Author of the Month

Name: Tom Cain

First Novel: The Accident Man

Most Recent Book: Revenger

'Boy, does Cain know how to drive a story forward – and most of it in top gear!'

Sam Carver has spent two years in near retirement but when he meets an old friend for a drink in London his life takes a dramatic turn. His girlfriend Alix is also in London meeting with a radical new politician Mark Adams who wants to engage her PR firm.

The pub where Carver is drinking is targeted by rioters and soon he is fighting for his life. Before long Carver is wanted by the police, MI6 and the CIA while an old enemy is also tracking him down hell bent on revenge. While escaping their clutches he must also look out for Alix and find a way to track down the people behind the riot.

This latest instalment of the Carver series from Tom Cain is the best yet in overall terms (although I still regard ‘The Accident Man’ as the best conspiracy theory thriller I’ve ever read.) Right from the off you are dragged into the action and propelled along by the escalating tension.

The plot is fairly straightforward but there are twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and the pages turning in rapid fashion. One twist in particular made me lay the book down and go “Wow” and that doesn’t happen often. There is also a sub narrative running throughout the novel on the social decline of the country which also creates much of the setting for events.

Carver is being steadily rounded out by Cain as the series progresses and is a joy to behold as he is reviled by his own brutal but necessary actions. Alix is a fine support but the other characters who really caught my eye were the oily Adams and the un-pc Cropper. One of my favourite things about Carver is his ability to improvise deadly weapons from almost anything at hand.

If you’re looking for a top class thriller, you won’t go wrong with ‘Revenger’ as it is a rollicking read filled with action and intrigue and yet still manages to convey a serious message. Boy, does Cain know how to drive a story forward – and most of it in top gear!

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) In 'Revenger' you have a politician Mark Adams who has some radical ideas on what needs done to rescue the UK from its financial plight. Some of his policies would prove very popular yet others are reminiscent of a certain war mongering dictator. Why did you create such a character?
It is because I can see him coming. This country, in common with many others is currently beset by crises that are scarily reminiscent of the 1930s. The economy seems mired in a Depression that has no visible end. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Not only are conventional politicians incapable of doing anything to prevent this collapse, they seem totally unwilling –especially in the Eurozone – even to face up to the gravity of the situation. As well as all this you have the added issue of deadly flashpoints around the globe, notably the absolute determination of Israel to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons. And on top of that comes another issue which politicians have been too scared to confront, the massive demographic changes, right across Europe caused by mass migration on the one hand and plummeting birth-rates in the host populations on the other. The thing that’s so frightening is that when mainstream politicians decide that some issues simply cannot be discussed, even though they plainly matter to millions of people, that leaves a vacuum that will be filled by extremists. People feel poor, they feel frightened, they long for strong leadership and they have absolutely no belief in the leaders of any of the major parties. And, just to add one last explosive to the mix, they are constantly being told that they are in deadly danger from Islamist terrorism, which is emerging in part from an extreme, separatist element in a growing Muslim population in the UK. If that isn’t a perfect recipe for a fascist demagogue, I really don’t know what is. And in Mark Adams I tried to create such a man, with the added ingredient that he’s not some loud-mouthed buffoon with a silly moustache, but an eloquent, intelligent, charming and very plausible man-of-the-people. Someone, in other words, that millions of reasonable people might very well decide to vote for.
2) Once again you have Sam Carver using his ingenuity and everyday objects as weapons. How do you research this element to your writing?
Well, it was always part of Carver’s DNA. When he first appears in the opening scene of 'The Accident Man', he sabotages a helicopter with a small file, a spanner and a few blobs of Blu-Tack. I worked that out with a helicopter pilot at an airfield in Sussex, as we stood by his own Bell Jet Ranger. A little while later an RAF officer told me how to sabotage the plane he actually flew – a trick I put into Survivor. I learned ten that people really enjoy using their professional expertise to help create fictional mayhem. My current advisor in making things go bang is a former Army munitions expert. What he doesn’t know about turning household ibjects and substances into deadly weapons really isn’t worth knowing. I should add, by the way, that there is always a ‘deliberate mistake’ to prevent readers using my books as terrorist manuals. Or I bloody hope there is, anyway!
3) There is a breath-stealing twist in 'Revenger'. What prompted you to include this action of Carver’s?
Well, that’s hard to say without giving the twist away. Suffice it to say it’s something I’ve been postponing since the very first book, done in a way that only occurred to me, quite spontaneously, as I was writing this one.
4) Social unrest and political themes play a large part in 'Revenger' and form the backdrop. Did you allow any of your own politics enter into the commentary or was it merely artistic license?
Ha ha! Well, I’m certainly not a fascist. Apart from anything else, I have a massive aversion to wearing uniforms and joining organisations. I’d say I’m more of an instinctive contrarian - whatever the smug, received-opinion, polite consensus is, I tend to be against it. But I am incredibly hacked-off at the pathetic way in which politicians seemed trapped in bland, gutless mediocrity, without the courage to say a single damn thing that sounds like a genuine conviction, or to dare grasp the nettle and tell people, ‘We’re in the shit. Things are going to get worse before they get better. It’s just not going to be as easy as it used to be. But there are things we can do to make things better if we have the courage and determination to do them.’

One other economic-political point I would make is this. Western affluence and the safety net that came with it – pensions, healthcare, all manner of benefits – was founded on privilege. Essentially, we had a monopoly on economic and industrial power. Clearly that’s not the case any more. Clearly the goodies are being shared out more evenly across the world. That’s a very good thing for billions of Indians, Chinese, South Americans and even, increasingly, Africans. The downside is that we can’t have it quite so good any more. It’s ironic that bleeding-hearted nitwits oppose globalisation, because that’s the force that is spreading wealth more fairly across the globe. The downside is that there’s less for us. Of course, that’s made worse that a greater slice of a smaller cake is being taken by a small, robber-class of excessively over-rewarded f*ckwits .. which was the point I addressed in Carver, in which many of the bastards are blown to smithereens.
5) DI Keane was a standout character. Will we be seeing more of her in the future?
I hope so, yes. I’d actually like to make her the star of her own books if (a) I can dream up the stories and (b) anyone wants to publish them.
6) After the first few chapters all of the action in 'Revenger' takes place in a very short time frame and is mostly centred in London. This is a first for the Carver series. Why change your style for Revenger?
Well, the London thing is really a follow-on from Carver (I see the two books as very much a pair, in the same way 'The Accident Man' and 'The Survivor' are). And the timespan was just what felt natural. I don’t plan these things in advance. The story just tells itself the way it needs to be told and I liked the fact that 90% of the action takes place in about 18 hours.
7) What does the future hold for Sam Carver & Tom Cain?
I honestly have no idea. ‘Revenger’ seems to me very like the end of a six-book sequence. That’s not to say there won’t be more books, simply that I need to have something new to do with Carver that interests, excites and motivates me to start writing. I’m easily bored, and constantly want to do different things – a bonus if you want an interesting career, but a definite drawback if you want a lucrative one! – so I’m not the kind of guy who’ll just do a new book every year with the same hero and be happy with that. Every time I think of Lee Child’s bank balance I wish to God I was … but what can you do, eh?
8) Which of the series was easiest and hardest to write?
‘The Accident Man’ was much the longest process, just because I was having to learn to be a thriller writer. ‘The Survivor’ was technically the hardest because I’d been idiotic enough to leave my hero in a cabbage state at the end of the previous book. The next three were much, much easier because I was really into the swing of writing Carver and felt I knew just how to do it. And then ‘Revenger’ was an absolute bastard because (a) I didn’t really know what it was about to begin with, (b) I was simultaneously writing another, monster novel about serial killers, the Holocaust and post-war Germany (like you do), and (c) I rushed and consequently undercooked the first draft. I then got a thorough bollocking from both my agent and publisher, threw a major hissy-fit and then did what I often do in these circumstances – grudgingly admit that they might have a point and go off and fix the bloody thing. Which I think I did! The books that are the hardest to write are very often the best because they force you to work that much harder and think that much more.
9) If you had a gun to your head (metaphorically) who in your mind’s eye would play Sam Carver?
Of current actors probably Christian Bale
10) What would you say would be your top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you?
Three absolute classics …

‘Casino Royale’, because it invented James Bond and in many ways portrayed him more interestingly than any book or movie since.

‘Day of the Jackal’, because it’s a master-class in thriller writing (I literally broke it down, scene-by-scene when I was desperately struggling to write The Accident Man).

‘The Godfather’, because it’s the ultimate example of a book that is, in high-falutin’ literary terms, often very badly written, but that has more content, more guts, more life, more social detail, more vividly-drawn characters, more quotable phrases and more continuing influence than any of the pretentious, instantly-forgotten crap that tends to win the Booker Prize.