I am delighted to welcome Graham Brack to my blog today to tell us about his detective, Joseph Slonsky.
First though, a little about the book which has been receiving very positive reviews.
What do you do when the poison comes from within…?
The body of a young woman is found strangled by the side of the road.
There are no obvious clues to what happened, apart from the discovery of a large amount of cash concealed on her person.
The brilliant, but lazy, Lieutenant Josef Slonský is put in charge of the case.
With a wry sense of humour, a strong stubborn streak and a penchant for pastries, Slonský is not overly popular with the rest of the police force. But he is paired with the freshly-graduated, overly-eager Navrátil, whom he immediately takes under his wing.
When fingers start to point inwards to someone familiar with police operations, Slonský and Navrátil are put in a difficult position.
If what they suspect is true, how deep does the corruption run? Are they willing to risk their careers in their pursuit of the truth?
Anyone could be lying – and others may be in danger of dying…
LYING AND DYING is the first international crime thriller in the detective series featuring Lieutenant Josef Slonský: an atmospheric police procedural full of dark humour.
Graham, welcome to Live and Deadly, please tell our readers something about your detective, Josef Slonsky.
My detective, Josef Slonský, has been a policeman for nearly forty years. About half of those were passed under Communism, and the remainder under modern day Capitalism, and some things have not changed.
Under Communism there was plenty of law but not much justice, in Slonský’s view. Whether you were prosecuted or not might well depend on whom you knew (or had offended) rather than any objective assessment of social harm you may have done. Like many other Soviet satellites, Czechoslovakia had its show trials, but this was not where corruption was most visible to the man in the street. They saw it closer to home.
For example, cars were very difficult to obtain. A bribe could elevate you on the waiting list. On the other hand, some car plants bought components from companies whose output was measured in weight rather than pieces. As a result, the distributor cap for a car in the early sixties could be astonishingly heavy, but much easier to obtain than, say, wing mirrors. It wasn’t unusual to see citizens who parked their cars remove the windscreen wipers before leaving them unattended, because they were prime targets for theft, being very scarce. Who wanted to make such light things?
If the show trials of people like Rudolf Slánsky in the early fifties taught Czechs anything, it was not to be upright model citizens (because if someone else had it in for you, that wasn’t going to help), but to make sure you denounced others first. In a perversion of the Golden Rule, the average Czech believed that you must do unto others before they got the chance to do unto you.
It was the normality of corruption – not to mention its egregiousness – that was shocking. Seven of the Czechoslovak football squad that reached the 1962 World Cup Final, including captain Ladislav Novák, Svatopluk Pluskal and Josef Masopust, played for Dukla Prague, the army team; but the team was put together by the simple expedient of conscripting the best players from other teams. In the circumstances it was surprising that Dukla did not win the championship many years in succession.
When Communism fell, there was great optimism in the West that this sort of behaviour would soon be history. The privatisation of state assets was botched, resulting in their concentration in the hands of the few who understood the system and the creation of a class of oligarchs, not all of them locals. The Czech Republic has consistently scored poorly compared with other European nations on transparency and corruption tables.
This is not to say that anti-corruption police have not been active. They have charged a number of prominent figures over recent times, but it takes an age to get them to court and the trials often become bogged down in arguments about the procedures followed. As a result, many Czechs do not believe that there is much chance that a corrupt official will have to pay for their crimes, and any apparent improvement in the position is cynically shrugged off as a result of the corrupt having become better at hiding their corruption.
This is the world that Slonský works in. He knows that men and women of his age often connived at bad or wicked acts. He knows that sometimes upholding the law meant ignoring justice. And he is determined that he is not going back to those times. Bad guys will go to prison. If he cannot get a conviction, he would not be averse to manufacturing evidence to serve the interests of justice, or simply taking direct action himself. He is personally affronted by graft, undue influence and general sliminess, and he is going to ensure that the police whom he trains will do better than he has done.
He is selective, or, if you prefer, inconsistent. If you’re doing a bit of home hairdressing for cash, he won’t turn you in. He makes ready use of informers. Where he differs from the average Czech is that most people will assume that those in high places are on the make and that nothing will be done about it. It will if Slonský has anything to do with it.
My thanks to Graham for the introduction, I can’t wait to read the book.
About Graham Brack
Graham Brack hails from Sunderland and met his wife Gillian in Aberdeen where they were both studying pharmacy. After their degrees Gillian returned to Cornwall and Graham followed. This is now called stalking but in 1978 it was termed “romantic”. They have two children, Andrew and Hannah, and two grandchildren, Miranda and Sophie.
Graham’s foray into crime writing began in 2010 when he entered the Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger competition and was highly commended for The Outrageous Behaviour of Left-Handed Dwarves (reissued as Lying and Dying), in which the world was introduced to Lt Josef Slonský of the Czech police. The Book of Slaughter and Forgetting (reissued as Slaughter and Forgetting) followed and Sapere Books have published book three, Death On Duty,
In 2014 and 2016 Graham was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger again. The earlier novel, The Allegory of Art and Science, is set in 17th century Delft and features the philosophy lecturer and reluctant detective Master Mercurius. Sapere Books will publish it as Death in Delft in 2018.
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