Hunt You Down hit the shelves in paperback a week or so ago. It's my current read and something of a departure for me......
John Smith is no ordinary gun for hire.
Smith is a man of rare gifts, and he knows your every thought . . .
Hired to track down a shooter targeting the rich and famous, Smith must complete his mission before another attack takes place. But when a website on the dark net is found to have connections to the murders, Smith realises that taking down a shadowy figure who has weaponised the internet will prove more difficult than he first thought.
And no matter how hard he tries, this criminal mastermind continues to remain one step ahead.
I'm not too far into it yet, so haven't formed an opinion on whether it's right up my street or not.
Here are a few thoughts from Chris on serial killer in fiction.....
Goodbye, Hannibal Lecter
By Christopher Farnsworth
I was at the Men of Mystery luncheon a couple of weeks ago. It’s an annual event in Irvine, California, where mystery writers have a chance to sit with readers and each other and talk about their books. I get to act like a bigtime author while also spending a few hours as a total fanboy with the people who have inspired me. This year, I got Jonathan Kellerman to sign my ancient paperback copy of his first book, When the Bough Breaks, which I first read when I was 14 and can still quote from memory.
But the moment that stayed with me came when Hart Hansen, a wildly successful television writer and author of The Driver, spoke. He and Matt Goldman were talking with Stephen Jay Schwartz about the differences between writing books and writing for the screen. Then someone asked them a question about the plot devices they’re tired of seeing.
Hansen said he was done with the trope of the sadistic, ritualistic slaughter of women by a genius serial killer type. Goldman and Schwartz both nodded, and I thought there was a general murmur of agreement throughout the room.
I was glad to hear it. I’m not about to say I’m above using the idea, or that I didn’t enjoy the work of Thomas Harris when he created Hannibal Lecter and the dogged profilers who fenced with him. In some ways, I even find these stories less horrifying than the bloodless “cozy” murder mysteries, where someone expires politely in a house full of suspects and everyone behaves as if there isn’t a corpse in the room.
I have, in my own work, written sadists who delight in torture, who mutilate and kill with glee, and who feed off the pain of their victims. For one book, I spent a whole year eyeball-deep in serial-killer lore in an attempt to create the ultimate Boogeyman. I was out to disturb and to frighten — and I wouldn’t want to stop anyone else from trying to do the same things with their work.
But more and more, as I’ve written this stuff, I’ve wondered what these stories are saying. We have heroes like James Bond and Jack Bauer and John McClane — all of whom I love — who fill dozens of graves by the time the end credits roll.
Even in my work that doesn’t feature vampires and monsters, violence is the main engine that drives the plot. There is always a man with a gun, and he is set in a world where other people will kill to achieve their aims. There is always blood on his hands by the end.
I’ve thought about that a lot in the past few weeks, as men with guns have slaughtered dozens of innocent victims in Las Vegas and in Texas. And I wonder if they saw themselves as heroes in their own action movies.
I’m not an action hero by any means, but I have occasionally seen real violence. And it is never like the movies. I was a bystander in a lone-gunman situation a few years ago, and no John McClane emerged with any snappy lines. Instead, there was chaos and a lot of running and people who will wake up with nightmares for years and one man who will never get to go home to his family because he’s dead.
That’s why fiction is comforting. It makes sense of senseless acts. It provides a narrative, and puts random events in an order we can understand.
But I cannot escape the truth behind all of these fictions I’ve written: there is something monstrous in the ability to commit violence, to decide whether another person should live or die.
What I have tried to do with my books lately is show the cost of violence. My protagonist, John Smith, literally feels the pain of the people he hurts. Even the bad guys were once children with infinite possibilities before them, with parents who once looked at them with love and hope, and when Smith kills one, he feels a hole open up that threatens to consume him as well.
I still believe we need these fictions to deal with the nightmares that are out there. I believe we need heroes who will stand against the horrors we imagine and the ones we see in the media all too often.
But my heroes are not allowed to walk away unscathed, because I don’t believe that’s possible. Not anymore.
Christopher Farnsworth is the author of six novels, including HUNT YOU DOWN, available now from Bonnier Zaffre.