Author Reflections: Tim Baker

I don’t usually read thrillers or noir but when I saw this debut novel I just had to request a copy. Europa Editions was not only kind enough to set me up with the gorgeous paperback, they also invited me to be part of the blog tour! So, without further ado, here is Tim Baker, talking to you about Fever City

 

How I wrote FEVER CITY

Tim Baker reflects on the origins of his debut thriller, FEVER CITY, in which a frantic search

for a kidnapped child collides with a plot to kill the President . . .

By Tim Baker

A couple of years ago I was working on a mystery set in Manhattan in the 1950s that involved

the murder of a disgraced NYPD detective turned private eye. A secondary plot concerned the

kidnapping of the only child of one of America’s richest and most hated men, and the subsequent

cover up of the crime.

But as I moved forward with the manuscript, an unexpected thing happened. The secondary plot

began to emerge as the principal one. The kidnapping story seemed to possess a power and

intensity all of its own.

Despite my attempts to rein in its influence and focus on what I considered to be the ‘main story’

– that of the murdered PI – the kidnapping component kept growing with such urgency that

eventually I felt compelled to focus on it alone, and abandoned the other parts of the novel.

As surprised – and excited – as I was about this development, there was still something missing,

but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was like a word on the tip of your tongue; the more you tried

to remember it, the further it drifted from your mind.

I tried various shifts to the story and explored new plot ideas, but nothing seemed to connect with

the kidnapping in an organic way. After a year of trying, I put the novel down with regret but

also knowing I would return to it when the time was right.

Meanwhile, there were other writing projects that kept me busy. I started travelling for various

film assignments, and one of my trips took me to Los Angeles. As someone who had never

owned a car in his life, I expected to hate the city but instead fell in love with it.

Yes, it was sprawling and unanchored, but it was surrounded by natural beauty and was

culturally diverse. And there were a multitude of neighborhoods, each with its own community,

ambiance and mood. Above all, there was the torrid, slap in the face heat. It was as if the whole

city were running a mighty temperature.

It only took me a couple of days to understand that I needed to change the setting of my

kidnapping story from Manhattan to LA. I went back to the work-in- progress, and was impressed

with the results. Changing the terrain also accelerated the tempo and deepened the mood to a hot,

high-gloss noir.

The change in mood and setting also imposed a change in the timeframe, lifting the story from

the ‘50s to the next decade. The 1960s were a pivotal decade not just for the city of Los Angeles,

but for the whole country. For the world. So much was at stake. So much was possible. So much

was lost.

As I continued writing the novel, I finally felt the inherent authenticity and authority in the story

that I had always been searching for. The pace of the story continued to pick up and events and

characters from the ‘60s began to appear and assert themselves. It was sometimes an eerie

sensation, like having your finger to the planche of a Ouija Board as it zooms from one letter to

the next, always just ahead of your eye.

The lessons I learnt were important ones: that you should always follow your instincts, and be

flexible with your preconceived ideas. It seems to me it’s not just a good rule for writing, but for

living as well . . .

FEVER CITY by Tim Baker is out May 10 with Europa Editions

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimBakerWrites

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