Hi Ian! It’s always a pleasure to meet an emerging new Australian crime writer. Your book sounds compelling. Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
Living in Sydney, Ian writes about places he knows, and crimes and stories that we can imagine on the front page – murder, corruption, greed and lies. His career has focused on technology and change, where over a decade working for NSW Police and the Justice sector allows him to expertly weave a perspective readers can’t often get.
With more ideas than time, Ian’s words are wrestled to the page, beaten into submission, and always in need of interrogation. Short course on writing and membership to various writing associations over time have improved and refined his writing style, almost as much the generous independent author community around the world.
Detective Rebecca Reid and Detective Mark Kidman attend a homicide at the Innovation Centre. Peter Maher presented his new technology to investors at the centre, before Wendy, a barista at the event, and Trevor, an entrepreneur in a wheelchair, find his body.
The detectives and their team uncover a link between Peter, a cryptic set of numbers, and a pub owned by career criminal Mayweather.
After being viciously attacked, Wendy is questioned by Reid, but the identity of her attacker remains unknown.
Reid learns Peter had invented software that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to track and predict a person’s location and spending. At his workplace, she reviews CCTV footage of a man intimidating Peter, discovers more cryptic numbers, and the name of a suspicious property developer, Tripodi, who also owns the Innovation Centre.
Kidman receives a frosty reception at Mayweather’s pub and suspects they are operating illegal betting. Reid recognises a man resembling the person intimidating Peter. Kidman reveals this is Mayweather.
At a “start-up” event, the host Darren, metres from his wife, arouses Reid’s suspicions when he makes a pass at a young, male constable.
Using insights from Peter’s software, Reid visits a luxurious retirement home Tripodi visited. Whilst finding no evidence of foul play, she learns of Rawson, a resident who recently died from a fall.
Meanwhile Kidman’s detective instincts reveal security personnel at the Innovation Centre lied to him, and audio of a conversation between Tripodi and Peter moments before he died, may exist.
The team at the station decode the cryptic numbers to be horse racing bets, involving Peter and Mayweather. Constable Nicol has been missing for several days.
Danger and tension increase with the discovery of a cache of technology at a house fire. The resident, assaulted by the arsonist, is Jack, Innovation Centre security guard, and Wendy’s girlfriend.
Reid learns Darren ended a relationship with Peter the day before his death, and showing her growing confidence, uncovers audio of Tripodi threatening Peter.
A mysterious black car follows Trevor. Kidman and Reid set a trap for the driver, but fail, and the driver escapes into the city. Nicol is found dead in Sydney Harbour, whilst the detectives bring Tripodi in for questioning. Suspicion shifts to Mayweather, but they cannot find him.
They arrest Tripodi for Rawson’s murder, whose motive was to acquire the waterfront land next to the Innovation Centre.
Responding to a desperate plea for help, Reid chases an assailant attempting to abduct Trevor. Whilst escaping, Trevor’s car plunges into water. Trevor fights to escape the semi submerged car, as Mayweather holds the door shut. Reid swims to Trevor, but overpowered, almost drowns before another officer intervenes.
Mayweather is arrested for Peter’s murder, who wanted to frame Tripodi. The team hold Reid in high esteem, whilst a colleague and secret lover to Tripodi, is arrested for arson and Tripodi flees the country, escaping arrest.
Reid returns home an empowered detective, and Kidman returns to an empty life.
Do you have a pen name and why?
Yes, I write under Ian Lomond. I wrote DEATH INVESTOR under a pen name not because I am on the lamb, evading the mafia or am a double agent. It’s to keep my professional profile independent – I have published articles on improving business outcomes through project governance and presented at a national project management conference, and I would prefer to keep these worlds separate to a degree.
What was the defining event that made you start writing?
My debut novel DEATH INVESTOR is an achievement from NaNoWriMo 2017. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and each year thousands of writers around the world support each other to write as many words as possible during this month. I appreciated that focus and discipline of reaching a maximum word count each day.
At that point, I was looking for a creative outlet from a demanding work environment and am very glad I focused my energy into writing, and that NaNoWriMo started soon after I made that personal decision.
I am thrilled to say DEATH INVESTOR is a published novel from NaNoWriMo. The sequel will no doubt get a big word count boost in NaNoWriMo 2020!
What’s the story behind your book title?
My original working title was “Angel Investor of Death” which made a more direct reference to the tech startup world that the victim Peter Maher was part of. An angel investor is someone who backs startup businesses. I put this title out to a writing community on Facebook for feedback. I had a few different suggestions and opinions and ultimately decided on DEATH INVESTOR. Thank you to the writing community on Facebook!
What’s the basic plot of your book or series?
The Kidman and Reid crime series is at a minimum a trilogy. The current story arc follows the growth, in confidence and policing results, for Detective Rebecca Reid, and the maturing career of Detective Mark Kidman over the duration.
In DEATH INVESTOR, Detective Rebecca Reid and Mark Kidman investigate the death of a technology genius, who developed a program that tracks your movements, and spending patterns, without a person’s consent. Murdered whilst seeking an investor for his program, the detectives uncover links to a rough pub owner with a criminal history, the shady dealings of a property investor, and a mysterious friend.
Using technology as the motivation of the crime, and how it is solved, are key themes of the novel. Controlling and understanding the technology leaves some people in more, possibly mortal danger.
A crime novel set in the streets of Sydney, the investigation takes the reader to the old neighborhood of Woolloomooloo and Kings Cross, the outer suburbs of Merrylands and Rouse Hill, with danger and action taking place around The Bay Run in Drummoyne.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Each book in the Kidman and Reid crime series is a standalone novel – easy to enjoy without knowing the backstory from previous works. However, when released and read together, the reader will see the grander story arc between the characters. The relationships between Reid, Kidman, Popovich, Jones and Dunston will evolve, as will the undercurrent from corrupt property developer Tripodi.
For many years I have admired the Rebus series by Ian Rankin, and he does this masterfully. The detective’s nemesis Big Ger Cafferty is a longtime foe that weaves in and out of the stories, but each stands alone.
Closer to home, Jane Harper’s Force of Nature follows Detective Aaron Faulk from The Dry, and whilst the backstory references are subtle, knowing the previous novel makes it more enjoyable. Sarah Bailey also does a great job of this.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The best money I have spent has been to attend writing festivals and talks. I love the BAD Sydney Crime Writers Festival – it is a lot of fun, but also inspiring to talk with others writing the same genre and learn from their experience – Candice Fox and Peter Goldsworthy are standouts from the BAD festival. The festival also features a great opening night!
Other than that, I have invested in software to help organise and edit my work, and am thrilled with the editor and cover designer involved in DEATH INVESTOR.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have one partially finished book – it’s the second novel in the Kidman and Reid crime series. It’s working title is PIPELINE OF DEATH and sequentially follows DEATH INVESTOR.
I have many short stories, often a result of writing prompts from classes I have been in or fiction competitions. The evil use of technology and the use of gender agnostic names is a technique employed more than once in these shorter pieces – both themes that appear in DEATH INVESTOR.
What does literary success look like to you?
I enjoy the holistic approach to releasing a novel. Not so long ago, I was involved with endurance sports – I’ve run over 100km a couple of times, lots of marathons, and finished an Ironman. I think that highlights that I am drawn to long, planned projects, and planning, writing, editing and releasing a novel certainly fulfills that criteria.
For me, literary success is being able to repeat this process over the long term, with some knowledge that some people have enjoyed my books. The journey for me, right now, is the important and enjoyable part of literary success.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
As I start with a story in mind, the research I do is done as I write. In DEATH INVESTOR I used my experience working in police and justice agencies and a career in technology to develop much of the technology and procedural aspects of the story. Most of the locations are places I have been and know well–Lane Cove, The Glenmore Hotel, Woolloomooloo, Charlie Chan’s hotel, Faheem Fast Food, Merrylands, Westmead Hospital and The Bay Run.
However, I researched other locations, exact street names, character names and their backgrounds. I found out the names of Syrian universities, Somalian names, confirmed one or two Arabic phrases, and the name of those weird one-wheel scooter things younger people with better balance than me ride around Sydney!
Do you think the use of technology dates stories?
In DEATH INVESTOR technology could be seen as the motive for a crime, and is also relied on to solve that crime. However, beyond the actual technology itself, are the eternal concepts of privacy, consent, greed and jealousy.
The actual reason for the death of Peter Maher in DEATH INVESTOR is not because he invented tracking software. Surveillance software has been available for decades – although it improves every day, every time Apple or Huawei release a new phone you could say. People resent being monitored without consent, and without having a boundary between your private life and public. Now, if your private life is also a life of crime, you may be highly motivated to stop the monitoring by any means necessary!
With the globally horrific COVID-19 pandemic, many countries are turning to digital surveillance to identify new cases and perform contact tracing to manage and stop the infection. Some people are wary of their government enforcing, or supporting, this level of personal surveillance. In some cases, this apprehension comes from being unable to make an informed consent around your data. Without being aware and confident of who and how your information is managed, stored and disposed of, many people are refusing to give consent, seeing this as an erosion of civil liberties.
DEATH INVESTOR is based on the premise that some people will kill to retain their privacy, and the technology in the novel is a simple example of how secrets can be exposed. Technology in stories is often used to highlight tensions in our community – development, exploration, environment, privacy – and when well written, does not date the story but instead highlights the issues of the time.
Thanks for your time, Ian. I wish you all the success in the world!