True Grit Meets True Detective
“A family connection, a love of crime thrillers, and a fascination with medicine and 19th century forensics.” Says veteran author SK Falconer. These are the secret ingredients of his new novel The Demon’s Mark, book two in his Cormag Macleod Inspector series. Combining an unfiltered image of frontier life with the slow and suffocating isolation of the wilderness, author SK Falconer’s new thriller The Demon’s Mark is a darkly atmospheric and gripping ritual murder tale set in 19th-century New South Wales. In this small colonial town near the Australian wilds, everyone has their secrets, and jaded war veteran and police inspector Cormag Macleod knows this better than anyone. When strange marks on a corpse left to rot spark dark rumors of rituals and the paranormal, Macleod finds his passion rekindled again as well. But when superstition leads to panic and faith becomes fanaticism, the grizzled investigator will find himself neck-deep in a darkness so vile it might just be too late, both for himself and the town. As dark as Macleod’s predicament might be, Falconer shined a light on the process behind the book in an interview with BookTrib.
Q: What would prompt a Fantasy/Sci-Fi author to write a more grounded crime thriller series? A: A family connection, a love of crime thrillers, and a fascination for medical aspects of crime solving in the 19th century. My ancestors are from the area where the novel is set, my great grandmother ran an inn for many years yielding a host of colorful stories and characters that I could add to the story. Crime thrillers have always been a preferred read of mine, and although I had written successful sci-fi, I always wanted to write a gritty crime novel. As a medical practitioner, fascination with the more gruesome aspects of crime solving in the 19th century was another motivating factor.
Q: What role does religion play in the story? A: Religious rituals, and zealous adherence to the law of the liturgy play a significant role. One of the main themes is doing the right thing, but for the wrong reasons, and religion plays a large part in the backdrop of this story, and in how the plot plays out.
Q: What doors does setting the book in the 19th century open for the plot, particularly in terms of trying to solve a crime? A: The amount of detail in police work, even in the 1800s is intriguing. Without modern fingerprinting techniques and DNA, detectives were still adept at gathering evidence by interview, postmortem examination, and scene survey. It was laborious, painstaking and requiring a dogged methodical approach to uncover the facts.
Q: What role does the relationship between Macleod (the main character) and Mcdermott (the protege) play in the story? Do these characters reflect real life people? A: In many ways mcDermott is the son that Macleod lost to a smallpox epidemic in London. Initially reluctant to take the boy on, he has become attached to him and seeks to ensure his safety as part of his journey of redemption. Their relationship is an important cog in the overall story wheel, and while they are not real people, they are based upon accurate descriptions of how those characters would have looked, dressed and reacted in 1875. Macleod’s story – war veteran, policeman – was the path for many men during this time. And MacDermott following in his father’s footsteps as a policeman is a typical story for the time setting.
Q: What led to your decision to write Macleod as a character with mental health problems? How does this factor affect the story? A: Macleod is a war veteran who has “shell shock” as it was called, now termed PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He sees ghosts of the dead, and is haunted by those he has killed, comrades who died fighting beside him, and by his dead family. Alcoholism is his coping strategy, a way to escape the visions. The story revolves around how and if he can overcome his demons to fulfill his work obligations, and the bigger story is whether he can recover. Mental health problems are so common in our community, and I wanted to show how someone may be affected and raise awareness not only of how it affects returning service men and women, but how everyone can be affected by trauma or loss. Specifically, how that can translate to depression, anxiety, or addiction without the right support.
Q: Do you read any other Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Crime authors? Do you draw any inspiration from them? A: I certainly draw inspiration from the gifted writers whose work I read. Nordic Noir is one of my favorite genres, writers like Jo Nesbo, Stieg Larson and Lars Kepler are some of my favorites. For sci-fi, my reading lies more with the classic genre — Arthur C Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Philip K Dick are just some of my inspirations.
Q: What is your next project, and what other upcoming works are you looking forward to? A: I am writing the third instalment in the VANIR series, Vanir Traitor. Nordic mythology becomes science fiction in this action thriller series. After that, I have three more volumes planned for Macleod, the next installment being Paterson’s Curse, as the inspector pursues a murderer in another small town, battling witchcraft and his on-way home demons in a heart stopper with plenty of twists and turns. I’ll then be returning to the CATGUT series to write six more short stories — medical sci-fi set in the not-too-distant future. Plenty of work to keep me busy and I trust my readers will look forward to it as much as I am.