Tim Baker’s debut novel, the much-discussed thriller Fever City, follows the desperate efforts of a disgraced ex-cop and a ruthless mob hitman to rescue the kidnapped son of America’s richest man. But the two men soon become ensnared by a sinister cabal intent on seizing power by killing President Kennedy.
Where are you now?
At my desk, facing east onto the Mediterranean.
Where and when do you do most of your writing?
Like our planet, I revolve around the sun. In summer I start at 5am, working at a table that overlooks a little port on the western side of the house, because the eastern side heats up so quickly. I work till around 10:30 then go for a swim and have lunch. In the afternoon I switch to the eastern side with its view onto the sea. In winter, when it can be surprisingly chilly, I reverse the order. Having neither air-conditioning nor adequate heating ensures a certain celestial harmony.
If you have one, what is your pre-writing ritual?
Pretending to myself that I know what I’m doing.
Full-time or part-time?
Full-time – occasionally to my financial peril.
Pen or keyboard?
Sorry romantics and Luddites but it has to be the keyboard. Once you’ve learnt to touch-type, there’s no going back to the pen.
How do you relax when you’re writing?
I like to go for a swim in the sea or a walk with the dog between writing sessions. Swimming is a great combination of stretching and meditation. When swimming, I’ll often solve a problem that appears insurmountable when sitting in front of a computer.
How would you pitch your latest book in up to 25 words?
A disgraced ex-cop’s frantic search for a kidnapped child collides with a plot to kill JFK.
Who do you write for?
I find a voice for a book and then get going, so I suppose I’m in the service of that voice.
Who do you share your work in progress with?
I don’t share my drafts with anyone until they’re at a reasonably advanced stage. The first reader is always my wife, Julie. Then when it’s crunch time it goes to my agent, Tom Witcomb.
Which literary character do you wish you created?
Odysseus because he’s so complex, so infuriating and so resilient.
Share with us your favourite line/s of dialogue, poetry or prose.
A quote from ‘Little Gidding’ by T.S. Eliot has had a lifelong resonance:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
And the last line of The Sun Also Rises: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
Which book/s have you most recently read and enjoyed?
I never read fiction when I’m writing, so between drafts I tend to devour many books at once. I’ve recently finished 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo and A Game For the Living by Patricia Highsmith.
What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, Clarice Lispector’s Collected Stories and The Travelers by Chris Pavone.
Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?
I’ve let down all my South American friends by not being able to read Borges, despite many valiant attempts.
Which book do you wish you’d written?
The Iliad because I was fascinated with Greek Mythology as a child.
Which book/s do you treasure the most?
A Shakespeare and Company edition of Ulysses that I found in one of the second-hand stalls on the banks of the Seine for ten francs, and a signed copy of Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess which has a lot of personal history to it.
What is the last work you read in translation?
The Master of Knots by Massimo Carlotto, translated by Christopher Woodall. Carlotto’s work reminds me of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels in its convincing portrayal of a fragmented, unjust society dominated by prejudice and corruption.
Which story collections would you particularly recommend?
Complete Short Stories by Elizabeth Taylor, Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women and The Gourmet and Other Stories of Modern China by Wenfu Lu. I regret that I only came across these writers after their deaths, but rejoice that their work is being widely read.
What will you read next?
Silver Bullets by the Mexican author Elmer Mendoza, and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.
What are you working on next?
A thriller about two women’s efforts to combat political corruption and narco terrorism in Mexico, and a sequel to Fever City.
Imagine you’re the host of a literary supper, who would your dinner guests be (living or dead, real or fictional)?
Lady Brett Ashley, James Bond, Anna Karenina, Dr Hannibal Lecter, Kit Moresby, Tom Ripley, Lady Macbeth and most importantly Jay Gatsby – because someone has to pay for this party. I’d make sure I had a camera, an autograph book, and a seat close to the door…
If you weren’t writing you’d be…?
A beachcomber, with a good book waiting for me under a palm tree.
Tim Baker was born in Sydney and lived in Paris for many years before moving to the South of France with his wife, their son and a rescue dog and cat. He has worked on film projects in Australia, India, China, Mexico and Brazil and run consular operations in France and North Africa for the Australian embassy, liaising with international authorities on cases involving murder, kidnap, terrorism and disappearances. Fever City is published by Faber & Faber. Read more.