Interview with Jeffrey Siger, author of AN AEGEAN APRIL

Mike Barson In Conversation with Jeffrey Siger, author of AN AEGEAN APRIL, ninth in the Inspector Andreas Kaldis 

1) When you made the decision to start a crime series, why did you select Greece as the setting for the stories? (I believe that was a first…)

Jeff Siger: When I started writing about Andreas Kaldis, I didn’t intend on creating a series.  I thought I’d be writing a stand-alone novel telling the story of a Greek island I knew intimately.  I wanted to write about the people, culture and politics of Mykonos, and only settled upon the mystery format because it struck me as the best vehicle for exploring how a tourist island society might respond to a threat to its newfound economic glory.  

As for why I continue writing about Greece, the country provides an inexhaustible source of material for the two central elements of my series: (1) a serious, modern day issue that my characters must confront and overcome, and (2) a perspective on that issue to be found in the ancient past.  There is no place on earth more closely linked to the ancient world than Greece—it is the birthplace of the gods, the cradle of European civilization, the bridge between East and West.  Spartan courage, Athenian democracy, Olympic achievement, and Trojan intrigue all call it home.

As for its place in the modern world, just look at a map, and you’ll immediately realize how many of the greatest issues facing the modern world are centered in Greece’s Mediterranean neighborhood.  Indeed, I’d venture to say no western country is closer to what challenges our planet than Greece. It is a paradise for mystery writers…as more seem to be realizing every day. 🙂

2) Every mystery writer has a number of favorite predecessors, but can you name two or three whose work was particularly helpful in laying the groundwork for Inspector Kaldis and his police force?

Jeff Siger: That’s such a hard question for me to answer, because those I think of as having most influenced my style of writing—aside from Conan Doyle––are not commonly associated with the crime writing genre.  Cormac McCarthy is a favorite of mine on so many levels, as is Steinbeck, and I admire the pacing of Tom Clancy (who’s of course one of us), but in my approach to dialog I think of myself as influenced more by the cadence of poets (Robert Frost, believe it or not) and the decisive rigor of playwrights (like August Wilson). I see Kaldis and his crew as having naturally evolved without any conscious input on my part.  Having said all that, my work is most often compared to that of Ed McBain and Donna Leon, two legends with whom I am deeply honored to be compared.

3) One trademark of the Kaldis series is the setting shifting from one Greek isle to another… Aren’t you in danger of running out of options at some point?

Jeff Siger: In order to run out of Greek isle locales (not to mention the plethora of utterly intriguing mainland venues), I’d have to live more than a thousand years…and that’s at a two-book-a-year pace. 🙂

4) Another of your distinctive trademarks of the Kaldis series is your use of a hot-button issue as the engine that drives each novel. In the previous book it was the threat of a junta by the Greek military. In this book it’s the mistreatment and exploitation of the immigrants who are flowing into Greece in ever greater numbers year by year.

Can you give us a preview of the issue that will be explored in the next Kaldis novel?

Jeff Siger: So many things happening in our world call out for Kaldis to intervene, but at the moment there’s a volatile idea percolating in my mind that’s got its hooks deeply into me.  It’s a fictional plot line that I sense might prove to be true, as has been the case with many plot lines in my other books.  This one ties the history of Thessaloniki—Greece’s second largest modern city (in Byzantine times, second only to Constantinople in importance)––together with mysterious events taking place in modern day Israel.  That’s all I have to say on that for now. 🙂

5) Living half the year in Greece as you do, you have a very special perspective on the issues that most concern them at this point in time. Do you ever have a hankering to write a novel that features an American setting? And if so, in what section of the country would you like to have it set?

Jeff Siger: In Greece, I’m blessed with contacts who give me inside perspectives on what goes on behind the scenes. That’s hard to replicate back in the US. However, if I were to place a book in an American setting, I’d likely use the northwestern New Jersey farm community I call home when not in Greece.  It has so much mood to offer, not the least of which is that generated from its modern history as the place where Friday the Thirteenth was filmed…and folks actually named their sons Jason in his honor.

AN AEGEAN APRIL is published by Poisoned Pen Press