EVERYONE has a story to tell, but not all people have a book inside them. Alan Carter, author of critically acclaimed Prime Cut, had a gut feeling he needed to get out the story that was inside him. Ultimately, it took a move to Hopetoun, a WA coastal mining town, for him to do so.
For Carter, who was born in Sunderland, UK and came to Australia in 1991, moving to the small country town provided the perfect opportunity to dig deep and bring that story to light.
“(My wife) got a job as a teacher at a local school and we all moved down there. I was, at the same time, doing my day job as a documentary director and we were going in all different directions,” he said.
Realising that the situation was ill suited to family life, Carter said his wife presented him with an opportunity – to be a “kept man”. In exchange for doing all the housekeeping and child-minding for a year while she paid the bills, he would also be able to devote time to writing.
“I got to write the book that I thought was inside me,” he said.
He laughed. “The chores only took about 10 minutes a day so that was dead easy.”
Hopetoun also provided the setting for Prime Cut, an edgy crime thriller introducing disgraced police service golden boy DSC Cato Kwong, who finds himself investigating more than one murder in the booming town.
“I was overwhelmed by the landscape… I felt privileged to be able to create this story and place it in that setting,” Carter said.
Having heard stories of how hard it could be to get published, the feedback generated by his first novel was “beyond my wildest expectations”, according to Carter.
“I wasn’t really expecting to get it into print,” he explained, adding that the publishing experience was “pretty daunting”.
Being shortlisted for the 2010 UK Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award and placing runner-up in 2010 Penguin Crime Writing Competition smoothed the way somewhat.
“To have those under my belt as an unpublished author gave me a leg up,” he said.
The novel went on to win the 2011 Ned Kelly Crimewriting Award for Best First Fiction and Carter is now half-way through the second draft of a second DSC Cato Kwong novel, due in 2013, with a third book contracted.
His reserve almost (but not quite) masks his dry wit – it’s very subtle, unlike his novel. He laughed as he admitted the body count in his second novel was “slightly higher”; the coming one is set in Fremantle because he “couldn’t keep killing people in Hopetoun”.
“It would become a bit Midsomer Murders,” he said. “I needed a bigger population base to keep it sustainable.”
The crime genre was a fait accompli for Carter – always an avid reader of crime novels and watcher of crime television shows, it was always going to be what worked for him. He drew on his documentary experience, reading and watching when describing police procedures.
“I kind of just made stuff up and made it seem like it was authentic,” he said.
From the high praise already heaped on Prime Cut, his technique worked a treat.