Interview de Simon Lewis : Bad trafic (VO)

Bad traffic - Simon LewisCould you please tell us about your childhood and  your country : the Wales ?
I was privileged to grow up in a small town in the countryside. But it was a little boring, so I read a lot of books, wrote a lot of stories, and watched a lot of birds.

How are polars considered in the Wales ?
Well,  in Britain there is a big appetite for crime fiction but in some respects it is not taken seriously as a genre, and regarded as second tier, a bit trashy, and not very worthy of consideration by the literary elites. Unlike in France.

Could you tell us about your passion for China ?
It was an accident. I went to India after college, didn’t have enough cash to get home, so wound up in Hong Kong, as a lot of travellers did back then, working to save some money. Then when I had enough to leave, I figured I may as well go home overland, meaning through China. And I found an intriging place, and a lot of people I couldn’t speak to. So when I got home I decided to learn Chinese. And that led to a job writing a guidebook to the place…

What is the polar’s situation in China ? Are there any Chinese authors you would like to talk about ?
There’s a great Chinese writer called Lu Xun, who wrote at the beginning of the 20th century. He was a doctor, but he took up writing to ‘cure the people’ – and he wrote satirical, socially aware stories in ordinary, demotic language.  I would like to think he is my literary exemplar. If you want to give him a go, start with, ‘the Story of Ah Q’.

How the idea of talking about human traffics came to you for your book Bad trafic in Actes Noirs edition ?
I was deeply shocked by two news stories: one concerned the suffocation of dozens of Chinese migrants in a container truck in Dover, the other was the mass drowning of exploited Chinese migrant workers at Morecombe Bay. I felt that this was a terrible scandal happening right under peoeple’s noses, that urgently needed to be written about. If Dickens was alive, I felt, he would tackle it. And I realised that with my knowledge of Chinese, this was a subject that I could research.

Do such traffics still exist in England ?
Trafficking is big business and very profitable, there are still many Chinese who will pay to be smuggled over here – some are then horribly exploited. I could not believe the size of the trade when I started looking into it.

Could you tell us about the two characters of the novel who are really charming : Jian and Ding Ming ?
Jian is an arrogant, bullying policeman who comes to the UK to find his missing daughter. But he doesn’t speak English, so he kidnaps a trafficked migrant who does, Ding Ming, and he forces Ding Ming to help him. Jian is a cynic, used to being powerful; over here he is an outlaw. Ding Ming is a naif who must grow up fast.

Simon LewisHow did you start writing polar ?
I am naturally drawn to fast paced, genre plots, and to writing about what is hidden or secret or dark – so polar is the obvious choice.

I’m curious : what are your literary projects ? And what about a second novel in France ? I can’t wait !
I have been writing filmscripts recently, taking a break from novels. But there will be another one coming out soon.

Do your family read your novels ?
Yes, and they think they are okay, but my aunt does not like the swearing.

Is there any Welsh author you’d like to talk about ? And why ?
The Welsh have a reputation for lyricism. Dylan Thomas is a fine example.

Can you tell us about your meeting with the French publisher Actes Sud ?
I am very lucky to have such a fine publisher, and they are very supportive.

What are your habits when you write ? (in the evening ? in the morning ? sitting at your desk ?)
I write in cafes, and try to do it in working hours. And I try to write something every day.

You came to France for the Festival of Polar in Villeneuve lez Avignon in 2010, what do you think of France ? And its polars’s readers ?
It was a great festival, and the people were very welcoming and curious.

Is there any international subject which makes you angry ?
Plenty of things. I think inequalities in wealth, at the moment, should be making everyone angry ; and the fact that these are increasing, not declining. And I travel a lot, and these days I see a lot of environmental degredation everywhere, that is worrying.

What are your favourite music and favourite song ?
My music tastes are old fashioned. I still listen just to the music that affected me when I was growing up, so nineties indie; if there is a favourite album I guess it is the Stone Roses.

What is your favourite movie ?
Well of course there are dozens, but I particularly love a good crime film; the last great one I saw was Heat. The best crime film, though, is Double Indemnity.

If you were on a desert island lost in the ocean, what polar will you take for only company ?
If it is the only book I would have to read, I should take a long one, yes ? I think something by Elmore Leonard, perhaps Killshot. I could read that a lot. It’s funny and well written.

And the last question : would you like to share an anecdote about a meeting with one of your reader or another writer.
I once was stopped by the police for behaving suspiciously – it was late and I was watching a fox. They searched me, and for some reason believed that I had given them a false identity. I used my novel to prove who I was, pointing to the author photo on the back. They apologised and promised to read it. So it got me out of trouble once.

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