Stuart Archer Cohen


Stuart Archer Cohen Case File
Stuart Archer Cohen [Interviewed by Ayo Onatade]

The Stone Angels Jacket Can you give us some background as to how your book came about?

Well I had been travelling to Argentina for a long time and it fascinated me because it is a place that is so incredibly corrupt. There is corruption that pervades every level of society from the bus driver and the taxi driver all the way to the President. And yet the people are so beautiful, so intelligent, so thoughtful and I was flat on my ass broke and I needed to make a quick score and I thought that that this was the way to do it.

Can you tell us about your characters and where they came from?

Well Fortunado who is the main character I was interested in writing about someone who was very good, because it occurred to me that most of the people that really do evil things are good people or consider themselves good people and that is what interested me about Fortunado. I based a lot of his mannerisms on an Argentine friend of mine who is actually nothing like him. He is not a policeman or anything, but then I had that as a basis for the mannerisms and then I did a lot of research talking to a lot of policemen and petty crooks and that sort of thing and that was very interesting too as I was under surveillance and stuff. But I was really interested in somebody who is fundamentally good and so decent and yet really was quite evil.

What made you choose crime as your bookís subject?

I didnít really choose it you know. I didnít think that I want to write a book about crime; corruption was interesting and I just had this idea and it is so much a part of everything that happens in Argentina and I just got this idea that it happened to be that the center of this happened to be a crime. I mean in a way you canít write about Argentina without writing about corruption and the thing about this book is that it is not just this one crime that guy commits itís this whole outer level of crime that he is just a tiny piece of without realising.

What do you consider is the most important element in crime writing?

I think that the internal process of the person solving the crime is the most important part. Given that you have good description and that you have an interesting milieu and that sort of thing. I think what attracts me to crime; the crime that I read about and what attracts all people is the internal processes not just of the criminal but of the person solving it. What are they going to do?

What does it mean to be included in the Orion New Blood Series?

Orion has treated me with incredible respect and very generously. It is really a great pleasure and I have been treated otherwise by other publishers so I have a standard of comparison and I am really very pleased.

What do you think of the current trends in the genre today?

Tell me what they are and Iíll tell you what I think about them.

I think it goes back to what we mentioned earlier about the sub-genres of crime fiction e.g. historical, psychological, police procedural, P.I. The genre is split up so many different ways, including cosies. I take it you donít really read crime fiction.

I donít tell anyone but I really donít normally read fiction. Iím usually reading and researching something for my next book.

Some do not consider the genre to be ďliteraryĒ enough and at times it does not get the accolade that it deserves. Do you believe that this is the case and if so do you have any views on how peopleís views might be changed?

I think that genre and accolades are things that are created by critics and marketing people and I think that yes somebody like Raymond Chandler for example and Dashiell Hammett when they were writing nobody said how good they were but a couple of things you know if you sell enough copies and you have depth and arresting stories critic will event themes. Look at Hollywood. Iíve been to Hollywood and the people there will discuss any type of bullshit TV show or movie and will give it all this meaning and stuff and it is like are you forgetting that this is really just bullshit you know. I think that if people write good fiction that arrests people and moves people that then they will get accolades and they will be recognised. That is what I think and also there is formulaic literary fiction just like there is formulaic crime fiction and so thatís just the way it is.

What novels were early books that you read, that either influenced you, or made you take up writing?

I want to write since the time I was in grade school, because I had a teacher who really encouraged me. I had one of those great teachers in elementary school. But I think that the first book that I read that really got me revved up was On the Road by Jack Kerouac and also I used to read Ray Bradbury. I used to read Ray Bradbury, I thought that he was really great, I still do. H G Wells The Time Machine and those were the books. We are talking about when I was really young. But no, On the Road was really got me like whoa! I gotta get out there into the world and write books and that sort of thing.

What are you working on currently?

I have been researching and I am working now on a novel about insurgency set in the United States in the near future. So I have been interviewing CIA agents, sixties radicals and present day student radicals and insurgents of like Argentina.

Is there a book out there you would have liked to have written?

To have written somebody elseís book I would have to be somebody else so I would have to say no. I like my life you know so I just have to write my things. I admire other books but I have to write my things.

Thank you very much indeed.

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