs containing a few key story moments from the source material produced for a tiny budget and often with an even tinier imagination. I knew that Phil’s way of doing things would be different – he’s a very talented bloke – but I really wasn’t prepared for how different it would turn out to be.

Bringing together a talented cast and crew with top end equipment (the technical details of which I won’t attempt), the shoot comprised multiple locations including George and Maggie’s house shot in Hackney, the London Underground Network Control Centre shot at South Bank University, tunnels and accompanying explosions shot in Rochester in Kent and underwater sequences at a pool in Oxted in Surrey.

It was the scenes on the train, however, shot over two full days on a tube carriage beneath a special blacked-out marquee at the Pumphouse Museum in Walthamstow, that formed the bulk of the shoot. It was there on the third day of filming that Phil asked me to play one of Tommy Denning’s victims, namely the trainee driver who is “riding the cushions” with George, the train driver – hence my blood-spattered appearance in the picture above.

It’s safe to say that a career as an actor doesn’t beckon but getting shot in the head in an adaptation of your own novel is an experience that every writer should have at least once in their life.

I’ve worked on a few projects that have been brought to the screen but Baptism is a story that has been brewing in my mind for many years; the writing of the book involved numerous drafts, rewrites, crises of confidence, epiphanies and all round blood, sweat and tears. To see characters and situations that I have lived with for so long in my mind brought to life – and brought to life brilliantly – was an experience that bordered on the surreal. One scene in particular, that in which Tommy Denning makes his announcement to the world via a webcam from the hijacked train, was so similar to the image that I had lived with for so long  in my mind – Tommy (played by Sean Cernow) leaning into the camera and expressing his twisted world view while George, the driver (played by Nick Pearse), sits on a seat further down the carriage – that it was uncanny and made me feel dizzy just watching it being filmed.

I can’t wait to see – and for you to see – the finished trailer (no pressure Phil!). I’m working on the screenplay for the feature film every spare minute I get. The next train will be along shortly…

For further pictures and details of the shoot, please go to: https://www.facebook.com/BaptismMoviehttps://twitter.com/BaptismMovie

Blood-spattered author picture by Gareth Gatrell: http://www.garethgatrell.com/

Creating a Disabled Character

Since Baptism was published in July 2012, I have been asked a number of times what drew me to creating a disabled character as the protagonist in what is intended to be a series of crime novels. This is a subject that I intend to explore in greater detail in the PhD that I am writing which is entitled “Writing the Thriller Sequel”. In the meantime, however, here are some thoughts about my motivations for creating a character with a specific disability. 

In 2005/6 when I first conceived of the idea of creating a series of crime novels focused on a hostage negotiator, the central character was very different from the one who appears in Baptism and its sequel, Sacrifice. In the first couple of drafts of Baptism, Ed Mallory was a hard-drinking police hostage negotiator and archetypal maverick. This version of the character appeared in 2009 in a Dutch version of Baptism entitled Claustrofobia. However, editors at British publishers were not so keen on this character, finding him to be a little derivative and even stereotypical. At around this time, I moved literary agencies and my new agent suggested that I revisit the manuscript and along with addressing various structural issues, look closely at the character of Ed Mallory. 

One of the most important skills that a hostage negotiator can have is that of “active listening”. This is the ability to establish the character and motivations of a hostage-taker – or “subject” according to the relevant terminology – and in so doing, establish a rapport and understanding from which a satisfactory resolution to a crisis can be found. It was on this aspect of Ed Mallory’s work that I started to focus. Was there something about him that might make his senses and abilities in this area more heightened and effective? What if he was blind? As soon as I asked myself this question, I felt daunted by the possibilities that it presented. So much of the story of Baptism was written from Ed’s point of view that it would mean a huge rewrite and an entire recreation of his character. But I also realised that it was something that I had to at least explore. The more I did so, the more Ed’s character changed. Rather than a hard drinking ageing Lothario, he became a solitary man with deep physical and mental scars, a man who couldn’t come to terms with his disability but knew that because of it, his abilities as a hostage negotiator were greatly enhanced. 

Writing from the point of view of a blind character presented a number of unique challenges, some of which I am still coming to terms with as I adapt Baptism for the screen. So much of what a writer describes when writing from a specific character’s point of view is visual. Not so with a blind character of course. Touch, taste and smell become all important. As I reconfigured Ed’s sensory experience, I realised that he was becoming a much more complex and hopefully satisfying character. Publishers certainly felt so and once the rewritten manuscript was submitted for publication, I was offered a two book deal with Quercus. Baptism was published in July 2012 and its sequel, Sacrifice, will be published in July 2013.  

I cannot claim that I created a disabled character for my stories for any other reason than I wanted to create the most interesting and effective protagonist that I could. A blind hostage negotiator with a reluctance to come to terms with his disability provides a complexity of character which I can explore throughout a number of novels. I hope none of this is seen as exploitative; I’m motivated purely by a desire to create the most compelling character and story as possible. Writing from the point of view of a blind person has been a fascinating and challenging process and one which I hope to repeat in further books that will follow on from Baptism and Sacrifice.   

Baptism Twitter Hijack 21.12.12

Last night, I was abused on Twitter. I was called, by various people, a nutter, a loon and a fruit loop. I deserved it and I’ll explain why in a moment. On the 19th July 2012, Baptism’s release date, I wrote and delivered a Twitter drama, tweeting in real time in the guise of a passenger trapped on the hijacked train featured in the book. You can read more about it here. As someone who is interested in new ways of delivering stories and narratives, I found the process fascinating but because of the specific date, just a few days prior to the start of the Olympics, and with the UK on high security alert, I made it clear that the drama was a work of fiction and I wasn’t really trapped on a hijacked Tube train. Each tweet included a link to a disclaimer on my web site and the project was heavily trailed on Twitter. I received some positive feedback and was featured in editorials on the Quercus web site and the Shooting People independent film web site as well as a handful of other blogs.

While I enjoyed writing from the point of view of a frightened passenger who is held hostage deep below ground while hijackers take over a Tube train, I felt a little constrained by the few emotional responses open to me writing as a fearful and bewildered character. So, fast forward a few months and with the prophetic date of 21st December 2012 fast approaching, I decided it might be interesting to carry out another Twitter drama but this time, write it from the point of view of Tommy Denning, Brother Thomas of the Church of Cruor Christi, who is the lead hijacker in the novel. As with the first drama, it would roughly be in real time (although it didn’t actually turn out that way) and provide a stand-alone narrative that mirrors the events in the novel. The heavy disclaiming of the first drama back in July had compromised its immediacy, I felt, so with this one, I decided there should be no disclaimers and no prior notification. In order to attract an audience beyond my usual followers, I decided to send some of the tweets marked with hash tags relating to groups of people such as atheists, Christians and members of the NRA with whom the character of Tommy Denning could find either kinship or hostility. Many of the tweets were marked with hashtags such as #NRA #christianity #atheism and to enhance the date’s topicality #endofdays. Thus written and complete with a few photographs that I had taken on the Tube a few days previously – and with my wife’s cautionary words of “don’t get arrested” still ringing in my ears – I set about tweeting as Tommy Denning at about 6pm last night.

Earlier in the day, Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association in the US had made his speech in response to last week’s tragic school shooting in Newtown. This speech included a line that was rich in iconography: “”The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” While I would never wish to exploit a tragic event in any way, as a writer I react to events around me and this statement felt like a good place to start, especially as LaPierre’s words would have some sort of resonance with the character of Tommy Denning. My first tweet in Denning’s voice was: “‘The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.’ Damn right. Someone had to say it. #NRA.” With Denning becoming – in his own deluded mind at least – the “good guy with a gun,” he/I set about posting and responding to messages from other Twitter users in his voice.

While some readers of the NRA hashtag “favorited” or retweeted my tweets, others, particularly those responding to Denning’s casting of atheists as “sinners”, berated me for my lunatic religious opinions. Some friends of mine and Twitter followers expressed concern for my sanity. To all of you, I’d like to apologise if I worried you. It was all fiction. Whether the experiment was successful in any artistic sense, I have no idea, and I wouldn’t know how to judge that anyway. But one thing that came from it – apart from losing a few followers – was the feeling I had while tweeting in the character of someone else. It was curiously liberating and I can now understand to a degree the strangely seductive pleasure that anonymous Twitter posters derive from being freed from their own personal responsibilities and the constant editing and editorialising one employs when posting in one’s own name.

I’m convinced that it’s only a matter of time before an imaginative writer comes along and creates a Twitter drama that catches fire and goes viral, drawing a large audience from across the web. So far, I’m clearly not that writer and my attempts at adapting at least part of an existing novel into a web drama that captivates a large audience have failed. But it’s often only through trial and error that writers can find their voice and discover new means of expression. I would love to hear from others who are interested in harnessing social media as a means of creating and delivering new forms of drama; so too, those who might have an opinion on my own efforts thus far.

A big thanks to everyone who has bought and read and hopefully enjoyed Baptism this year. I am working on the film adaptation at the moment and the sequel will be published by Quercus in July 2013 when Ed Mallory will face another seemingly impossible hostage situation in central London.

In the meantime, Happy Christmas – whatever your religious persuasion – and a Happy New Year.

Max.

BAPTISM film adaptation

Baptism has been optioned by award-winning director, Phil Hawkins through his production outfit, The Philm Company.

“We’re delighted to announce that we’ve acquired the film rights to the critically acclaimed novel BAPTISM by Max Kinnings. It’s a page-turning action thriller set on the London Underground.

We’re looking forward to developing the screenplay with Max from his novel.”

For further details, please go to:

http://www.facebook.com/philmcompany
http://www.philmcompany.com/

And please follow on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/BaptismMovie