It’s a little over a year since I stayed in with Iain Hood to chat with him about his book This Good Book in a post you can read here. Today I’m delighted to host a longer interview with Iain to celebrate his latest book, Every Trick in the Book. My huge thanks to Will Dady at Renard Press for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.
Every Trick in the Book was published by Renard Press on 6th September 2022 and is available for purchase here.
Every Trick in the Book
‘There’s only control, control of ourselves and others. And you have to decide what part you play in that control.’
Cast your eye over the comfortable north London home of a family of high ideals, radical politics and compassionate feelings. Julia, Paul and their two daughters, Olivia and Sophie, look to a better society, one they can effect through ORGAN:EYES, the campaigning group they fundraise for and march with, supporting various good causes.
But is it all too good to be true? When the surface has been scratched and Paul’s identity comes under the scrutiny of the press, a journey into the heart of the family begins. Who are these characters really? Are any of them the ‘real’ them at all? Every Trick in the Book is a genre-deconstructing novel that explodes the police procedural and undercover-cop story with nouveau romanish glee. Hood overturns the stone of our surveillance society to show what really lies beneath.
An Interview with Iain Hood
Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag Iain. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
I was born in Glasgow and grew up in the seaside town of Ayr. I live in Cambridge and have worked in education for more than 30 years. I studied an MA in novel writing at the University of Manchester. My first novel, This Good Book, was published in 2021 by Renard Press, and Renard are now publishing my second novel, Every Trick in the Book.
Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Every Trick in the Book?
Every Trick in the Book is about a family living in north London caught up in the Met Police undercover scandal, and the book’s first plot twist is a freelance journalist taking an interest in the hidden life of the father, Paul. There will be many twists and turns to come.
Sounds brilliant. So tell me, why do you write?
I want to use words to create feelings in readers: feelings of amusement, ease, familiarity, but also feelings of anger, unease and perplexity.
That’s really interesting. When did you realise you were going to be a writer?
Probably at school in the 1980s.
Ouch. That makes me feel old as I was a teacher in the 1980s.
How did you go about researching detail and ensuring that Every Trick in the Book was realistic?
Every Trick in the Book plays games with the reader and, yes, tricks on the reader. Well, you were warned by the title! One of these is to sometimes push suspension of disbelief to breaking point to focus a light on some of the grave and serious absurdities of the undercover surveillance of political groups in the UK. But, it is sometimes said that we live in a world where reality has become immune to satire. There are a few utterly absurd details in the book that I swear I read in my research for the book and are true… as far as I can establish… from, um, the evidence…
I think the truth really is often stranger than fiction!
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I like writing dialogue and it always comes first in the writing. I think I get dialogue to carry a lot of the weight of characterisation in my books. I don’t think I’m quite as good at setting the scene, so I demanded of myself that I do that in intimate detail at key points in Every Trick in the Book.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
Anywhere, and any time I can – I still work full time at another job, so this stems from necessity.
Many authors tell me exactly the same thing! But, when you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I have two TBR piles: one of books I am reading directly for the way they feed in to my writing, and one for stuff I just fancy reading. At the moment, the first pile is a tottering, dangerously listing three-feet-high tower and the second is a couple of novels and a Bobby Gillespie autobiography.
I think we all know that towering TBR pile…
Every Trick in the Book is your second book after This Good Book. What were the challenges and benefits of following up a successful debut?
Some writers preparing for their second book have told me that their publishers and/or agents have said, “OK, so your first book was like this, now do a similar thing again.” Renard have been supportive of me being a lot more freely creative than that… So I have ended up having recurrent and interlinked characters from the debut, for example, and a similar attitude to a city setting, but I feel very free in all other ways of choosing to tell the story and the themes and ideas I engage with. And even where and when I have linked the two books (and this may continue into a third book), I decided this.
It must feel very supportive to have Renard behind you.
Every Trick in the Book has a cover that feels quite menacing to me, despite the cheerful red London bus. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
Renard’s brilliant publisher, Will Dady, also designs the book covers for all Renard publications. I think he’s a genius at this. The cover instantly places you in London.
Oh! I had no idea. I’ll view Will in a completely different light now. You’re right. The setting is instantly recognisable.
You seem to be exploring Joseph Conrad’s ‘thin veneer of civilization’ in Every Trick in the Book. To what extent would you agree with that statement and why?
Spot on! Conrad’s The Secret Agent was much on my mind during the writing. Not only a novel of spies and a society riddled with deceptions, and people as pawns in their own incomprehensible game of chess, but a great novel of the city – in this case the same city in Every Trick in the Book, London. But there’s a paradox at the centre of all this. The police use surveillance to track protestors, the anti-establishment organisation we follow is called ORGAN:EYES, and they shout “THE WORLD IS WATCHING!” The ultimate paradox is that vigilance is the constant and ineluctable requirement of freedom. Say, for example, you feel there are too many surveillance cameras tracking your every move as you shop. You may decide to be vigilant of this erosion of privacy. But is vigilance itself predicated on equal but opposite surveillance?
That sounds a fascinating premise to explore. It’s made me want to bump up Every Trick in the Book to the top of my TBR Iain.
If you could choose to be a character from Every Trick in the Book, who would you be and why?
This is a brilliant question, and just at the moment, because I have just recently finished the research that goes into the writing and editing, I have a soft spot for a police officer who is high up in Met Special Operations, but because of his demeanour is nicknamed ‘the sarge’. He is the fount of all knowledge and in charge of training officers. He does what a writer does when writing: he tries to keep up with all sorts of reading, no matter how overwhelming this task is.
I’ll look out for him when I read the book. So, if Every Trick in the Book became a film, who would you like to play Paul and why would you choose them?
Dougray Scott can do the right sort of beaten quality I think is needed, and, of course, we already know he’s sort of in the police (from the recent series Crime). But more than this, I would love to see Ashley Jensen as Julia, because everyone loves Ashley Jensen for her warmth and humour, but I also think she could play Julia in the latter part of the plot, with all that she goes through and what we find out about her.
And finally Iain, if you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Every Trick in the Book should be their next read, what would you say?
Someone in the game is playing Every Trick in the Book. Who do you trust?
Brilliant! Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions and all the very best with Every Trick in the Book.
About Iain Hood
(PHOTOGRAPH © JEREMY ANDREWS)
Iain Hood was born in Glasgow and grew up in the seaside town of Ayr. He attended the University of Glasgow and Jordanhill College, and later worked in education in Glasgow and the West Country. During this time he attended the University of Manchester. He now lives in Cambridge with his wife and daughter. This Good Book was his first novel.
You can follow Iain on Twitter @iain_hood.
There’s more with these other bloggers too: