- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
The Woman From Prague, Rob Hart’s latest novel to feature series character Ash Mckenna, has the unlicensed PI in the middle of a Eastern European spy tale when he is coerced by a mystery man (claiming to be a government agent) into intercepting the hand-off of a thumb drive. When the plan backfires, Ash finds himself on the run with Sam, his target, and the eponymous woman from Prague. The book is a slam bang action store with the same hard boiled heart we’ve come to expect from the series.
We’re happy to bring you this Q&A with Rob the day before he joins Bill Loehfelm and Jordan Harper at BookPeople for our New Voices In Noir discussion. Join us for one of the year’s most intriguing panels, this Wednesday, July 26th at 7 PM.
MysteryPeople Scott: What made Prague your choice of setting for Ash’s latest?
Rob Hart: I visited Prague a few years ago and was just completely infatuated. I knew right off I wanted to set a book there. And by the fourth book in the series I was feeling like it was time to put Ash in a situation where he was thousands of miles from home, completely unfamiliar with everything around him, and totally outmatched. Ash thinks he’s pretty tough, and it was time to dissuade him of that notion.
MPS: While the first three books in the series hit different mystery subgenres, this is an espionage tale. What did you want to explore in that genre?
RH: Maybe this only makes sense in my head but there’s a fairy tale element to spy stories that I really like. They tend to deal with secret worlds ordinary people don’t see, machinations we don’t always understand, characters who are incredibly prescient or powerful in a way that sometimes defies reality. Those concepts tied into some things I really like about the folklore of the region, like the golem of Prague and the pigeon knights of Krakow. There was a weird alchemy to how this one came together.
MPS: I couldn’t help notice a few echoes of James Grady’s Six Days Of The Condor, you even reference the film version,Three Days Of The Condor. What grabbed you about that story?
RH: My day job is publisher of MysteriousPress.com, and Six Days of the Condor is one of the backlist titles we publish. It was also one of the first titles of ours that I read, when I got the gig. It’s a classic for a reason, and it was one of the books (along with some books by other authors we publish, like Brian Garfield and Ross Thomas and Charles McCarry), that planted the espionage seed for me. Grady’s book is such a fantastic example of the “man on the run” story. I really liked that Condor, while a trained operative, isn’t some Seal Team Six badass. He’s closer to a regular guy, which makes the stakes feel higher.
MPS: Sam is such a wonderful character and it is really the first time in the series where Ash is partnered with someone throughout most of the book. Did that affect the writing in any way?
RH: If anything I think it made it easier. In the first three books Ash spends a lot of time by himself, so there’s a lot of trying to balance action with his own internal conflicts. For this one he constantly had a foil, someone to bounce off of. And it was a lot of fun to make Ash the beta to Sam’s alpha.
MPS: This was also the most action oriented book in the series with some pretty visceral violence. Was that a conscious choice before you went into it?
RH: Absolutely. In the first three books, a lot of the conflicts were internal. It was about a confused, scared kid trying to find his moral compass and atone for things that he’d done. For this one I just wanted to go full tilt. He’s battled his personal demons enough. I really wanted to pit him against some heavy external forces.
You can find copies of The Woman from Prague on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Come by the store this upcoming Wednesday, July 26th, at 7 PM for our New Voices in Noir Panel discussion with Rob Hart, Bill Loehfelm, and Jordan Harper.