I’ve just managed to lay my hands on a copy of Mat Coward’s latest novel, Acts of Destruction, which pleases me a good deal, because this is a writer whose work I have long admired. I’ve never actually met Mat, who doesn’t go to crime conventions, but we’ve been in touch for a number of years, and he’s provided a string of excellent stories for anthologies that I’ve edited.
Mat’s fame in the crime writing world is, indeed, mainly in the realm of short story writing, and whilst it is well deserved, it has meant that he runs the risk of being typecast as a short story specialist. It’s a recurrent issue for writers that, if you do one thing well, publishers, critics and (yes!) some readers are tempted to think that is what you should stick with. It’s a bit like asking a favourite musician only to play their early hits – understandable, but apt to risk missing out on a lot of good stuff.
In fact, Mat’s a talented novelist whose previous work has appeared more often in the US than the UK. Acts of Destruction sees him branching out in a new direction, with a police series ‘set in a near-future London. In a world of fuel shortages, food scarcity, and wars over water, the Commonwealth of Britain is struggling to turn necessity into opportunity, and build a happier, more efficient and more democratic nation. It’s a new society with new rules; it’s just a pity no-one told the criminals….’
But still there is a link with his short stories, for DI Wallace from this book first appeared in one of those stories Mat produced for me – ‘Back to the Land’, which was included in Crime in the City, a collection published under my editorship back in 2002. So I feel an immediate affinity with the new novel!
I look forward to devouring it. And readers of this blog who would like a copy can pick one up for a tenner, post-free, from Alia Mondo Press, care of Elastic Press, 85 Gertrude Road, Norwich NR3 4SG.