John Niven worked in the music industry as an A & R man. When he gave into his destiny and became a fulltime writer, his A&R career became the subject of his first novel KILL YOUR FRIENDS. He has published two more novels, THE AMATEURS and THE SECOND COMING. He is currently working on a film script in Los Angeles where our Shots’ interviewer flew out to meet him (not) to discuss his first thriller, COLD HANDS.
LJH: John Niven, thanks for talking to Shots. Does the “J” in John J Niven act like the “M” in Iain M Banks? He uses it to distinguish between his straight novels and his science fiction. Does the “J” identify your new thriller authorship?
JJN: Pretty much. I was a bit…unsure about using it to be honest. But people do like to pigeonhole you and since the last three novels had all been what you’d broadly describe as black comedy it was suggested that – with this being a straight thriller – I should do something to differentiate. I’m not entirely comfortable with it yet. It feels perilously close to things like ‘protecting the brand.’ Which is obviously a satanic concept.
Graham Greene used to do something similar, by putting the words “An entertainment” on the title page of his thrillers. Which authors have you been reading? Who has influenced you? Your publisher compares you to Karin Slaughter and S J Watson, but your big difference is that you have written a “man in peril” story. You have all of Karin Slaughter’s gruesome violence, though.
I don’t read an awful lot of contemporary thrillers I’m afraid. Though I did think Before I Go To Sleep was a wonderful novel. In terms of crime writing my touchstones are pretty much what they’re always been – the 1940s novels of Hammet, Chandler and James M. Cain. Especially Cain. I’m a huge fan of Elmore Leonard, though you wouldn’t strictly call him a thriller writer. I think he’s pretty sub genere. I like Don Winslow too. There was a cinematic precedent for Cold Hands though in the shape of the film Death and The Maiden. It stars Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley. She plays a woman who finds herself confronting a man who tortured her many years before. All set in one isolated location. I often have cinematic inspirations