Friday 19 August 2011

Dancing With Myself: MATT HILTON interviews MATT HILTON

It's been a great week, watching Pulp Ink hatch, dry its wings and make its first attempts at flight.  I'd like to thank all those who've been out there posting up photos and links and reviews - it's appreciated greatly and such projects probably wouldn't happen without that kind of support.

After 4 days out there, we'd managed almost 60 sales.  That's pretty amazing, though when you think about who's in it it's no real surprise.  We're still in that Mystery - Short Stories chart and long may that coninue.

I'll be having a restful weekend in London over the weekend, wife and children remaining at home, so there won't be any more Pulp Trumps till Monday.

Today, we have another writer in their best dancing shoes.  Please welcome Matt Hilton.


Q. Your sixth book in the Joe Hunter thriller series –Dead Men’s Harvest - has just been published on 18th August, but for those of us who haven’t read any of the books before can you tell us a little about Joe Hunter?
A. Yeah, sure. Joe Hunter was once a black-ops assassin working for a covert hit squad named Arrowsake, whose role it was to locate and take out terrorists and crime lords. But following 9/11 and the change in the face of modern counterterrorism his team was duly disbanded and the surviving members let loose in the world. Having all these skills Joe couldn’t just sit by and watch people in his hometown targeted by criminals, and took the fight to the bad guys on their behalf. Becoming the man to go to if you’ve got a problem, he was soon waging his own war on the drug dealers and violent gang members around the north of England. However, when his half brother John went missing in the USA, Hunter followed him there, and teamed up with his old Arrowsake buddy, Jared ‘Rink’ Rington to search for John. He didn’t realise that his brother was on the run from the mob, or that he’d fallen into the crosshairs of a serial killer known as Tubal Cain, for the love of his weapon of choice: cutting instruments. Those events were detailed in the first book in the series – Dead Men’s Dust. Since book one, Hunter decided to stay in the States and continue his fight against the criminals of the world. He now works as a body guard cum trouble shooter and sometimes PI.

Q. So Joe Hunter’s a Brit in the USA?

A. Yeah, there are a couple reasons I chose to place all of his adventures in the US. First off, the US is such a massive country with so many diverse cultures and locations in which to set the books, I couldn’t resist. It is such a huge theatre, where you can have massive cities, small towns, sprawling mountain ranges, deserts, snow scapes, semi-tropical swamps, and all under a single banner. The diverse locations can actually set the tone, and build the action, of a book, and I wanted lots to choose from. Also, my aim was to make the books international in appeal, and for the reasons I just mentioned, didn’t think that the UK was big enough to contain them. I was also looking to develop a new character or hero for the British public. There are a number of British authors writing and setting their books in the US, but I didn’t know of one whose actual character was British to boot. I wanted to put Hunter a little out of his depth, and to have that “Englishman abroad” mentality to invade the books. Much of the humour I try to leaven the dark bouts of violence with come from Hunter’s verbal sparring matches with Rink, where they tend to poke fun at each other.

Q. Are the Joe Hunter thrillers published in the US and if so, do the readers there ever mention if you’ve got their country right?

A. Yes, I’m fortunate to be published in the US by William Morrow and Company, part of Harper Collins. The third and fourth books – “Slash and Burn” and “Cut and Run” – are due out later this year, and are behind in the publishing schedule happening here in the UK. It has helped me having an American editor in that he picks up on some of the terms and dialogue that doesn’t translate well into American English. The versions of the books on sale in the US are Americanised (or should that be Americanized?) for the US market, and are marginally less gritty than the Brit editions from Hodder and Stoughton. The US readers are very kind to me, and I don’t get too many complaints. My answer is that Joe Hunter narrates the books, so any faults are his. I write with my tongue firmly in cheek, and Joe is quite self-deprecating and has an ironic wit, but occasionally my US readers translate it as egotism. That isn’t my intention whatsoever.

Do you travel to the US in order to conduct research?
A. I have been to the States now on a number of occasions, and am soon going to St Louis, Missouri, for this year’s World Mystery Convention (Bouchercon). While I’m there, I’m forever taking notes, but it’s more for the little things like popular brand names and shopping outlets etc. For most of my research I rely on the Internet and Google Earth, as well as on the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched. Before the first Joe Hunter book was published, I’d never been to America, but thought that I’d best rectify that so I wasn’t so much of a fraud. This will be my seventh trip Stateside.

Q. You’re an ex policeman, yet you write about an ex soldier: how did that come about?

A. The short answer is I didn’t want to write about my day job. The long answer is that I had written other books with cops or PIs as the protagonist and they floundered in a sea of thousands of other similar manuscripts doing the rounds of agents and publishers. I decided to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan. I intended developing a character with enough of a past that would give him the skills necessary to survive the kind of adventures he has, and decided he had to be military. I gave him a fictional military background, but it is based somewhat on reality, as well as a what if? scenario.

Q. Which brings us back to Arrowsake. Where exactly in Japan is Arrowsake?

A. It isn’t. It’s in Scotland and is a mispronunciation of the original OSS training base at Arisaig. I wanted to pay homage to the old-time warriors who trained under Captain Fairbairn and are the progenitors of modern military close quarter combat.

Q. Although your writing styles are very different, obvious comparisons with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher come to mind. Did Reacher influence the creation of Joe Hunter

A. It’s a common misconception. The answer is no. When I set out to write the first Joe Hunter book in 2005 I had not yet discovered Lee Child’s books. My inspirations then were Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan (The Executioner), Saul Grisman from David Morrell’s “Brotherhood of the Rose”, and also a rewrite of two previous characters I’d created, one called Andra Kendrick who was a kind of wandering swordsman righting wrongs, and Phil Ellis, a PI and ex boxer in the UK. I have now obviously read a number of Lee’s superb books and can see why people would assume I based Hunter on Reacher. In fact my “Slash and Burn” and Lee’s “Worth Dying For” are very similar books in places, and I’m only glad that I wrote SAB first – otherwise people might have come to the wrong conclusion. That isn’t to say Lee copied me – heaven forbid! – just that we both write in the same genre so there’s bound to be similarities. However, there are major differences too. Whereas Reacher is a giant and force of nature, Hunter is your medium-sized, medium-looking guy, who just happens to have the tools to kick ass in the same way as Reacher does. Reacher is a loner, but Hunter relies heavily on his best pals, Rink and Harvey Lucas. Reacher is very intelligent and analytical, whereas Hunter is compulsive and often flies off on one without considering the outcome. Reacher is an ex major and MP, whereas Hunter was a sergeant and a squaddie. Reacher is American and Hunter English. Really all they share is that they’re both military trained and put the bad guys in their place. However, that isn’t to say I’m not thrilled to bits to be mentioned in the same sentence as Lee Child. Of course I am. Lee Child really is the daddy of my genre, not to mention one of the nicest and most supportive people you’re likely to meet, and I respect him (and Reacher) very much.

Q. What differentiates Hunter and Rink from other duos in crime thrillers? I’m thinking Elvis Cole and Joe Pike (Robert Crais), Myron Bolitar and Win (Harlan Coben), and other partnerships in fiction.

A. I think the major difference here is that of those that come to mind the sidekick is often the sociopathic silent killer, whereas there is a role reversal going on with Hunter and Rink. Although Rink is a very dangerous man in his own right, he’s also Hunter’s conscience and voice of reason. Hunter narrates the books, but in another author’s hands perhaps he would have been the sidekick and Rink the lead man.

Q. Joe is a tough guy with a heart, you make that quite clear…

A. Yeah, although he does occasionally come over as a little uncompromising in his treatment of the bad guys, he has strong morals and a code of honour. He doesn’t make war on women and children, doesn’t harm anyone who doesn’t deserve it. He will stand up against injustice for those who are unable to do so for themselves. Basically, at the heart of him, he hates any form of bullying. He’s also incredibly loyal to his friends and family.

Q. Not to mention kick-ass at fighting. You’re a martial artist aren’t you? 
A. Yeah, I’ve trained in various forms of unarmed combat since I was a lad. I started off boxing but didn’t care for being punched in the face that much, so moved on to Shotokan and Kyokushinkai karate, then Kempo and Ju-Jitsu. I attained 4th Dan black belt in the latter two. I even fought in the fledgling mixed martial arts scene back in the mid-Nineties when it was still bare knuckle and fought on mats. I try to use the knowledge I’ve gained to add realism to the fight scenes in the Joe Hunter books, though I have to dirty up the scenes for realism. I don’t consider myself a tough guy, but I’ve been in a few scraps either against trained opponents, or during my careers in security and the police force, and more than the moves themselves I attempt to use the emotions of a stressful situation to make the action scenes more realistic.

Q. So…tell us a little more about Joe Hunter’s latest adventure.

A. Dead Men’s Harvest is the sixth book in the series, and is a loose sequel to book one. I left some threads deliberately hanging in that one, as I wanted to revisit them later in the series. The blurb for the book goes: “The Harvestman is back! And determined to wreak revenge on Joe Hunter. When Rink is ambushed by a team of highly skilled killers, Joe is pretty sure his friend is being used as bait. And the intended prey is Hunter himself. Joe has to go 'off radar' to rescue his friend. Their deadly game of cat and mouse reaches its climax on the rusty hulk of The Queen Sofia - a container ship used by human traffickers - moored off the North Carolina coast where Joe's ex-sister-in-law is being held hostage. Against overwhelming odds, and amid a ferocious storm, Joe comes face to face with his old enemy Tubal Cain.”

Q. So what’s next for Joe Hunter and Matt Hilton?

A. Hunter will return in ‘No Going Back’ next February, with more books to come. I’m currently contracted to write nine books in the series and – fingers crossed – many more. There will also be a Joe Hunter short story anthology called “Six of the Best” coming out exclusively as an eBook early next year. For Matt Hilton, there’ll be many more hours at the computer. I’ve just finished the draft of Joe Hunter eight, and am already mulling ideas round for book nine.

Q. Thanks Matt.

A. No. Thank you Matt.

The Joe Hunter series:

1. Dead Men’s Dust

2. Judgement and Wrath

3. Slash and Burn

4. Cut and Run

5. Blood and Ashes

6. Dead Men’s Harvest

You can learn more about Matt Hilton and Joe Hunter at  and  and on Facebook and Twitter ( @MHiltonauthor ). Matt also co-edits the fiction E-Zine Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers at  


  1. Smashing stuff. Matt writes the tightest thrillers around.

  2. Holy crap, Nigel! You bagged Hilton! Awed. I don't know a single author who doesn't list the Hunter series in his top five.Read this thing like a testament from on high. Cool!

  3. Matt is a great writer and on top of that a great bloke. I've been lucky enough to have met him a couple of times ( once in a very small village in the middle of Scotland - just by chance ) He's one of the good guys and if you've not read his novels you're certainly missing out.

    Great interview Matt.

  4. Hi Nigel, thanks for keeping me up-to-date what's out and who's who.
    Elaine Ash

  5. fine work here matt - all the best on the new tome

  6. That was a very interesting read. Great job on the Q's & A's. Best of luck with the latest!

  7. Thanks to everyone for the high praise, and to Nigel for allowing me the opportunity to talk to myself a little.