When writing my first (published) novel – Dead Men’s Dust – I made a conscious decision to write something very different from other crime/thriller books on British bookshelves. There are traditions in crime fiction set in the UK where amateur sleuths or damaged Detective Inspectors tend to be the norm, and I was infinitely aware that I probably could not compete in either of these tough markets. I wasn’t in the habit of reading books featuring amateur sleuths or damaged DI’s, and you know what’s said about writing what you know. The thing was, by then I’d worked for more than twenty years in a law enforcement capacity, first in the private security industry then as a police constable, so you might argue that I was perfectly suited to writing British-style crime fiction. But I’ll counter that by explaining that I’d rarely read a book in the genre best suited to my life experience, preferring instead to read action-oriented thrillers, primarily set in the USA. In my wisdom, I decided to set my books in the States, as I felt it was a location I was familiar with through my reading (and watching) habits. You’ll probably think I’m nuts when I admit to having never visited the US before then, but in my mind I wasn’t being a charlatan, I was paying homage to books I loved.
Having shied away from writing what was expected from me, I quickly realised that for the kind of action-driven books I wanted to write, I needed a character with enough world experience, and skills, to get him through his adventures, so decided that my character, Joe Hunter, should be an ex-soldier, a former member of an outdated counter-terrorist group called Arrowsake, now adrift in the world with little direction and purpose, but with an overriding need to right wrongs, as he perceived them. In a sense he’d become a vigilante, and haunted by his past he could be quite uncompromising when dealing with the bad guys. To contain the type of stories I wanted to throw Hunter into, I realised I needed a larger stage than the United Kingdom, and thought, “Hey, the USA is just what I need”. I’m stating the obvious, but the US has most everything when it comes to terrain, from frozen north to semi-tropical south, mountains, swamps, deserts, plains, you name it, and also diverse and varied settings from massive cities to small towns and even backwater communities. I also felt that many of my readers would buy into a kind of fictionalized version, being mostly familiar with the US as I was through books and Hollywood movies. You see, at that time I never expected to be published in the US, so was gearing towards a British readership, and did in fact get a publishing deal with Hodder in the UK. But imagine my surprise when William Morrow and Company (Harper Collins) picked up the book, and subsequent books in the series, in the USA. Suddenly I had a readership in the actual know about their country. I was a tad nervous to say the least, and waited for the barrage of comments putting me in my place about how I’d got (or should that be gotten?) everything wrong. Thankfully it didn’t happen.
OK, so I did have an American editor who helped me steer the books more to an American readership, and I’m forever indebted to him for all his hard work, but saying that the changes were mostly very small, apart from adapting Hunter so that he wasn’t so much of a Brit anymore, probably more Mid-Atlantic than ever I first wrote him. After a six books run, I switched US publishers to Down and Out Books, who to date have published a further four books in the series, most recently The Devil’s Anvil and are soon to publish No Safe Place – Joe Hunter 11 – and these books have only been minimally adapted and retain much of my original British script. By now I feel readers are familiar with Hunter, and his Brit mind set. Oh, and by the way, I’ve now become a regular visitor to US shores and intend to return many more times.
Matt Hilton quit his career as a police officer to pursue his love of writing tight, cinematic American-style thrillers. He is the author of the high-octane Joe Hunter thriller series, including The Devil’s Anvil – Joe Hunter 10 – published in June 2015 by Hodder and Stoughton and Blood Tracks, the first in a new series from Severn House publishers in November 2015. His first book, Dead Men’s Dust, was shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers’ Debut Book of 2009 Award, and was a Sunday Times bestseller, also being named as a ‘thriller of the year 2009’ by The Daily Telegraph. Dead Men’s Dust was also a top ten Kindle bestseller in 2013 and 2016. The Joe Hunter series is widely published by Hodder and Stoughton in UK territories, and by William Morrow and Company (Harper Collins) and Down and Out Books in the USA, and have been translated into German, Italian, Romanian and Bulgarian. As well as the Joe Hunter series, Matt has been published in a number of anthologies and collections, and has published novels in the supernatural/horror genre, namely Preternatural, Dominion, Darkest Hour and The Shadows Call. He has recently published the next Joe Hunter novel, No Safe Place, in May 2016, and his next Tess Grey novel, Painted Skins, in August 2016.