After reading this debut, we had to name Black River our Fiction Book of the Month for June but to discover more behind the story, read on and hear it in Matthew’s own words.
How did your background as a journalist help inform Black River?
MS: It helped me with research—I interviewed a lot of cops and forensic doctors about their work. I also used a couple of things I’d seen over the years covering murder stories and trials. And it obviously helped me depict the character of the journalist and his role in a newsroom.
We love how Black River has dual protagonists with Adam Bowman (journalist) and Detective Sergeant Riley – how do these different perspectives add to a crime novel?
MS: I think it helps develop character, but also drive plot. The reader watches Bowman through Riley: is he what he seems? Should she be working with him, or treating him as a suspect? And Bowman has backstory. From his perspective, readers know something went wrong with his family, but they don’t know what. Riley starts to unravel that mystery. The dual points of view also allowed me to develop the theme of how the media and the police collude on an investigation, how they use each other.
Do you think we should forgive you for turning Sydney’s sparkling river system into the playground for the Blue Moon Killer?
MS: Probably not. But I hope readers who know the area, enjoy seeing it on the page. And I hope readers who aren’t familiar with the geography find it intriguing. Geography plays a big role in the police investigation, particularly the river and a tributary creek. I loved having them snake through the plot, connecting things.
You grew up living on the sprawling campus of a boys boarding school – when did you think to turn that experience into a fictional location, and a sinister one at that?
MS: I had the idea bobbing around in my head for a few years: that something bad happened on the campus of a school and a journalist who lived at the school was sent out to report on the incident. I had an idyllic childhood growing up at The King’s School as the son of teachers. The story is sinister, but hopefully my love of the place comes through too.
Can we expect to see Adam Bowman and Detective Sergeant Reilly again (we hope so!)?
MS: Yes. Riley is the protagonist of my second book. I’m about halfway through. Bowman hasn’t shown up yet, but Riley thinks about him. If he doesn’t turn up in book two (and he still might, I don’t know), there’s always book three!
Black River is available online and at your local Dymocks store now.