Saturday, June 25, 2022

Daggers Week #3

Welcome our 3rd Debut Dagger interviewee, Kevin Bartlett, with his shortlisted novel, Henry's Bomb.


Tell us something about yourself. What is your life like when you’re not writing?

 My day job takes up a lot of my time. I work for a research institute, operating a dozen oceanographic radar systems on the BC coast. A lot of it is computer work, but there is a field component as well. One week I might be in the office writing code, but the next I might find myself clambering out of a helicopter or schlepping spools of electrical cable up above the high tide mark on a remote beach.

When I’m not working, I do a lot of reading. I like fiction, but my real weakness is history and science. Far too many late nights reading “just one more chapter” of a really interesting non-fiction book.


What previous writing experience do you have? What got you started writing crime?

 My only previous writing experience, apart from technical documents and history papers at university, is a manuscript for a thriller I wrote in 2003-2004. Writing this manuscript taught me a great deal, but it is embarrassingly bad--my wife is the only person who will ever set eyes on it.

 I began writing fiction because of my wife’s example. Liz has always wanted to be a writer, and watching her create award-winning short stories and starting on her own novel, I thought “I wonder if I could do that”. Crime was the obvious genre for me, as it is one of my favourites when I’m looking for fiction to read. I can’t remember where I heard this advice, but writing the sort of book that you enjoy reading is always going to be easier than writing something you imagine that other people will enjoy.


Is this your first entry into the Debut Dagger? Where did you hear about this contest for unpublished crime novels, and what decided you to enter? Have you entered other writing contests with this or other works?

 Yes, this is my first entry into the Debut Dagger. I have Liz to thank for telling me about the contest and persuading me to enter. She also persuaded me to enter Henry’s Bomb into the competition for unpublished manuscripts offered by Crime Writers of Canada a couple of years ago. We both ended up on the short list for that award, too! Her manuscript won that one, so maybe it’s Henry’s Bomb’s turn now. We’ll see!


Congratulations to you both for your manuscripts' performance in that event! Now, please tell us a little bit about your shortlisted manuscript. All I know so far is that it’s a historical spy novel set after WW1. I’m curious whether the decimation of the world’s population by the 1918 flu epidemic gets any mention, and how you feel about writing a pandemic-set novel during another global pandemic.

The novel is based on the true-life story of Henry Moseley, considered the most promising atomic scientist of his generation. Shortly before leaving England for World War One, Moseley sent his mother a scientific notebook, saying he “valued it highly”. Just two months later, Moseley was killed in combat at Gallipoli. His notebook has never been found.

How did this notebook disappear? What was in it that would make it “highly valued” by this brilliant young physicist at the dawn of the atomic era? These questions were my springboard for starting Henry’s Bomb, in which I imagined a tale of spies, murder and atomic secrets with the potential to alter the course of world history.

The 1918 flu pandemic does get a mention, but the final wave of infections had already ended by the time Henry’s Bomb begins. The influence of the pandemic makes itself felt in the novel by the presence of very junior policemen in responsible positions, promoted before their time to replace their older colleagues who had died from the flu.

It was oddly comforting, with COVID-19 spreading around the globe, to be writing a novel set during the immediate aftermath of an historical pandemic. If the 1918 flu pandemic could simply fade away, without the advantages of 21st century medicine, then it seemed reasonable to believe that COVID would one day be just a memory.

Do you like your hero(es) or your villain(s) better?

I have two “villains”. One I don’t like and would be afraid to turn my back on in almost any circumstance. The other is much more sympathetic, and I have trouble thinking of him as a villain at all. He has a conscience, and his actions make sense to him, even if in some respects we would consider him to be on the wrong side of history.

 My hero is also sympathetic, of course, but he’s definitely a man of his time. He struggles to reconcile his nineteenth-century notions of duty with more modern ideas of personal freedom and tolerance. He has a good heart, and it is fun to watch him try to become more open-minded, but I suspect that if I were to meet him in real life in 2022, I would find his outlook to be shockingly old-fashioned.


What is one thing you wish you’d known when you started writing this novel, that you would warn other beginning crime novelists about?

Henry’s Bomb is very much a plot-driven novel. Because of this, I had the idea that the protagonist’s internal arc was something that I could work out as I went along. This is what I did, but in hindsight, it would have been far easier and would have involved far less rewriting if I’d had a firm sense of my protagonist’s internal journey at the outset. No matter how plot-driven your novel is, you’re going to have to figure out your protagonist’s internal arc sooner or later. Sooner is easier.


Thanks, Kevin, and best wishes for this manuscript and your future writing endeavours.

Keep up with Kevin's work at

 #Debut #Dagger #DaggerAwards #CrimeFiction #CWA #contests #longlist #Texas #amwriting #WritingCommunity #Mystery


For the most current news about The Falls Mysteries, see 





 #Debut #Dagger #DaggerAwards #CrimeFiction #CWA #contests #shortlist #amwriting #WritingCommunity #Mystery

No comments:

Post a Comment