I am delighted to welcome Owen Mullen to the blog today and his crime fiction novel Out of the Silence. Don’t miss the brilliant Q&A with Owen!
About the Author
Owen Mullen is a McIlvanney Crime Book Of The Year long-listed novelist.
Owen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; he still loves to perform on occasion. His passion for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colourful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home in the Greek Islands where In Harm’s Way and the Charlie Cameron and Delaney series’ were created and written. His latest novel Out Of The Silence is an epic revenge thriller set in Pakistan.
About the book
A compelling revenge thriller
Star investigative reporter Ralph Buchanan’s glory days are behind him. His newspaper has banished him to Pakistan, not knowing the greatest moment of his long career is waiting for him there. When Simone Jasnin asks him to help expose a grave injustice, he finds himself embroiled in a harrowing tale that began in a dusty settlement in rural Punjab, setting in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of everyone involved.
Seven years later in the city of Lahore, members of a prominent family are being brutally murdered, one by one. The only clue is a hand-carved wooden bangle left at the scene of each crime. As the list of suspects grows and the tension mounts, Ralph realises the answers might be closer to home than he ever thought possible.
Solving the mystery will put him back on top but at what cost? Only when the smoke clears will the killing stop and honour be satisfied…
Q&A with Owen Mullen
Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know)Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child
The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)? Calibre…great Scottish drama
Writers or books who have inspired you to put pen to paper?Stephen King and James Lee Burke
Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?Jesus Christ…that would be an interesting conversation!
A famous declutterer a la Marie Kondo has decided to help you organise your home – you have to get rid of all but three of your books (the ones you have written yourself are exempt) which three would you pick and why?Firstly I’ve got my own version of Marie at home! The Collected Stories of Sherlock Holmes – my all-time favourite detective, A Bend In The River by V.S. Naipal – it’s a slow burner but I love his use of language and Brideshead Revisited – an old boss switched me on to Evelyn Waugh
All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Out of the Silence.
I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by your book. It blends the often stringent boundaries of crime and women’s fiction. I would love to know all about your inspiration for Out of the Silence?Several years ago I watched a horrific documentary on the treatment of women in Pakistan; it stayed with me. Some years later, my wife Christine and I were travelling in the region for the third time and the idea started to form for an amazing crime thriller set in this wonderfully colourful environment. When we ventured into the Thar dessert we came across a young woman selling salt: when she looked up at me from behind her hijab Afra was born.
The use of the bangles as a plot device to connect the threads is both clever and emotional. Again, I am intrigued by the inspiration to use the bangles in this way.The idea just arrived from wherever it is they live.
The contrasting effect of seeing how the lives of Jameel and Afra go in such different directions is an excellent example of the stark difference in opportunities and development when it comes to gender. Do you think giving a voice to the silent will help to end or at least level out the inequality a little?I’m going to be honest here: I didn’t set out to change things. I simply wanted to write a thrilling crime fiction novel. That said however, if anything I ever write can help someone in any way I would be more than delighted.
As I mentioned above I enjoyed the fact that this fits firmly into both crime and women’s fiction. Did you know your crime story would end up being a silent call to arms for the abused and oppressed or did it just evolve that way as the story progressed?The story arrived almost complete for me, so I always knew that Dr Simone would take up the cause.
What’s next for Owen Mullen? Are you already working on something new?Almost finished the follow up to In Harm’s Way, then there are several ideas fighting for my time!
Thanks for answering all of my questions, even the odd ones!Thanks for inviting me here today…I really enjoyed it. – Owen
Although the blurb suggests that the investigative reporter Ralph Buchanan is the main character and takes centre stage, the truth is he is a mere bit-player in the story of Afra and Jameel. Saying that, aside from the important connection and emotional significance of the family heirloom Jameel gives to his love, even he doesn’t play as much of a pivotal role as Afra.
This story belongs to her, every disillusioned moment, every injury and each second of silence. In turn her story belongs to every woman and girl, who have been and still are treated as a sub-humans. Treated with contempt, abused and used for pleasure and/or pain.
Unfortunately there are still plenty of countries that still do nothing to combat the abuse, molestation, torture, rape and murder of girls and women. Not that our western society has a stellar record, but the country in which this is set, Pakistan, still lives in the dark ages in regards to women’s rights and the abuse of women. Don’t even get me started on India.
An intriguing and emotional element of the story is the way Mullen connects all the threads of the story with the bangles, and indeed they become an integral part of the plot. They become synonymous with the image of Afra, every time they are mentioned it conjures up images of the young girl before, when her world existed only of her family, the village and Jameel. The innocent girl experiencing the first blushes of young love, before life submerges her into a quagmire of systemic and cultural abuse.
It’s a crime thriller combined with a poignant plot about the abuse and neglect of girls and women. This is so much more than a crime thriller, perhaps because the story of Afra takes precedence over the murders, despite the fact everything leads back to her. She is always there in the background, watching and waiting.