Michael Robotham’s latest Joe O’Loughlin and Vincent Ruiz novel, Close Your Eyes, published in the UK by Sphere in August 2015. With O’Loughlin embroiled in case in which he has to unravel the psychological links between the murder of a mother and daughter along with those of other victims, what transpires is arguably the writer’s most emotionally tumultuous novel to date; with sentiment being an area in which he believes his scribing strengths lie most abundantly.
“I don’t think I’ve never regarded myself as a natural crime writer, which is why I struggle with the nuts and bolts of plotting the crime and investigation, but feel much more comfortable writing about relationships and family dynamics. I worried that this would show in Close Your Eyes.” So says best-selling author Michael Robotham, whose latest novel featuring Joe O’Loughlin and Vincent Ruiz, Close Your Eyes (Sphere), is now available; a novel guaranteed to rank as one of the crime novels of the year. “So much of this story revolves around Joe O’Loughlin and Julianne, his estranged wife. Rather than being a sub-plot of a main story, it has equal billing, so it’s like two novels have been woven together.”
It is this interweaving of stories and subplots that makes Close Your Eyes so compelling, along with those the emotional dynamics that Robotham has clearly developed amongst his characters. “Three words are pinned above my desk: Make Them Care! It helps that I’m a pretty emotional person and can make myself cry when I’m writing and I embarrass my daughters by sniffling through films … even animated ones. Quite often the exchanges I’ve portrayed between Joe and his daughters mirror conversations I’ve held with my girls. I steal their best lines but they get to spend the money. It’s a deal that works pretty well,” he laughed.
“I don’t plot the stories out in advance and I think much of the intensity comes from my own attempts to maintain my interest. A certain scene might take a week to write and I think, ‘No, it’s too slow. Nothing is happening.’ It’s only when I read it back later that I realise my week of work takes only a few minutes to read and it isn’t slow at all. I also think that part of the intensity comes from making readers care about the characters.”
Having had Life or Death published as a stand- alone paperback this year and to much acclaim, how was it coming back Joe & Vincent? “I have to admit it was hard because I loved writing Life or Death. In the past I’ve described it as the book I was ‘meant to write’ and I think this is because it flowed so easily and I came so close to transferring the story that was in my head onto the page. This made it hard to go back to Joe and Vincent and, for a long while, I struggled. I’d written half a novel and realised I was basically regurgitating a previous one. Then I began again, focussing on Joe’s family rather than the crime.”
Such is the descriptive quality of Michael’s writing, is there likely to be a film or TV adaptation of either the Joe O’Loughlin novels or, indeed, Life or Death? “A German film company ZDF has just finished filming Bleed For Me, which is their third Joe O’Loughlin film. They have plans to make more of them, which will be sold internationally. They have moved the action to Hamburg in Germany. Joe O’Loughlin has become Johannes Jessup, a psychiatrist rather than a psychologist. Over the past ten years there have been several attempts to get an English language series off the ground, including a premium cable series in the US. Another is in the offing although I can’t reveal the details just yet.”
Tough and grizzled as he undoubtedly is, Vincent Ruiz – O’Loughlin’s best friend and pseudo-minder – is very often the calming conscience and it would be good to see him as the central protagonist again “I’m always on the look-out for stories where Vincent Ruiz could take centre stage. Given that he’s now in his mid- to-late sixties, his days as an action hero are probably numbered, but I am considering taking him back to his early days as a detective and writing about one of the cases that haunts him. Watch this space, as they say.”
So, what is it that binds Ruiz and Joe so closely together? “That’sa very good question. I think they’re both intelligent men who struggle to know if they are good fathers and husbands. I also go back to Joe O’Loughlin’s description of Vincent in Bleed For Me: ‘Broad like a bear with a busted nose and booze-stained cheeks, Ruiz has had three marriages and three divorces. World weary and fatalistic, I sometimes think he’s a walking, talking cliché – the heavy-drinking, womanising ex-detective – but he’s more complicated than that. He once arrested me for murder. I once rescued him from himself. Friendships have flourished on less.’”
For More Information: http://www.michaelrobotham.com
Plot, Character, Sense of Place, Intrigue, Thrills, Spills and Tension: just some of the elements that make up the best Crime Fiction and, time and again, Michael Robotham hits each of these nails so squarely on the head but perhaps never more so than with his latest O’Loughlin / Ruiz outing, Close Your Eyes.
The way Robotham manages to pull at the readers emotional heartstrings is something almost unquantifiable, as not only do we have the “case” to consider, but also O’Loughlin’s personal traumas to deal with. Added to this, are the added elements of direction and misdirection that are guaranteed to have you saying “just one more chapter” before turning the light off, only to realise all too soon that there are no more chapters left.
If ever there was a book that deserves to be written in one sitting, Close Your Eyes is it, and Michael Robotham deserves to be concreted in place alongside Lehane, Billingham, King and Flynn for the way he takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary in such fabulous style.
Brilliant stuff, brilliantly told and beautifully written.
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