Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, David C. Dawson – David C Dawson writes contemporary thrillers with gay heroes in love at their core. His latest book For the Love of Lukeis a romantic suspense about an American who falls in love with a British man in London.
His debut novel The Necessary Deaths won a bronze medal for Best Mystery & Suspense in the FAPA awards. Rainbow Reviews said it was “an exciting read with complex characters”.
The second in the series, The Deadly Lies, was published last December.
David worked for the BBC as a journalist. He lives near Oxford in the UK, with his ageing Triumph motorbike and two cats.
Thanks so much, David, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
David C. Dawson: The Necessary Deaths is my first novel and it was published by Dreamspinner Press. I wrote it because I’d been reading a lot of gay literature in which most of the characters were very angst-ridden. I wanted to a good murder mystery with a heroic protagonist solving the murder. In my frustration I wrote one myself! Thanks to Dreamspinner it won a bronze award in a Florida literature competition. I was very chuffed!
JSC: If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
DCD: John Irving. I’ve been a big fan of his books ever since my twenties. I would love to know how he paints such rounded pictures of all his characters using dialogue. He’s an incredible writer and very versatile. My favourite of his would be In One Person featuring a bisexual protagonist. But he also wrote so many other wonderful books including Cider House Rules and The World According to Garp.
JSC: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story? Tell me about it.
DCD: Oh, yes! The Foreign Affair is set in Berlin, Germany during Folsom Europe, the annual leather and rubber fetish festival. THAT was a lot of fun! The book features a classical music concert in which all the participants and the audience are dressed in leather. It actually exists at Folsom Europe, and I discovered that porn star Dirk Caber is also a very talented musician!
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
DCD: I had a lot of lovely comments from readers for The Foreign Affair, the third in the Delingpole Trilogy. A theme of the book is grief, and one lovely reader wrote to tell me that I’d given her hope. That it was possible to have a life after a partner died. I shed a tear over that.
JSC: What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in writing your books?
DCD: I learned that readers own your books after they’re published! I’ve had so much correspondence over the years, and it’s hugely enjoyable. Even if a reader gives you critical feedback, it’s incredibly helpful. More than that, it shows they care.
JSC: Where do you like to write?
DCD: In my writing shed at the bottom of the garden. I converted it two years ago. To start with I furnished it with just a large squashy leather sofa and allowed myself no other luxuries. That’s changed! I now have a coffee and tea maker and an endless supply of cookies – my major weakness!
JSC: What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
DCD: I trained as a radio journalist with the BBC, and worked in newsrooms for several years before moving to television to make documentaries. In my romantic suspense novel For the Love of Luke one of the protagonists works as a television journalist at the BBC. While I was a student I worked as a gardener at a stately home for a few weeks. It was a lot of hard work in the first week, but then it fell down with rain for two weeks and so, along with the others working there, I spent a lot of time in a shed playing cards!
JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
DCD: There’s a long running radio series on the BBC in the UK called Desert Island Discs, which I listen to avidly. The host asks her guests a similar question. I would need: a laptop, an endless supply of coffee and an endless supply of cookies. (I thought about asking for my cat, but then I thought I would find new pets on the island!)
JSC: What action would your name be if it were a verb?
DCD: To Dawson = “To amble along or dawdle.” When I walk I’ve been told that I amble rather than walk purposefully. My mother told me that, when I was a child and she came to collect me from school, I was usually the last kid out! I’m a dreamer you see. I love my own world and so I’m always thinking when I’m walking along.
JSC: How does the world end?
DCD: When there are no more cookies left!
And now for David’s latest book: The Foreign Affair:
There’s a murderer stalking the gay bars of Berlin.
It’s September, the time of Folsom Europe, the city’s annual festival for gay men in leather.
And Berlin’s become a dangerous place for them.
British lawyer, and part-time sleuth, Dominic Delingpole is in town. He’s come to Berlin to visit Matty, the teenage son he first met only a year ago.
When Matty is arrested for the attacks, Dominic teams up with German lawyer Johann Hartmann, a good-looking man with a seductive charm.
As they battle to prove Matty’s innocence, Dominic and Johann discover the attacks are linked to a sinister, Russian-backed experiment.
But whose side is Hartmann really on?
Berlin, September 2019
If Dominic had known that death in all its untidiness was about to strike just a mile away from where he sat, he would have thought twice about revisiting this European city, with all the happy memories it once brought him.
He shifted his position on the hard wooden seat at the entrance to the cemetery, and stared absently at the line of headstones in front of him. The late afternoon sun shone through the trees, backlighting their leaves in a vivid display of green turning to autumn gold. The dappled light gave the cemetery an aura of peace and calm. Here, death was neatly ordered into grey rows, given colour with vases of flowers and faded photographs.
Today was an important day. The anniversary of a death. Dominic stood and followed the broad sweep of a gravelled path as it swept around in a broad curve on the eastern side of the cemetery towards a newly created garden. Half way along, he stopped by a small, stone basin, set into the boundary wall. Above the basin was a brass tap. Dominic set down his canvas bag, and from it he removed a glass vase and a bundle of roses. He held the vase under the tap, filled it with water, and placed it on the flat edge of the stone basin. He removed the roses from their wrapping, and arranged them as best he could in the vase.
Flower arranging was not Dominic’s strength, and he struggled to make the display look passable. After several minutes he abandoned his attempt. Anyway, the wind blowing up from the east would quickly rearrange his handiwork. He stuffed the flowers’ wrapping into the canvas bag, picked up the vase and resumed his brisk walk along the path.
A hundred yards further on, Dominic stepped off the path and onto the grass. He followed a rough track that was worn into it by regular visitors who diligently cared for the graves of their loved ones. He kicked through the leaves, already falling now September had arrived. A short distance from the track, he arrived at a small, black headstone. Its inscription was simple:
To my lover and friend
Dominic stopped to face the headstone. He breathed deeply, and the scent of wild blueberry shrubs flooded his nostrils.
“Here we are again,” said Dominic softly. “I promised I’d return.”
Dominic dropped the canvas bag onto the wet grass in front of the gravestone, and knelt on the makeshift mat. Carefully he placed the vase of roses behind the low gravestone, and adjusted some of the blooms, not wanting a single one to be obscured. Satisfied with his arrangement, he sat back on his haunches, the palms of his hands resting on his thighs.
“Who’d have thought it?” he said with a smile. “Here I am, once again on my knees in front of you.”
“But it’s too late for that now, my friend.” He said. “More than a year too late.”
Dominic looked at the name on the gravestone for a moment, before bowing his head in thought.
Dominic looked up when he heard the voice, and turned his head towards the path. A young man stood with his hands in his pockets. He wore a collarless, white shirt with its sleeves rolled up, narrow-leg black trousers tucked into a pair of heavy black boots, the laces half tied. Despite the heat of the afternoon, he wore a Russian ushanka hat, with the earflaps tied together on top. His long brown hair hung down over his shoulders.
“Matty!” Dominic stood, and looked at his watch. “I’m not late for our supper date, am I?”
“No, Dad.” The young man stepped off the path and walked towards Dominic. “We’ve got plenty of time. I just thought I’d come and pay my respects as well.” Matthias looked around him. “All the years I’ve been in Berlin. But it wasn’t until last year I came here for the first time. The last resting place of Marlene Dietrich.”
“I can’t imagine a cemetery in Schöneberg was top of your must-see list,” smiled Dominic. He opened his arms wide, and embraced his son. Matthias towered over him. Dominic was six foot, but Matthias was another three inches taller. They held each other until Dominic patted his son’s back, and gently released his arms.
“I only met him once.” Matthias looked towards the gravestone. “He was very kind to me. I can’t imagine what you must feel, Dad”.
“Apart from Jonathan, he was my closest friend,” said Dominic. “Bernhardt was very good to me over the years. Which shows the kind of man he was. After all, he didn’t have to be. Not after I ran out on him.”
“Oh, come on, Dad,” said Matthias. “You were twenty years old, and he was your—”. He hesitated, and looked away to the gravestone.
“After your mother? Yes, Matthias. He was my second great love.”