Tag Archives: Homeland

The Intel: Anders de la Motte

Anders de la Motte, 2013Identity and memory have long held a fascination for authors and readers alike — we can’t get enough of characters who have to discover who they are. If we’re lucky, they’re in big trouble — and Swedish author Anders de la Motte’s latest protagonist David Sarac is up to his neck in it.

Anders hit the big time with his hi-tech Game trilogy and his latest thriller MemoRandom is out just in time for Christmas. It’s a gripping thriller in which police officer Sarac wakes up from a car crash and remembers nothing, except the he’s done something unforgivable and that he needs to protect his informant Janus. Natalie Aden is the only person he trust to help him piece the clues together. But others will go to desperate lengths to get to Janus before them…

Anders de la Motte was formerly a police officer and then director of security at one of the world’s largest IT companies. The telly rights to MemoRandom have already been snapped up — by the guy who brought Homeland and 24 to the screen.

So Crime Thriller Fella is thrilled that Anders is gives us the intel on his amnesiac copper, how his own career in law-enforcement has fuelled his books, and how as an author sometimes you’ve just got to kill your darlings…

Tell us about David Sarac…

David Sarac works for the intelligence unit at the Stockholm police. His job is to recruit and handle secret informants within the criminal world, assess the information his sources provide and funnel it into other departments in the police. If you ask him what he does he would say that he is a collector of secrets. Sarac lives for his job and he is very good at it. Bribes, threats or blackmail, anything goes as long as he gets results. His only work-tool is a notebook with encrypted information that he keeps very close to his heart.

Since Sarac’s results are excellent his commanding officers conveniently look the other way and does not question his methods and his star within the police community is on the rise. His prize source is a top-secret informant code named Janus, located somewhere in the top level of the organized crime structure in Stockholm. Janus provides Sarac with extremely useful information and people on both sides of the law are very eager to find out Janus’s identity, either to use him for their own purposes or simply to eliminate him. But Sarac is very careful. He is the only person who knows Janus’s true identity, how to contact and control the reluctant informant who for obvious reasons has everything to lose.

But when Sarac suffers from a stroke in the middle of a high-speed pursuit and violently crashes his car he also loses part of his memory. And suddenly he finds himself being just one of the participators in a chase for his own secrets. A chase with a deadly outcome.

What was the inspiration for MemoRandom?

I wanted to write a dark story revolving around police-officers and criminals but lacked an interesting angle. In 2013 my father suffered from a light amnesia and initially lost a year of his life. The gap closed within a few days, first to months, and then weeks but to this day there is still one day he does not remember. As I watched his frustration in dealing with this fact, as well as the various tools he used to backtrack his steps and decrypt his own brain I got increasingly interested in how the brain processes and stores memories and why we sometimes remember things incorrectly.

From there I started thinking of a policeman losing his memory and what would be the most important and dangerous thing to forget. So I came up with David Sarac and his elusive, top-secret and quite dangerous informant code-named Janus. Sarac’s journey is actually the opposite of the tormented-cop-heading-downhill character as he starts out in a pretty bad shape but gradually recovers.

memorandomWhy are we so fascinated by characters who suffer from amnesia, or find themselves without an identity?

Everyone lives in their own little universe, our own bubble with environments we recognize, people we know and where we feel reasonably safe and in control. I think the whole idea and horror of one day waking up inside an unfamiliar bubble is something most people can relate to and be fascinated by. To your point, the amnesia theme is quite popular and therefore I’ve tried not to overexploit it. Like my father, Sarac suffers from a partial memory loss. He remembers who he is and where he lives, he has “just” lost about two years of his life. Two very important years filled with crucial information he is no longer privy to.

How has your own experience as a police officer and a director of security at a global IT company fuelled your writing?

When working in law-enforcement and private security you constantly deal with problems, mainly those created by others and that you are supposed to try to solve. Your work is dealing with things that are really not supposed to be happening. I’ve been in that business for almost 20 years and by now I have quite a bank of experience that I draw from. It could be scenarios like the “micro kidnappings” that Natalie Aden is orchestrating, events like the dead man in the snowed-over car found in the middle of Stockholm (true, I was first officer on site) or small details like how police officers (and criminals) talk, methods or equipment they use and so on. Like Sarac I have a vast net of contacts, the difference is my secret sources volunteer their help if I need it.

MemoRandom could be coming to TV as an American series – which actors do you see in you mind’s eye as Sarac and Natalie?

Wow, difficult question. Sarac is a tormented, complicated character, rather than a tough guy. Natalie is both smart and has lots of attitude. I’m open to suggestions. Tom Hardy perhaps, and why not Swedish actor Rebecca Ferguson who starred in the latest Mission Impossible?

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

Sometimes you have to take out whole scenes or even characters because they slow the story down and do not add any value. Many hours of research and writing gone in just a couple of clicks… In writing this is called “kill your darlings” and sometimes that is how it feels.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

I admire many authors for many different reasons. Norwegian author Jo Nesbo is always on the top of my list. He is really great at building intricate plots as well as using the tormented-cop-heading-downhill cliché without making it sound in any way like a cliché.

I also admire the fact that he writes stand-alones in different styles than his regular. This is something I would like to try, as a way to develop as a writer.

Give us some advice about writing…

Get started. 99% of all aspiring writers for various reasons never start, mainly because they think you have to have the perfect story ready in every detail first. This is not the case, your story will develop once you start typing, as will your storytelling skills. Every word you write is a small step towards reaching your goal so get started!

What’s next for you and Sarac?

UltiMatum, the sequel to MemoRandom, was released in Sweden in September and is currently being translated to English by brilliant translator Neil Smith. It was awarded the very prestigious Best Swedish Crime Fiction of the Year Award by the Swedish Crime writers association and I’m off course very happy and proud over this.

Currently I’m in New York promoting MemoRandom which is being released here at the same time as in the UK. MemoRandom has gotten some pretty spectacular pre-reviews here and I’m very eager to hear what both the American and British readers think of it.

I hope you like the book and the characters as much as I do.


MemoRandom is available right now in paperback and as an ebook, published by Harper Collins.

M.J. Arlidge on Six Degrees Of Assassination

So we’ve talked about books, we’ve talked about a fair few of them. And we’ve talked about a bit of telly. And movies, we like our crime thriller movies, and radio. So let’s move on and talk about this here audio drama. An audio drama is, like, radio without the shipping forecast, right? You can listen to it anywhere — in the car, while you go for a run, while you’re on a stakeout.

Six Degrees Of AssassinationSix Degrees Of Assassination is a gripping thriller about the murder of the British Prime Minister which is available to download from Audible.co.uk to a host of devices. The action follows an MI5 investigation into the assassination of the British Prime Minister. Six people, from assassin to mastermind, are unravelled from a web-like, complex chain of command — each of them a vital step towards uncovering the truth. It’s action-packed and, because it’s pumped right into your lug holes, unbearably tense.

Six Degrees stars Andrew Scott, him from Sherlock, and Freema Agyeman, her from Doctor Who, and Hermione Norris, her from all sorts.

And the writer M.J. Arlidge is quite the person at the moment. A television scriptwriter — Silent Witness, Torn, The Little House and Undeniable are among his credits — Arlidge became this year one of the biggest novelists in the business with his procedural Eeny Meeny.

Arlidge took time out from his packed writing schedule to give us the lowdown on Six Degrees…

Tell us about Six Degrees of Assassination…

Six Degrees is a ‘What If’ thriller about the assassination of the British Prime Minister. It introduces a new MI5 hero – Alex Cartwright – and is a cross between 24 and Homeland.

Someone once famously said the pictures on radio were better – are you able to let your imagination off the leash doing an audio drama?

Absolutely!!! I work in TV for my day job, but could only dream of doing what we do in Six Degrees. Explosions, car chases, assassinations, helicopters – it’s got the lot.

What’s that feeling like when you hear actors bring your words alive?

Amazing. We were so lucky to have such a stellar cast – Andrew Scott, Freema Agyeman, Hermione Norris — and they were uniformly brilliant. Andrew and Freeman make such a thrilling but charming pair and Hermione is so intelligent and sophisticated. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Why do we love conspiracy thrillers so much, do you think?

Because they produce a pleasurable paranoia! We love Russian Doll thrillers in which you are never sure who to trust or which agenda to believe. They are a great ride and always keep you guessing to the end. What’s not to love?

You’re both a scriptwriter and novelist, these days – how do you fit it all into your writing schedule?

It’s a juggling act, but it’s very refreshing — and challenging — to go from one medium to the other. It keeps you fresh and each informs the other. You never stop learning!

TV Crime Log: Grantchester, Lewis, Code, Homeland

Right, grab yourself a sandwich and some juice and we’ll get this done and dusted in no time.

GrantchesterGrantchester is a new cosy brought to you by the ladies and gentlemen at ITV. I would say it ticks all the boxes for your Auntie. A nice young man plays a handsome priest who solves crime in a picturesque part of Cambridgeshire in 1953. Wild horses aren’t going to drag her from that remote – it may be a fight to the death.

The blurb starts off on a bit of a frivolous note:

It’s 1953, and just outside the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester, local vicar Sidney Chambers has lost track of time, having spent a glorious morning with his fun loving friend, and the woman with whom he is secretly in love, Amanda Kendall. Racing to church, Sidney arrives just in time to minister at the funeral of a local solicitor – although his poor time-keeping earns the disapproval of his punctilious housekeeper Mrs Maguire.

With the death a suicide, Sidney does his best to comfort young German widow Hildegard Staunton, but is soon called away from his normal duties when the glamorous Pamela Morton asks to draw Sidney into her confidence. She reveals that she was having an affair with the late solicitor – and that far from being a suicide, she has reasons to believe that he was in fact murdered.

The first Grantchester episode of six is on ITV tonight – Monday at 9pm. Dog-collars, murders, smooth lawns, waspish housekeepers, Geordie coppers called Geordie – I recklessly predict an immediate recommission.

LewisAnd while we’re on the subject of cosies, let’s welcome back our old friend Lewis. You may remember that old warhorse of a series was put out to pasture about five minutes ago. But after several sleepless nights poring over drooping advertising revenue spreadsheets, someone at the channel decided there was life in the old beast yet.

But wait! Lewis and Hathaway both announced their retirements from the force at the end of the last episode. Hathaway’s we can put down to a hasty youthful exuberance – the young rarely know the shit they come out with, but Lewis, surely, is enjoying his real ales. The blurb puts our worries to rest on that front:

There’s something missing in Lewis’s life. It’s not Hobson’s fault, but retirement plainly doesn’t suit him. So when the call comes from Innocent to take up his badge and rejoin the force, he jumps at the chance.

Meanwhile Hathaway is wading into his first murder mystery – a tricky case that bridges the worlds of neurosurgery, blood sports and animal rights. It started with an arson attack on a hunting lodge, but soon enough Hathaway and DS Maddox have a dead neurosurgeon on their hands. Alastair Stoke was shot in the head on the farmland he co-owned with his troubled business partner Tom Marston, but as Hathaway delves into the network of fear and loathing that surrounds the surgeon, the case begins to careen out of control.

But can Innocent’s experiment – throwing Hathaway and Lewis together again – be sufficient to solve the mystery and stop the killing?

Lewis returns on Friday at 9pm for another six part series, and I recklessly predict that it will be recommissioned for another three hundred years.

The CodeHopefully, The Code on BBC4 will add a little grit to your weekend after all that coziness. Having exhausted Scandi crime serials and flirted with series from other parts of Europe, BBC4 is now widening its net to other parts of the globe.

The Code is a dark conspiracy thriller about two brothers who investigate corruption at the heart of government:

In the middle of the outback, a stolen 4WD collides with a transport truck. Two local kids in the car are badly hurt. Someone should have called for help, but they didn’t. They didn’t because they work for an international research project no-one talks about and their cargo is a prohibited substance.

The accident would have remained a mystery were it not for Ned and Jesse Banks. Ned is a young internet journalist desperate for a break, and Jesse is his troubled younger brother whose obsession with hacking has got him into serious difficulties.

Ned and Jesse Banks are given a poisoned chalice when a phone video of the outback accident arrives in their in-box. Their decision to dig deeper drags the brothers into the darkest heart of politics, the web of black marketeers and the international agencies that monitor and manipulate them. Together, they suddenly become the unlikeliest crusaders for democracy.

The question is just how far those in authority will go to keep their explosive secret safe – and just how far the two brothers will go to reveal the truth.

Not much to go on there, but it may be worth a look-see. Them Australians sure know how to produce a terrific thriller. Only last week I very much enjoyed the movie Wish You Were Here, and watched again the always compelling Animal Kingdom – so there, that must prove it. And also – wait, don’t click away till the end of this sentence! – The Code also stars Lucy Lawless. Her from Xena and Spartacus.

The Code is on BBC4, Saturday night, at 9pm. It’ll be preceded by some ancient network idents.

HomelandHomeland has wisely opted to reboot after tying itself up in terrible knots over the last three series. The first series was very good, I think we all agree with that – wait, this is the internet, so I guess we’d probably all very much disagree about it – and then it lost focus alarmingly.

So what they’ve done is, with Brody now dead – that was a spoiler, by the way, sorry about that – they’ve moved Carrie to a CIA station in the Middle East. In the first episode she authorizes a deadly missile strike.

Homeland is on Channel 4 Sunday night at 9pm.

TV Crime Log: Bailey, Tyrant, Ship & Empire

Your device has been starved of attention over the summer. It’s been lurking on the dusty glass shelf below the television. You know, the one where it hurts your back when you have to stoop to shove the duster in there, to get behind the wires.

But, rejoice – the arid televisual months are over! Reality shows featuring people jumping over boxes and endless sports competitions have ruled the airwaves. But now, just as the rains eventually return to a parched desert, your device will once again blossom into a cornucopia of genre pleasures. Hit the Record button on your remote to your heart’s delight, my friends – and crack open a bottle of wine while you’re at it.

Scott & BaileyScott and Bailey returns this week for its fourth series – my goodness, how the commissioning schedules just fly past. Its feisty combination of crime stories and domestic drama has really hit a chord with ITV audiences, which is why it’s back for another eight episodes, beginning Wednesday at 9pm.

You will notice the blurb is a firm supporter of positive thinking:

Battle-scarred from their shocking conflict last series, Rachel and Janet determine to move forward with focus and honesty. For Rachel, that means giving her career her best shot, unencumbered by the chaos of her personal life. For Janet, it means giving herself the opportunities she deserves, and enjoying her autonomy.

In this spirit, both Scott and Bailey find themselves in front of the promotion board, interviewing for Sergeant. When both pass with flying colours, the task falls to DCI Gill Murray to choose which one stays on as Sergeant at Syndicate 9.

The story of the week involves the kidnap and murder of a vulnerable young adult, Robin McKendrick. When Robin doesn’t turn up at the pub for work on payday, his ex-copper landlord alerts the police. With a brother involved in local gang rivalry, there’s a chance that Robin has been caught up in some sort of reprisal. When a photo of Robin, bound and gagged in the boot of a car, shows up on Facebook, Syndicate 9 know that he’s probably already dead. But the body they recover from a flooded quarry is a woman.

Scott and Bailey wasn’t actually writer Sally Wainwright’s idea. The series was mooted by Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay, both formerly of Coronation Street, who were fed up with the lack of opportunity for leading roles for women. Lindsay was originally due to play Scott until she became pregnant, and Lesley Sharp stepped in.

That’s it for homegrown drama, I’m afraid. We’ll have to paddle across the Atlantic for the rest.

TyrantTyrant premieres on Fox on Friday night at 9pm. It’s about Bassam ‘Barry’ Al-Fayeed – the son of a Middle East dictator who has escaped to California, where he lives with his wife and two children.

After 20 years of a self-imposed exile, Barry returns to his homeland and quickly finds himself embroiled in the geopolitical intrigue of a volatile and turbulent Middle Eastern nation.

Set in the fictional country of Abbudin, Tyrant was originally filmed in Israel and then moved to Turkey when the Gaza conflict broke out. It’s an interesting idea, with echoes of The Godfather in its story of a man trying to make his own way in the world who is forced back into the machinations of his nefarious family.

It’s certainly a topical drama – Homeland is rebooting and its next series is set entirely in the Middle East – but viewing figures in the US have been so-so, and so far there’s been no word on a second series of Tyrant.

UnknownOne show that has already been renewed is The Last Ship. Crime genre purists look away now – there is nothing for you here. This series is a post-apocalyptyic world set after a global viral pandemic wipes out 80% of the world’s population. The crew of a US warship must try to find a cure and save humanity.

It’s kind of reminiscent of Nevil Shute’s On The Beach, of course, but I’m willing to bet that this being Sky 1 at 8pm on a Friday night, we can look forward to mostly action and ‘plosions and fisticuffs. Torpedo tubes at the ready, cap’n, all that sort of thing. In fact, The Last Ship is based on William Brinkley’s novel of the same name, substituting a pandemic for Brinkley’s catastrophic nuclear conflict.

Boardwalk EmpireMake the most of this fifth season of Boardwalk Empire, because it’s going to be your last. A shame, really, because Empire really only hit its stride in the last two seasons.

The action fast forwards seven years to 1931, for its final truncated season. It’s a slightly baffling choice, as we’ll have entered the Golden Age of the featured gangster characters such as Capone and Luciano and Meyer – with one glaring exception…

One consequence of the jump in time is that we won’t get to catch up on Michael Stuhlbarg’s terrific portrayal of tea-totaller Arnold Rothstein, the man who organised crime and made into a bone fide corporate enterprise. An inveterate gambler, Rothstein was murdered in 1928.

All good things must come to an end, of course, but although Empire’s ratings were middling in the US it was certainly a critical darling and a couple more seasons – seven seems to be the magic number for cable shows, these days – would have been most welcome.

Au revoir, Nucky. In real life you died in an convalescent home in 1968, so I’m guessing you may make it through.

TV Crime Log: Brown, Bletchley & Hostages

608The first series of afternoon mysteries starring Mark Williams as GK Chesterton’s Father Brown did rather well for BBC1, banking a couple of million viewers, so it’s back again.

Once again, the second series is stripped across the next two weeks – every weekday at 2.15pm – with Mark Williams as the detective priest. In Chesterton’s stories, Brown’s parish was in London, but in this television version is set in the Cotswolds, likely because of the preponderance of French windows.

Look, the blurb for the entire week of Father Brown is going to take up too much valuable time, yours and mine, so let’s just agree we print Monday’s blurb and then, if you’re interested, you can go off in search of the rest. Yes? Good.

Father Brown is sceptical when a parishioner believes she’s being haunted by her sister who went missing years ago. However, when she herself vanishes, he must investigate both disappearances.

At Cudely Manor, Father Brown is startled by Charlotte McKinley, who wants an exorcism. Her sister Elspeth, who’s been missing for nine years, is not resting easy. Father Brown maintains that they don’t even know if Elspeth is dead and there’s no such thing as ghosts… as a chandelier drops and smashes where he was just standing.

The next night, Father Brown blesses the house with Charlotte’s husband Victor and daughter Selina in attendance. Afterwards, Elspeth’s portrait jumps off the wall and a distressed Victor flees the house, so Sid agrees to stay the night.

Later, Charlotte sits reading by the fire as Selina tries to frighten Sid in the hallway. The pair are spooked by a loud bang from the living room and run in to find it empty with the French windows locked. Charlotte has vanished into thin air…

These stand-alone mysteries work rather well in the afternoon. Gilbert Chesterton, after all, wrote a mighty 80 novels, but his intuitive detective only ever appeared in 51 short-stories.

THE_BLETCHLEY_CIRCLE_SERIES2There are more frocks in the new series of The Bletchley Circle tonight, about the former ladies of the wartime top-secret code-breaking HQ Bletchley Park – that’s them in that heavily-photoshopped image – who gather together to solve crimes.

It will take you barely a moment to decipher the blurb:

Set a year on from the first series in 1953, the ladies are reunited for their second case in the first two-part story when former Bletchley Park colleague, Alice Merren is accused of murder. Jean methodically sets to work examining the evidence and is intent on helping Alice after a distinguished scientist is discovered shot through the heart in the study of his home with Alice, gun in hand, standing over him.

The evidence is stacked against her, but Jean’s instincts tell her differently and she goes to visit Alice in Holloway Prison. Alice is quietly resigned to the fact she will hang.  But why has she offered no defence and why does she refuse to talk?

Jean calls on the ladies to reunite, but will they share her faith in Alice’s innocence?

The Bletchley Circle is on tonight at 9pm. It’s set in the 1950s, so there’s a good chance it’ll also feature French windows.

Hostages 2_A2As far as I know, french windows are in short supply in Hostages, which begins on Saturday on Channel 4, but we live in hope.

Channel 4’s programme notes optimistically describe it as ‘Hostages Series 1.’ But the show has been bumping along the bottom of the US-ratings since it started – as a serialized drama it’s perhaps harder to dump midseason – so I wouldn’t hold your breath for another series.

Hostages is based on an Israeli format, like Homeland, so perhaps Channel 4 is hoping lightning will strike twice with that 9pm slot.  Good cast, though: Toni ‘Muriel’ Collette and Dylan McDermott.

Some advice, from me to you. Don’t form an emotional attachment with the blurb:

Dr Ellen Sanders, a top surgeon in Washington, DC, has been called upon to operate on the President of the United States… and then kill him.

Ellen is used to the pressures of her job and it’s her steady nature that has advanced her career and made her the first choice of the President. But when masked men invade the Sanders home the night before the operation and take Ellen, her husband and their two children hostage, threatening to harm them unless Ellen does as they ask, her calm demeanour is rocked to the core.

Her husband, hiding secrets of his own, is not much help, but Ellen will do anything to protect her family.

Duncan Carlisle, an FBI agent and hero at the centre of a conspiracy involving the President, feels the same way about his own loved-ones. As chief hostage-taker, Duncan will fight for his cause at any cost, even if it means putting another family at risk.

With her nearest and dearest in peril, Ellen faces a huge moral dilemma. As tensions mount and she fights for time while preparing for surgery, it becomes clear that the outwardly idyllic Sanders family isn’t as perfect as originally thought, nor are their captors as evil as one might expect.

TV Crime Log: Blacklist, Homeland

It’s getting wet and dismal outside  – it is in this neck of the woods, anyway – and you may consider that staying in to goggle at the flickering box is highly-preferable to taking the dog out for a walk.

In which case you may want to consider these crimey-thrillery shows starting this weekend.

Unknown-1You may have seen those posters of James Spader everywhere. Oh, James, what happened to all that lovely hair? I’ve chosen a photo of him wearing a hat because it’s just too upsetting to see it gone! Spader — I’m fine now, no, really — is starring in The Blacklist,  tonight on Sky Living.

He plays Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington – how did anyone think that name was a good idea; I mean someone in the writers room must have put spoke out, surely? – who is one of the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives. Anyway, Red (shudder) gives himself up at the FBI headquarters. He just happens to have a list of the US’s most-dangerous criminals and terrorists. He calls it The Redli… no, wait, he calls it The Blacklist.

But Red (ugh) says he’ll speak only to a rookie FBI profiler called Elizabeth Keen. Together, I’m guessing, they’ll bring down everybody on that list one hour-long episode at a time. Red will probably be mostly untrustworthy – except when he isn’t – and will have an agenda of his own that will slowly be revealed along the way.

It looks a lot of fun, and Spader is always worth watching – with or without hair. That is to say, his own hair. Whether you choose to watch The Blacklist with or without your own hair is entirely your choice. Or perhaps it isn’t.

Okay, so, I’m confusing myself now. Anyway, The Blacklist has done well in the States so I’m guessing it’s going to stick around. It’s on Sky Living tonight at 9pm. Check it out if you have any brain cells left from watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

And then on Sunday is the return of Homeland. How do we feel about that, hmm?

What was that you did there, was that an ambivalent shrug? I kind of agree. The first series was tremendous, I thought, but the second – not so much. It kind of got itself all wrapped up in dramatic knots.

Unknown-2So, at the end of the last series, someone blew the shit out of Langley and Nick Brody hotfooted it to Canada, leaving behind his CIA girlfriend Carrie and his hot wife.

But we can hope that Homeland gets itself back on an even keel, perhaps utilizing the same optimism with which we stare at our spam and think: ‘Maybe that robot really does love my blog!’

Homeland series three begins on Channel 4 on Sunday at 9pm.