ADAM SARAFIS is a journalist based in Auckland, and also spends time in the Greek archipelagos and Skagen in Denmark. His new thriller, Something is Rotten, is his début novel and the first gripping instalment in a planned trilogy.
Your thriller kicks off in New Zealand, renowned for its breathtaking mountains, adventurous zorbing, and kiwi birds … why did you set your grisly beginning in Auckland?
Well, I live in Auckland and I know the city. Also, the story I wanted to write was one involving the corporate and political sectors and they operate in an urban setting. Perhaps I also wanted to describe a New Zealand environment that is very different from the one presented in tourist brochures. Part II and III of the Matakana trilogy will explore other parts of the country, too.
How did your experience as a journalist influence Something is Rotten?
Returning to live again in New Zealand, it soon became apparent to me that the image of the country as a safe haven far removed from the nasty turmoil in the rest of the world is an illusion. I started noticing how everything is connected. It felt like the tentacles of evil could reach anywhere, and I began to speculate about specific ways it could manifest itself in this country.
What sparked the writing of this story?
My growing concern about the state of the world. Escalating violence, political corruption and increasing economic inequality. I wanted to tell a story about how every country in the world, however remote, can be implicated in a war not of their doing.
There’s a rumour that you have a kind of ‘spilt personality’ disorder. Is this true?
(Edit: Adam Sarafis is the creation of author Linda Olsson and screenwriter Thomas Sainsbury. He has now taken on a life of his own.)
Who are Sam Hallberg and Lynette Church?
Sam Hallberg is a 40-something former government expert on terrorism, now a disillusioned car mechanic. Sam’s backstory will only be fully revealed in the second book in the series, but will be hinted at in this one. In Something is Rotten he is reluctantly pulled back into the world of political corruption and crime. In his free time, and to fend of nightmares and memories, he reads Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Sam’s friend Lynette Church is a brilliant journalist and editor of the business pages of New Zealand’s largest daily paper. Lynette is also 40-something, single and a little overweight. She is ruthless and fearless when it comes to her professional life, but rather insecure in her private one. She cares deeply about Sam, and she is the one who has kept in touch with him during the difficult years since he left his government job. Whether her feelings are more than friendship is not for me to say.
What happens to them in the book?
Sam is pulled out of his lonely existence when he is approached by a young prostitute who asks for his help to look into the suspicious death of her best friend.
Lynette’s journalistic curiosity takes her on a fact-finding quest that touches big business as well the highest echelons of political power. She makes no progress on her diet, though.
Are you confident you’ll be able to top this story off in a trilogy?
Absolutely. It will get better and better.
Your writing has been compared to John Le Carré and Henning Mankell – are you a fan of their work? Which of their books have you read?
Yes. I admire Carré’s sophisticated international plots and Mankell’s characterisations and his social commentary.
- The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
- The Constant Gardener
- The Little Drummer
- The Naïve And Sentimental Lover
I have read all of Mankell’s ‘Wallander’ books.
What makes a top-notch thriller?
A good thriller works like any good novel: it tells a story, and it tells it well.
So, it has:
- Strong characters whose motivations are clear and understandable.
- A good plot. Perhaps a thriller needs a more constant propulsion than a literary novel, a higher pace.
- A presentation of characters and plot that is so effective that the reader becomes completely involved in the story and is able to ‘see’ the scenes.
Give us your top 5 books in order or your top 3 books in any order.
Sorry, I end up with six very different books and because they are so very different I just cannot rank them. So, in no particular order one thriller, two non-fiction works, one collection of short stories and one of poetry, and one play:
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
Capital in the Twenty-First Century – Thomas Piketty
The Great War for Civilisation – Robert Fisk
Slaves of New York – Tama Janowitz
Markings – Dag Hammarskjöld
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Tom Stoppard
Something is Rotten is published by Echo Publishing, rrp $29.99.