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Peter Klein talks about his writing and reading.

Readersvoice.com aims to pick up a few good reading tips. Punter’s Turf tells the story of John Punter, a professional better on horses and amateur sleuth. He’s often contacted by people in the Melbourne racing industry when they need someone to handle a problem with discretion- someone who knows his way around the track. Peter Klein also knows his way around the track, having worked in the racing industry since he was a teenager, which he wrote about in his autobiography A Strapper’s Tale. He followed this with his first John Punter crime novel, Punter’s Luck, and his latest is Punter’s Turf. If you like crime novels, fast plots, and want to learn about the Melbourne horse racing industry, it’s short odds you’ll enjoy this book.

READERSVOICE.COM: Was writing Punter’s Turf any easier than writing your previous novel Punter’s Luck, and your autobiography, A Strapper’s Tale?

PETER KLEIN: I found the second novel easier than the first. The characters had more room to develop and there were some old habits and mannerisms that you can fall back on for some of the regular players. But I found writing a novel is a lot more difficult than penning an autobiography. For that, I had a pile of newspaper clippings I could trawl through which reminded me of events and characters and races from long ago. With a novel, you have to constantly look forward for possibilities and also look back to see that everything links up. That’s why publishers employ good editors…

RV: Your writing career seems to have followed the same trajectory as Stella Rimington, the former Director General of MI5, who started with an autobiography, and now is working on her fifth thriller. She always had a love of thrillers and wanted to write them. Have you always liked crime or thrillers and wanted to write one, and how did you know it was the time to start writing?

PK: Yes, I’ve always loved a good crime/thrillers book and after I wrote A Strappers Tale, I thought I could do something similar set against an Australian racing background.

RV: What are some of your favorite crime novels or thrillers of all time?

PK: The Matthew Scudder series by Lawrence Block, in fact anything by Block should be read by any aspiring crime writer.

I found a great spy series by Adam Hall written years ago, about a James Bond type of secret agent called ‘Quiller‘. There must have been about nineteen books in the series and I don’t know how many plots Quiller foiled, or how many bullets he dodged over that time, too many to count but I lapped it up because I loved that character and the way he went about his business. He never wore a gun, he always worked alone and he had to be talked into taking any on any new assignment. Wouldn’t get a guernsey in M15 today, would he?

RV: What sorts of other books do you like to read, whether fiction or non-fiction, and can you recommend a few titles?

PK: I do try and read anything in the crime/thriller genre that gets a review which attracts my attention. Call it professional as well as enjoyment reading. Even if the book gets a real caning by the reviewer, I’ll sometimes try and read it to see why it didn’t work. I also pick up a lot of stuff my wife reads and she’s an avid reader so she’s always got a dozen odd books in tow. Something at the moment I’m finding very interesting and this is unusual, because its the last thing I’d probably look for in a book shop is A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. The first book about science that’s entertaining and I’ve actually understood.

RV: Are you a bit reluctant to write about things you’ve heard in the racing industry for fear of consequences for people, or can you disguise people and incidents enough in novels?

PK: You can usually disguise a story or person. I mean, being able to draw from ‘colourful characters’ I’ve met at the track is a great source of material for me. Sometimes you can often add to a story you’ve heard; run it through several different outcomes and see what might have happened (a la Run Lola Run.)

RV: Were any incidents or activities in Punter’s Turf inspired by real events, like the way race outcomes were affected in the novel?

PK: The manner in which the horses are nobbled in Punter’s Turf is something a well nown trainer used to get up to from time to time when I was growing up as young strapper.

RV: There was one character in the novel who would come close to being the epitome of evil, yet I felt sorry for him in that scene in the stable. Did you feel any sympathy for that character?

PK: It’s funny you mention about feeling sympathy for that particular character and yes, I did feel he was getting a raw deal. That’s why the scene ended like it did – perhaps the only way out…. If a certain scene can bring that type of emotional response from the reader, you feel as though you’re connecting with them. And after all, that’s your job as a writer.

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