Michael Barson recently interviewed Jeffrey Siger for Bookreporter.com, and he allowed me to share that interview here. Here’s the link if you’d like to check out the article, and the site itself. https://bit.ly/3Ek4CKb. But, with Michael’s permission, here’s the interview with Siger, author of One Last Chance.
ONE LAST CHANCE is the 12th installment in Jeffrey Siger’s mystery series starring Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis. It’s set upon the mountainous rugged Greek island of Ikaria, against its storied past of exploitation, exiles and lives spent in hiding from conquerors, slavers and pirates, and its current worldwide reputation for the longevity of its people. In this interview conducted by Michael Barson, Senior Publicity Executive at Melville House, Siger explains why he chose Ikaria as the setting for his latest book, names the one character whose development throughout the course of the series has been the most unexpected for him, and discusses his latest project, which is a huge departure from his Kaldis novels.
Question: I must admit that I had never heard of Ikaria before reading ONE LAST CHANCE, and the colorful history you provide about it (and its population of 8,500) explains why this Aegean isle is relatively obscure. Did you made an expedition there in the recent past for the purpose of researching the fascinating details in this book?
Jeffrey Siger: I’ve been to Ikaria on several occasions, always with locals, and generally ended up in remote places that were charged with wild natural beauty and steeped in Ikaria’s millennia-long history of successfully enduring and overcoming the most brutal of times. When I thought about writing Kaldis mystery/thriller #12, the world was in the raging throes of the pandemic. I wanted a storyline that neither ignored nor emphasized the effects of the pandemic, yet at its core was enmeshed in its consequences. To achieve that, I needed to find the ideal setting.
That’s when the writing gods smacked me upside my head and pointed their collective fingers at Ikaria. With its unique history of persevering through punishing, impoverishing challenges and its modern-day international fame for the longevity of its people — described by theNew York Times as “the place where people forget to die” — I realized I’d found the perfect setting for ONE LAST CHANCE.
Q: In the years that have gone by since the Inspector Kaldis series debuted, who would you select as the character whose development over that time has come to surprise you the most?
JS: What never fails to surprise me is how many of my characters have their own dedicated fan base, each demanding more storyline play for its favorite! In ONCE LAST CHANCE, I gave fan-favorite Maggie a lead role; after so many years of dedicated public service and endless repartee with Andreas, I thought she deserved it. But as Andreas’ administrative assistant, Maggie has also developed in ways I never anticipated. She’s led me to discover the inestimable value of her many hidden strengths, deeply held faith and loyal corps of front-line bureaucratic staffers.
Q: This is the 12th entry in this acclaimed series. If I am correct, Ikaria is the 11th part of Greece to receive the spotlight treatment, with your second home of Mykonos being featured twice. How many more locations around Greece are available for you to feature in future novels?
JS: I’ve set a trilogy on Mykonos, the first, fifth and 10th novels, and in some books the central locale (such as Patmos) shares the spotlight with another (Mount Athos). Though that’s whittled away at my available venues — with approximately 2,000 islands in Greece, of which 170 are inhabited — plus the storied mainland, I’d say I have a pretty good inventory left to work with.
Q: Kaldis heads the Special Crimes Unit of GADA, the Athens-based General Police Headquarters of Greece. How does an American such as yourself get the inside information needed to portray the workings of GADA accurately?
JS: To protect the innocent (and some of the guilty), let’s just say it’s all fiction. Having said that, any time I need to verify potential facts or settings, there’s a cadre of in-the-know Greek officials and friends ready, willing and able to help me get and keep things straight.
Q: I’ve always seen your Kaldis series as a more exotic version of Ed McBain’s legendary 87th Precinct series, which debuted way back in the 1950s. Can you recall who the biggest influences on you were among crime writers before you began writing your own books?
JS: Being compared to Ed McBain is quite an honor. Thank you for that. Among crime writers, I’d say (in alphabetical order) Tom Clancy, K.C. Constantine, Arthur Conan Doyle, Frederick Forsyth, Dick Francis and Cormac McCarthy (if you count him as a crime writer). But in truth, I believe playwrights, such as August Wilson, in their use of dialogue had a greater influence on my writing.
Q: The Kaldis series is celebrated by the media in Greece on a whole other level than it has been here in the States. Has anyone from the Greek film and/or television industry ever approached you about wanting to produce a dramatization of your books?
JS: I regularly receive overtures from Greece and elsewhere to dramatize my work. Interest at times has led to contractual arrangements, but not as yet to production. Stay tuned.
Q: A number of mystery authors have a second series alternating with their original one. Has that possibility ever tempted you, or at least crossed your mind? Or does Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis take up all of your creative powers?
JS: Funny you should ask. I recently completed the first book in a new series, a story I’ve been meaning to write for years. It’s based in New York City and features an eccentric protagonist resembling a unique composite of George Smiley, Sherlock Holmes and the Equalizer. I’m currently ruminating on which publishing house might be the right home for it.
Here’s the summary of One Last Chance. Signed copies are available through The Poisoned Pen’s Web Store. https://bit.ly/3uaPUSh
When Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis’s longtime assistant, Maggie, returns to her ancestral home on Ikaria for her 104-year-old grandmother’s funeral, she quickly realizes not only was Yiayia likely murdered, but that a series of other long-lived Ikariots had recently died under the same suspicious circumstances. Back in Athens, Andreas and his chief detective Yianni pursue a smuggling and protection ring embedded in the Greek DEA, and its possible involvement in the assassination of an undercover cop.
But then Maggie and Yianni uncover a connection between their respective leads in the elder-killings on Ikaria and the DEA corruption case, and they realize that there are international intrigues far more dangerous at play than anyone had imagined.