Interview: Mason Cross

Not every Scottish author is milking the grey skies over Glasgow, Aberdeen’s granite edifice, or the medieval nooks and crannies of Edinburgh for atmosphere. Mason Cross is the creator of the Carter Blake thrillers, and his hero inhabits the highways and byways of New York. The fourth book in the series, Don’t Look For Me, is about to hit the shelves. So we decided to ask Mason – or Gavin Bell, when he’s at home – a little more about it.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
The first thing you should know about me is my name is not Mason Cross. I’m from Glasgow, I live with my wife and three kids, and I write thrillers. I’ve always loved writing and always wanted to be an author, so to have four books published – and another in the pipeline – is a dream come true.

What do you hope crime fiction lovers will love about Don’t Look For Me?
That it’s a little bit different from the other three books, and doesn’t just follow the formula. Obviously I’ve tried to make sure there’s enough action and mystery to please fans of the series and the genre, but Don’t Look For Me is consciously less epic than The Time to Kill. This one is much more low key and about the characters. In fact the way it starts out is almost a domestic noir, with a neighbour behaving strangely…

Carter Blake is a very different character, where did he come from?
Thank you! I came up with the character before I wrote the first book, and I deliberately designed him to be able to develop over a series. That means he has quite a mysterious background, some of which has emerged in the first few books, and also that he isn’t a cop or anything like that. The lack of a fixed job or base of operations means I can drop him into different locations with different supporting casts, but also into quite different styles of story. So the first one is an action thriller, the second is a police procedural, the third is a chase thriller, and this one is almost a road movie with noir and even romance elements.

Who are your writing heroes and what influences your work?
Too many to list, but important ones that spring to mind are Stephen King, Raymond Chandler, Lee Child, Denise Mina, Ian Rankin, Ira Levin, John D MacDonald, Gillian Flynn, Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly and Patricia Highsmith. I’m also very influenced by cinema – when I’m writing a scene I usually visualise it in quite a cinematic way. I like it when readers pick up on that as a positive thing, because it’s the only way I know how to write.

The setting for your novels is the USA yet you live in Glasgow, what led you to this decision?
Basically, because every time I come up with a good idea for a Glasgow book, Craig Robertson has thought of it before me! In all seriousness, as a fan of American thrillers, I was drawn to writing in this genre and wanted to try my hand at it. I would love to write a Glasgow-based thriller one day, but it might be a little different to these books.

Finally, what’s next from the pen of Mason Cross?
I’m writing the fifth Carter Blake book right now, which all being well will be published in 2018. Aside from that, I have an idea for a standalone I would love to have time to write over the summer. And maybe that will be set in Glasgow!

You can read our review of The Samaritan here, and The Time To Kill here. Don’t Look For Me goes on sale 20 April.

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