Here Philip Gwynne Jones introduces us to Nathan Sutherland, an accidental hero.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the accidental hero. I realised many years ago that I was never going to be Sherlock Holmes let alone James Bond, and all I had in common with Philip Marlowe was my first name and a similar taste in headwear.
So when I began writing my series of Venice-based thrillers I knew that my protagonist, Nathan Sutherland, was not going to be a cop, a spy or a private eye. He’d just be a regular guy, an Englishman abroad, trying to do his best in extraordinary circumstances in an extraordinary city. He’s the British Honorary Consul in Venice, a position that, being effectively unpaid, is less glamorous than you might expect. And – in Nathan’s world – it’s also rather more dangerous than you might expect.
In previous novels he’s tackled art crime, the case of a missing manuscript by Claudio Monteverdi and an empty grave on the cemetery island of San Michele. In “The Venetian Legacy”, however, he finds himself confronted with the Mala del Brenta. The Venetian Mafia.
Yes, they really do exist. And the more I discovered about them, the more I realised that these are people who you really, really do not want to mess with. Most of the senior members are either dead or in prison. There are also some who are not. I chose, of course, not to mention them…
I also decided that, after four novels, it was time to move Nathan out of his comfort zone. Much of the action, this time, takes place on the island of Pellestrina, a thin strip of land perhaps ten kilometres in length that serves as a barrier between the Venetian lagoon and the Adriatic Sea. Populated by perhaps three thousand people, making their living from the sea, it’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of Venice itself. Away from his usual haunts in the centro storico, with a friendly face in every bar and cicheteria, Pellestrina was a place where Nathan really would feel like an outsider.
Oh, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that I married off Nathan and Federica this time. I’ve never really liked the whole ‘will they – won’t they?’ thing, and decided that four books was quite long enough for Nathan to make his mind up. Besides, I’ve always admired Nick and Nora Charles from Hammett’s The Thin Man, a husband and wife team who fight crime with the aid of far too many cocktails. Gramsci, the stroppy Marxist cat is, of course, also along for the ride.
So Nathan and Fede find themselves on honeymoon on an island where the sunsets are magnificent, the seafood is the best in Venice and some very nasty family secrets are about to be uncovered. Pellestrina, as Dorothy L Sayers might have said, is going to be something of a busman’s honeymoon…
Thanks for sharing Phil, and I look forward to meeting Nathan on the page.