Interview de Sam Millar : The Redemption Factory (VO)

Sam MillarSam, could you please tell us about your childhood ?
My mother walked out the door when I was eight years old, never to be seen again. It was tough, but you soon learn to adapt to the cards life deals you. I was brought up by my father, brothers and sisters. Thankfully, my father was a great reader of books and encouraged me to always be reading. Books saved my young life.

Could you tell us about your country and how are detective novels considered in Ireland ?
I think Ireland was slow to appreciate the fact that they have great detective writers. Now, thankfully, that has changed, and the crime genre is beginning to be recognised as literature and not just entertainment.

In your two novels we can feel all the scars of your past as an IRA militant. Can you tell us of these difficult moments of your life (14 years of jail, many vexations…), and your incarceration’s conditions… I don’t know much about this period of your country’s history.
Being Irish, I have always believed that England/Britain should not be permitted to occupy our country, and that all Irish people have a right and duty to fight any occupier. Would the French allow the English or Nazis to occupy their beautiful county? No, of course not! For daring to fight Britain, I was sent to their harshest prison, the notorious H-Blocks, for fourteen years. As a political prisoner, I was kept naked, beaten and tortured each day and never permitted to see any of my family members. I was locked up for 24 hours per day. At times, I thought I would go insane, but my belief in what I had done as a freedom fighter, kept me from going mad. My best-selling memoir, On The Brinks, tells the story of what prison was like. It is a very graphic book. Thankfully, it is now being translated into French.

If you were a young Irish guy now, will you go into action as the same way ?
Yes, I still believe it is your duty to free your country from any foreign country occupying it. Despite this, I would not like to see any young Irish man or woman go through the hell I went through, being tortured every day. I would ask them to try and find an alternative to force. I would hate to see any young Irish man or woman in prison.

In France, when we hear the word IRA, we often think of terrorism. What that inspires you ?
This is a great misconception created by Governments and Media which wants to keep the status quo. The IRA are not terrorists, but freedom fighters. The British call anyone who fights them terrorist. George Washington was a terrorist to the British. Don’t forget, the Nazis called the French resistance fighters terrorists. So if the French resistance fighter were terrorists, then so was I. But here is a perfect quote from Nelson Mandela who was called a terrorist by Margaret Thatcher. « I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists. I tell them that I was also a terrorist yesterday, but, today, I am admired by the very people who said I was one. »

What do your family think of your novels ?
My family think my books are too graphic. They do not like all the blood and gore. My wife refuses to read them. But I write from experience, and if I did not include the violence and the blood, I would not be writing truthfully.

The redemption factoryI love your character Paul Goodman in your novel Redemption Factory, could you please tell us about him ?!
Paul Goodman was based on a good friend on mine from childhood, whose father was killed mistakenly for being an informer. That is why I wrote The Redemption Factory, to help right a wrong. Some of The Redemption Factory is from my childhood, in the abattoir, etc. So there is a piece of me in Paul Goodman, as well.

Did you visit butcheries to be able to detail so much your novel’s places ?
I got my experience of the grisly abattoir in the story because I worked in one as a young boy. I still have nightmares of that terrible place. On The Brinks gives all the grisly details of what it was like to work in such a terrible place.

You managed to tell two stories which cross each other in your novel. The main characters are Paul Goodman and Kennedy, how did the idea come ?
Kennedy was based on an IRA man I knew who carried a great guilt for killing the wrong man. The man he killed was labelled an informer for the British, but this was discovered, years later to be wrong. The man was totally innocent. Kennedy carried the guilt, hoping one day to be able repay for his terrible mistake. That was why he saved Paul Goodman. It was his redemption.

Your last novel is really violent, do you think so much violence is needed to make a good thriller ?
I have always been criticized for the violence in my books, but I write from experience in life. What you see is what you get. My early life was filled with violence, and so I write what I know.

You won the Brian Moore Short Award in 1998, could you tell us about this great moment ? For your last novel, you are selected for the French Grand prix de littérature policière 2011, how do you feel ?
I have been very fortunate in life with my writing, winning awards. The Brain Moore Award gave me confidence of being a writer and to finally believe in myself, and help erase all the self-doubting I had. To be selected for the Grand prix de littérature policière 2011 is incredible. I still can’t believe I have been selected. It is a dream come true. When I was told by my publisher in Paris, I couldn’t believe it. A great honour. I am very humbled to be on the list, and thank those who thought me worthy of such an honour.

I’m so curious… what are your habits when you write ? (in the evening ? in the morning ? sitting at your desk ?)
I write early in the morning (about 5am), and continue as long as my mind permits. I drink lots of coffee. Play a little jazz on the radio. Afterwards, I go back on the streets, listening to people talk. They help keep my books real.

Could you please tell us about your writing’s projects ? Will your French publisher continue to translate your books ?
My writing projects at the moment are seeing the screenplay for On The Brinks getting completed. I have a controversial play coming out in Ireland early next year. The British Government is trying to have the play banned, and they haven’t even seen it yet! I am hoping to see all my books being translated into French, over the coming years. No one does noir like the French, so when you have your book translated into that language, it gives you a great sense of achievement and pride. I’m hoping to get my Karl Kane books on the screen.

Is there a project to turn one of your book into a movie ?
My memoir, On The Brinks was bought by Warner Brothers. But they came under pressure from the Bush Administration, claiming the book « glorified terrorism » (the British Government asked Bush to get the film stopped). So Warner Brothers pulled out of it. My agent is re-writing the screenplay for it at the moment, and people in Hollywood are showing interest in it again, now that Bush has gone. In all honesty, I would rather see it made by a French studio because they would keep it gritty and real. Who knows ? Perhaps a French film director reading this will make it into a film ! Also, my Karl Kane books are being looked at to see if a movie can be made from them.

Can you tell us about Fayard Noir, how did you meet your French publisher ? And Patrick Raynal, who is one of the author of reference in France ?
Fayard were the first French publisher to translate my books. They’ve done a terrific job, as the books are beautifully done. Patrick Raynal is held in great esteem in Ireland, so when I heard he was doing the translation, I was delighted. He is a terrific writer. I finally got to meet Patrick in Ireland when we were staying at a well-known publisher’s home. We became friends. He is a very generous and patient man.

Would you like to introduce to French people a future great Irish author of polar ?
Garbham Downey is an author to watch for in the future. Terrific writing, funny and very original.

Is there any international subject which makes you angry ?
Injustices around the world make me angry. Peoples’ countries occupied by foreign governments. What the banks have done, the corruption of it all, makes my blood boil.

For people who hasn’t read you yet, can you tell us about your first book published in France Poussière tu seras ?
Poussière tu seras, was about a political cover-up in Belfast known as The Kincora Scandal. British politicians and clergy ran a paedophile ring in Belfast where young people were sexually abused. Because no one wanted to say anything about it, I decided to turn it into a novel, hoping to give those abused a voice they did not have. I was threatened by paramilitaries, when the book came finally was published.

What are your favourite music and favourite song ?
Motown. Jazz. My all-time favourite song is (SITTIN’ ON) THE DOCK OF THE BAY, written (and song) by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper.

Paul Goodman likes to play snooker in Redemption factory, it is also one of your passion ?
Yes, I used to play snooker for money when I was young. I was very good, and did a bit of hustling. Nowadays, I just watch it on TV.

And my last question : what would you like to say to your French fans ?
I had never been to France until recently, as my movements are restricted by the British Government. I have just returned from Soleil Noir’s crime Festival in Frontignan, and was totally blown away by the courtesy and warmth of the people and there. I met so many great authors including Fred and Jo Vargas, who were kind enough to buy my books and come to my talks ! How cool is that ? I wanted to stay forever ! I am hoping to make France a place I can go back to, time after time.

Sam Millar’s website :