We talk CARVER with Tom Cain

Out now from Bantam Press, CARVER is the latest high-octane thriller from Tom Cain, an explosive episode in the great series featuring Samuel Carver, who this time round is faced with the battle against the threat of financial terrorism.

Malachi Zorn is playing the markets, checking which will offer the biggest payouts in the event of a disaster.

Was the Lehman Brothers collapse more than met the eye? And, if it was, then London looks set to be a huge new target.

A fast paced, adrenaline ride of a book, but one that also has an intelligent plot behind the great action sequences.

I was very pleased that author, Tom Cain, was able to change down a gear to spare some time to chat about the book, before he raced off to work on the next one.

As you can see to the left, he’s also dropping by at some other great blogs for the next few days – so do check those out too.






Firstly, I’d just like to say how much I enjoyed CARVER – a great action thriller and a fantastic book jacket too – I’m thinking this will be your biggest hit to date and, with that cover, is certain to bring you some Jack Reacher and Spooks fans to discover Samuel Carver.

Thanks! That’s kind of you to say and great for me to hear.

With many crime authors, the hero seems to be a taller, braver, more handsome version of themselves – how much of Tom Cain is Carver and, if you met him in a bar, would you get on with him?

Well, I suppose there is a degree to which Carver is a massively improved, idealized, fantasy version of Cain – he’d be a pretty rubbish hero if it were the other way around! Appearance-wise, for example, he has my hair (only more of it) and build (only less of that). We also have in common that Carver is a freelance. In the first book, The Accident Man he takes a fateful job that he doesn’t fancy because he doesn’t want some other bastard getting it. That’s a feeling I know VERY well! I also gave him my bizarre first day at boarding school, aged eight, which is the start of his slippery slope towards a career as a professional assassin. And with that came some of my neuroses: Carver’s combination of absolute confidence in his ability to do a job with massive uncertainty about actual human emotions is all me. On the other hand, I freely admit to knowing nothing whatever about guns, fighting, explosives or any other crunchy macho details of Carver’s working life: that’s all pure research on my part.

Congratulations on one of the nastiest scenes I’ve read so far this year with the flaming bottle of scent!

Glad you liked it! I thought quite hard about how far to go in that scene, and how much the wielder of that flaming scent should feel troubled by their actions. Which leads us neatly to …

To what extent, if any, do you censor your own work? And are there areas/subjects you would not want Carver to tackle in a book for reasons of taste, religion, politics or purely self-censorship?

Very interesting question … There has only been one time in the five Carver books so far when I’ve written a scene so insanely violent that my editor said, ‘We really can’t have that.’ And what made it even sicker was that I was laughing out loud as I wrote it. Yes, I know … worrying! In general, I take the view that if a scene makes sense; its actions are justified by the circumstances; and the characters behave consistently with their personalities, then I’ll do it. So the scene I just mentioned, which was written for the first Carver book The Accident Man, got scrapped because it was tonally jarring with the rest of the book: it came from a different, more horrific kind of genre. Contrariwise, that ‘flaming perfume’ you mentioned seemed justified by the circumstances of the plot, and was consistent with the two people involved: so it stayed. I certainly would not censor a subject-area on the grounds of it being politically incorrect or liable to offend. In fact, that would probably make me more likely to go there! I mean, Carver actually uses Holy Communion wafers as a means of assassination in the fourth book, Dictator, whose villain is a grossly disfigured African (disfigured, as it happened, by Carver himself). So I’m really not very inhibited …

Obviously your journalism background feeds your fiction with much of it taking a leap from events in the news.


Has there ever been a storyline you’ve been forced to change due to changes in the real-time news events, or any story you’ve had to abandon because the real news overshadowed the fiction?

No … though there were both publishers and movie studios who shied away from The Accident Man since it’s very clearly inspired by the death of Princess Diana – despite her name never being mentioned in the book. The tough thing for any author, is the relatively slow speed of book production. I keep my deadlines as tight as possible, but even then there are months between my finishing a book and it appearing, and then another year between hardback and paperback editions. So, for example, I thought of the idea for Assassin, which features a death-plot against a black US president, when Barack Obama was still a rank outsider for the Democratic nomination. By the time it came out he was in the White House. Then again, you can have moments of good luck. I mean, Carver is about a financier trying to create a new global crash by fixing the financial markets and its cover is an image of London in flames. Turns out, that was pretty topical!

I was particularly drawn to the sequences at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (as I worked there on signage for ten years) – so was a very surreal moment when you described door signs for ‘Ball Boys and Girls’ and ‘Pilates’ as I remember installing those personally – so that may be the closest I get to being in one of your books (although please bear me in mind for a minor character in the future 🙂

What an amazing coincidence! It’s funny – as I wrote that detail I thought people might think it was unrealistic. But as you and I both know, those signs really are exactly where I say they are …

You describe the grounds in great detail and it seemed to me to be more than a mere visitor’s knowledge of the grounds and layout – do you have a history with the club? Or do you play?

Let’s just say that I had a little help with those scenes, though I cannot reveal my sources. And yes, I do play tennis – very occasionally and very badly.

With locations such as the Tennis Club, do you have to have those sections of the book ‘vetted’ in any way to ensure that no security secrets are being given away?

I’ve never been vetted, as such. But I do take care not to make things too accurate. For example, anyone who used the bomb-making scenes in Carver as an instruction manual for building real bombs would discover that what I describe is very nearly spot-on … but not quite. That said, what I find interesting is not that anyone ever tries to prevent me putting stuff out there, but that so many people who have a professional interest in thwarting terrorists, sabotage, catastrophic accidents and so on give me such great advice on how to create the exact mayhem they’re trying to avoid.

All of your books have fantastic action set pieces – any interest in films of the Carver books? And I’m sure you get asked this a lot…..who would you like to see portray Carver on the screen?

The Carver books have been round the block in Hollywood. Two major studios have optioned them at one time or another. One very, very major director whom I cannot name wanted to make Accident Man, but the studio with which he has an exclusive deal became nervous about the Diana thing. Right now, I’m looking into a possible TV series, hopefully on a US cable network. As to actors … I originally conceived of Carver as a Daniel Craig lookalike, only for Craig to get the Bond gig, which is why poor Sam ended up looking a bit like me! Then I thought of Christian Bale, only for him to become Batman. So … if I were looking for a British actor, Dominic West would one possibility, or Spooks’ Richard Armitage. But the fact is, given the time it takes to get one of these new thriller franchises off the ground, whoever ends up playing Carver is probably still at school. And given the control, or lack of it, that authors tend to have in casting decisions, he (or even she) won’t be anyone I’ve even heard of, let alone considered for the part.

At what point did the Lehman Brothers collapse present itself to you as a possible story start point? Do you pick up on those events as they happen and file them away for future use, or was it something that took a while to come to you as something you could now refer back to as some time had passed?

Weirdly, I had the germ of the idea for Carver – ie. a financial trader tries to engineer a collapse in world markets so as to profit from massive short-selling bets – before the collapse of Lehmans. It was actually one of the possible ideas for the sequel to The Accident Man, which ended up being The Survivor. But I couldn’t work out how to get Carver, who’s an action hero, involved in something which was fundamentally about numbers and computers. Ad I didn’t think most people would understand, still less care about that kind of banking shenanigan. But then came Lehmans and the crash of 2008 … and suddenly everything changed!

What can we expect next from Tom Cain / Samuel Carver ?

A shock … I mean, a really seismic shock for anyone who has been following the series. I know precisely what it is. I’m just working on the details of how to make it happen … And that’s all I’m saying!

Thanks for stopping by, Tom, and wishing you a huge success with this explosive addition to the series.

And….If you want a chance to win a copy of CARVER, I have one to give away thanks to Bantam Press/Transworld – just leave a comment below and I’ll pick a name out of the hat in about a week’s time.



Filed under Book Review, Interviews

3 responses to “We talk CARVER with Tom Cain

  1. Shaun farrell

    Seismic shocks!awesome!

  2. Ian Mackenzie

    Ingesting to get an insight into how stories in the real world become the germ of an idea for the books. Huge fan of the books and I got so many people to read The Accident Man as I loved it so much!! Keep writing them Tom!!

  3. …and the winner of the copy of CARVER is….. Ian Mackenzie – congrats Ian, send your address via here or by DM via twitter @keithbwalters and I’ll ask those lovely peeps at Transworld to get it sent your way. 🙂

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