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Interview: Simon Lendrum talks about The Slow Roll

Simon Lendrum grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in the North of England. He moved to London in the '90s, starting a career in advertising. He moved to Auckland in 2004, continuing his career in advertising. He lives in Auckland with his wife and children. He now runs the industry body for advertising professionals and writes at the weekend. Simon talks to NZ Booklovers.

Congratulations on winning the NZ Booklovers Best Fiction Award 2023! Can you tell us a little about The Slow Roll?

The Slow Roll is my first novel. It’s really the first thing I’ve written in any format, so it was a huge learning curve. It’s a story about a man called O’Malley who is wrestling with demons from his past while trying to make amends by helping those who can’t get help anywhere else. He’s an unofficial private eye. O’Malley finds his own past catching up with him, making him the perfect patsy for the murder of a fellow poker player. The only constant in his journey is his relationship with his girlfriend, Claire, who takes him as he comes, but is always just one step ahead of him in playing detective. It’s a crime novel, but it’s also a book about relationships – the damage that parents do and the restorative power of healthy, unconditional love.

What inspired you to write this book?

Books have always kept me sane. I love crime fiction. I’ve wanted to write for many years, but I’d always felt it was a bit self-indulgent, when I had so many other things I should be doing. In 2020 I found myself without any excuses. It was a now-or-never situation.

What research was involved?

The culture I write about in the novel is the peculiar world of poker games and poker players. I didn’t really need to do much research on that front. I’ve been a bit part player in that world for many years. But I definitely needed to do some research into some of the criminal aspects of the book ­– money laundering and the white collar criminals that enable the street crimes that make the headlines. I leant upon a policeman friend of mine, who will remain anonymous, but without whom I’d still be trying to resolve the plot!

What was your routine or process when writing this novel?

I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I just followed the maths. I read that 80,000 words was a decent length for the genre. I wasn’t sure how long lockdown would last, but I figured that if I wrote 2,000 words a day, I might be in with a chance of completion before the world turned back on. I got up each day and wrote until I couldn’t. Sometimes that was a few hours. Other times I stopped after ten minutes. I got there in about 60 days. Then I realised I needed to change the tense, so I re-wrote it.

What did you enjoy the most about writing The Slow Roll?

Writing is a very personal pursuit. I got immense satisfaction from the characters and events that emerged from the process. The only thing I had in place when I sat down to write was the name O’Malley, and the title, The Slow Roll (I should explain that this is a poker term describing a move which is frowned upon, but which I thought a perfect metaphor for a crime novel). Everything else just presented itself as I wrote. It's quite a thing seeing the story sort of write itself.

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

James Kestrel’s Five Decembers. It’s a work of art. A sprawling, tour de force that sweeps across decades and continents.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

Well, there’s no shortcut to writing, is there? I’m making good progress on the sequel to The Slow Roll, and I’ve got another book, set in the North of England, that needs some surgery once I’ve completed O’Malley’s next adventure. But it’s hard to get ahead of myself. The next step is to get up early on Sunday and start writing.

Upstart Press


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