Tim Baker – Fever City – Podcast

Tim Baker speaks to the Co-op Chat about his latest novel, Fever City.


If you took James Ellroy at his most imaginative and Oliver Stone at his most conspiratorial, and mixed them up in a supersized martini shaker, you would produce the vivid writing, explosive events, and irresistible entertainment of Fever City. Violent, vivid, visceral: Fever City is a high-octane, nightmare journey through a Mad Men-era America of dark powers, corruption and conspiracy.

Tim Baker has lived in Rome and Madrid before moving to Paris, where he wrote about jazz. He later ran consular operations in France and North Africa for the Australian embassy, liaising with international authorities on cases involving murder, kidnap, terrorism and disappearances. He has worked on film projects in India, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and China and currently lives in the South of France with his wife, their son, and two rescue animals, a dog and a cat. www.coop.com.au/fever-city/9780571323852


Speaker 1:
You are listening to the coop book podcast.

 

Rob:
I would like to welcome Tim Buckley to the coop Ted. Hello Tim.

 

Tim:
Hi Rob thanks for having me.

 

Rob:
The pleasure and now Tim through the wonders of [Monte 00:00:26] technologies is actually and friends. Where exactly are you and friends Tim?

 

Tim:
I’m in a little coastal village in between [nice 00:00:32] and Monaco and the French Riviera.

 

Rob:
As an Australian by birth anyway it’s not too unfamiliar is it?

 

Tim:
No not all. In fact there’s a lot Australian vegetation here there’s no food pantries and eucalyptus trees and if we believe and got some cockatoos that escape from the local zoo so it feels just like home.

 

Rob:
We are not here to talk about the wonders of Southern France. Your [deadly 00:01:00] novel favourite city has just been released. Tell us a bit about it.

 

Tim:
Sure I will be happy to. It’s a thriller and at the heart of the book are three mysteries. The first is in 1960 and it concerns the kidnapping of the only son of Americas richest and most hated man. The second mystery concerns who was conspiring to assassinate JFK. Then the third mystery is certain the modern day. It’s about a journalist who is investigating the assassination of JFK and who begins to suspect that his father may have been involved.

 

Rob:
Now I’m one of the lucky few who’s had a preview copy. I’m midway through it. All I can say to the readers out there think first pace. Think James Elroy. I’m not the first one to make that comparison. Is that a style that you like to follow?

 

Tim:
Yes didn’t specifically set out to write in the style of James Elroy. I knew there would be comparisons when I decided to set the first segment of the story. The kidnapping in Elay in 1960. It’s a period that Elroy has already dealt with. I wanted to explore it more. I wanted to create perhaps a lasher even if possible darker style that Elroy.

 

Rob:
What attracted you to setting in in the 60’s.

 

Tim:
I think all of us have an affinity with a certain period of time. For me it’s been 1944 the liberation of Paris. Up until the early 1970’s with water gate and also with the Zodiac killings. 1960 was smack bang in the middle of that period that I really loved. Of course there was a lot of social, cultural and political changes going on right there. It was also the end of colonization in the world. It was a pivotal moment. I had originally set the story in New York. I went to Elay to accept an award for screenplay I had written. I felt in love with the city. I had an epiphany. I knew I had to set the story in Ely. There’s a lot of [Noah 00:03:11] There’s a lot of new ones there. You have access to incredible nature. The mountains and the sea. It’s also an urban jungle. It’s a perfect terrain for a thriller like this.

Rob:
It is very true. New York and Elay are very much each side of a coin aren’t they?

 

Tim:
Exactly. In Lay there’s a dark side. There’s a savage side to it. It’s the extremes of the temperature. It’s extremes of the landscape. It’s also the history behind the town. It was just a city that was built on corruption and it’s a wonderful terrain for a thriller. It’s also a place that has a lot of recall for me of my home town Sydney. I felt immediately at home in Lay. I felt comfortable writing about it. I wasn’t intimidated by the fact that it was used by Elroy. It was used by Raymond Chandler. I just thought the grand tradition and I wanted to continue with it.

 

Rob:
You touched on the things of corruption cover ups. Do you think that’s a function of that era or are we … I’m I kidding myself that we’ve got just as much corruption now.

 

Tim:
Well, one of the themes of the novel is that the people behind the assassination of JFK are the people who are still in power. If you like the man whose son is kidnapped, old man [inaudible 00:04:38] he set a symbol of corruption and a man who seeks to acquire as much wealth and power for himself as possible. He’s to me like the god father of the same kind of people who almost destroyed the worlds economy in 2008. One of the things is that those power bases around big business, banking, the military industrial complex and the intelligence networks are still in power today. It all began with the assassination of JFK when they took power into their own hands. They’ve continued to hold it. As we learn in the contemporary section of the novel, things have gotten worse since the assassination of JFK. The rich have just gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer. I think corruption today began with the assassination of JFK and is just as entrenched even more entrenched that it was 50 years ago.

 

Rob:
I absolutely … I don’t think there will be anyone to think that. I think the … The movie that’s out now the big shot, based on the book of the same [inaudible 00:05:40]don’t think is touching on those themes. There’s many fascination with the Kennedy assassination. Do you think people … Especially unique students growing up now realize the significance of it? If you would have think of that happening now. Such a massive event.

 

Tim:
It was a ground shaking event. The reason why I was brought to it, was because it’s the first memory that I had as a child that I could put an actual date to. I Remember how upset my parents and my grandparents were. That’s just goes to show an event. An assassination of a president in the other side of the world really upset people back in Australia. Why did that happen? I think it’s because Kennedy embodied youth change and a generational jump. People were fed up with the post world war to old men. The old generals who were still in power. They wanted change. Kennedy promised change and then he was brutally taken out of the picture with the assassination. I think that marked a huge change in the realities of the political landscape. A lot of people became disenchanted with politics. A lot of people became cynical about politics. That’s something I really wanted to explore. The other notion of the book Rob, is that all of us have our own private dullest moment in our lives. All of us we are growing up we are young and then some event happens. Something happens to us or someone does something to us that changes the course of our lives. It’s how we adapt to that change. Do we become bitter? Do we become mournful and resentful? Do we try and cope with the change and build something on it.. That was one of the themes as well. That all of us have a private dullest moment. A key moment in our lives that can change us for the worst and how do we adapt to it.

Rob:
I think we can all think of those are the personal law events on worlds scale that affect us. I mean I’m a different generation but I think nine elevens an equivalent event.

 

Tim:
Exactly. For me one of the great events that affected me that way, was the dismissal of Gough Whitlam in 1975. Every country has this kind of core moment where things go wrong. How does a country respond as a whole? How does the political government respond? How do we as individuals respond? That was one of the fascinating things that brought me to this story. Of course the whole idea about Kennedy, it’s like Jack the ripper. It’s a sensational event and there’s never really been a conclusion to it. I don’t believe that they have the [inaudible 00:08:29] active of learning. I’m a judge here for Americans don’t either. Why was there a cover up? How did the cover up begin? And who was the cover up protecting? These old stories that are redressed in Viva city.

 

Rob:
Now as I said I’m midway through enjoying it and it is where I will be later tonight. One of the things that occurred to me it’s very film making it’s way. As you eluded to previously, your backgrounds in screenplays and films. Was it different writing a novel compared to a screenplay?

 

Tim:
Absolutely. Writing a screenplay is all about structure. I didn’t plot the novel. This novel began with a low power. A place in the desert. As soon as I had that local in my head, I started writing. As soon as I could create the local in a visual way, that where I could see it, where I felt I was in that terrain, then I got the tone and the voice for the book. Then I was off. It was a real joy to write this book. It took me nearly four years but everyday it was just a wonderfully uplifting moment. I was totally inside this world. Whereas writing a screenplay is much more of a chore. With the screenplay, you really do have to plot it out at the beginning with a dense treatment. Then switch to the screenplay. It’s completely different. Both of them are writing. I did try and bring sort of like the visual elements of the screenplay into the pros. I wanted to create the [cows 00:10:07] that were very visible and you could spill and sense the terrain that the characters are living in. Definitely there was … One of my aims was to create a visual read.

 

Rob:
Look I think the film make elements still come through but I suppose you are not limited by thinking about budgets and locations. Pros means that you can… The walls is your oyster.

 

Tim:

Exactly. In screenplay writing you have so many constraints and you also have so many voices. The impacting upon your writing making suggestions. With a novel, you are on your own and it’s a fantastic place to be because as you said Rob, there are no constraints. The only constraint is your imagination. You can just do anything that you want and as long as it makes sense to you, you are halfway there. I just wrote it. I didn’t know where it was leading to but I sensed a proportion in my writing. I just was eager to get through and discover this journey. Once I had written it two or three times, made two or three drops. Then I stood back and I looked at the architecture of the plots and I realized that there was some things that needed to be changed and furnaced to make the conclusions sharper. Compared to the hard work of writing a screenplay this was nothing but a [join 00:11:33]

Rob:
Now as you know many of our listeners are out there at university now or are now recently finished university. What was university like for you?

 

Tim:
Well I went to the university of New South Wales and I studied political science theater and film. I loved it but at the same time, being a nineteen twenty year-old-kid. I wanted to get through it as quickly as possible. I wanted to leave the formal education behind and start living my life. However, the people that I met in university became the core people in my life. I met my wife in university at the film school. My oldest friend in university as well. It was a hugely pivotal moment for me. If I had never been to the university of New South Wales, my life would not have been what it is now. I suppose you could say it was my dullest moment.

 

Rob:
The university of New South Wales is your dullest moment. It’s good to know. Who are your influencers from a writing point of view?

 

Tim:
Well, when I was growing up I was really drawn to early twenty century writers like Joseph Conrad and Tucker and also the Americans Hemingway Faulkner and Stockner Chevrold. I think the people that you read when you are young are the people who stay with you. They are like your earliest friends. I began my reading when I was about eight or nine years old by really going into Greek mythology and Roman mythology. That was a great love and is still a great love to me. Perhaps that’s why I’m right now living on the Mediterranean because all of those stories of a DCS and the heroes and getting shipwrecked on the Mediterranean was so vibrant and so vivid in my mind as a child. Now when I look out on the sea I think of [homer 00:13:33] and the wine docks sea. I think of the savage storms that swept the DCS onto the farthest shores of the Mediterranean. For me that is what lives in my heart from reading the Homer and the early 20th century.

 

Rob:
Thank you Tim you’ve taken us to a really exciting place. I’d love to be on the Mediterranean now. That must be great to be sort of living in a place with such vivid and vast history. Now …

 

Tim:
It is thanks.

 

Rob:

For those that haven’t had a chance to get the book. Do yourself a favour grab a copy of [save 00:14:15]the city from the [cold 00:14:16] book store. On line or in store. Tim I have no doubt that it will go to bigger places because it’s waiting to be taken to the big screen but it stands alone by itself as a compelling raid and I’m looking forward to finishing it later this evening.

Tim:
Fred, thanks not for having me. Rob I’ve really enjoyed talking to you.

 

Rob:
Thanks Tim it was a pleasure.
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