Blowback by John Lake

Ali Cogger has a chat with Blowback author John Lake
East Leeds Magazine, October 2011

October sees the release of the latest book from Armley Press, “Blowback”, a thriller by John Anthony Lake. The novel is a sequel to the 2008 book “Hot Knife”, also from Armley Press.

John grew up in Whitkirk and went to Temple Moor High School before getting involved in the East Leeds music scene. As well as writing novels, he teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.


ELM: So what’s Blowback about?
JAL: In a nutshell, it’s set about three years after Hot Knife and the two main characters, Kelly and Denny, are in trouble again, this time with Ukrainian gangsters.

ELM: Why Ukrainian gangsters? Did you investigate Ukrainian gangsters for the book?
JAL: No, nothing like that. It’s fiction, not journalism. I did a lot of internet research and none of it suggested that there are Ukrainian gangsters in Leeds. The real reason is that after Hot Knife, I met some film producers, but to get the backing of their Moscow sponsors they wanted a story with parts for Russian actors. I went away to work on it and quickly realised I was writing a new book altogether. Leeds isn’t known for its Russian residents, so I made them Ukrainians. Plus, I know a lot of Ukrainians, so I felt more comfortable writing about them

ELM: What keeps you wanting to write about Leeds?
JAL: I come back to Leeds often and I’ve lived here for long stretches at a time over the years. Even though it’s always changing, I probably know it better than anywhere else, so I feel confident drawing characters from and setting stories there. Also, I’ve got a lot of friends and family in Leeds, and I want to write something they might want to read. If anyone else reads it, then welcome to the family.

ELM: But the Leeds you write about in Hot Knife and Blowback is quite a seedy, dangerous place.
JAL: Yes. That’s the true bit. There are rundown areas and downtrodden and dodgy people in all towns, just read Nick Davies’ Dark Heart, and it isn’t a comment on Leeds in general, but it’s the aspect I tried to recreate in Hot Knife. I chose that setting because I was living in it. Some of the characters were inspired by real people, some of the episodes were based on real events. I wanted to mix social realism with comedy to inject a little pathos. Blowback is more about the city’s development than its deprivation. It’s more firmly in the thriller genre than the first book, and the story and characters reflect that. There’s action, big characters, snappy dialogue, horror and laughs. I want people to read it and be entertained.

ELM: Have you written any books not set in Leeds?
JAL: Yes. One’s a psychological thriller called Starchaser, about a guy stalking Jack Nicholson. You can download that free online. The other, Proxima West, is what I call a pulp thriller. It’s the first novel I ever finished and it’s kind of Mickey Spillane meets Blade Runner. You can download that from Amazon’s Kindle Store. There are links from my website

ELM: How did you get into writing for Armley Press?
JAL: Mick McCann, who runs Armley Press, is someone I’ve known for years. He was a mate of my brother’s, then later we played together in a Leeds band called Hang the Dance. After I helped him with his first book, Coming Out as a Bowie Fan, he read Hot Knife, loved it and wanted to publish that next.

ELM: Do you think there’s a flowering literary scene in Leeds at the moment?
JAL: I hope so. There’ve been some prize-winning books from the area, like Kester Aspden’s The Hounding of David Oluwale and Anthony Clavane’s Promised Land, and other authors like McCann, Rob Endeacott, Wes Brown and David Peace have been rallying round doing readings, appearances and book signings, spreading the word at grass roots level. I’ve missed out on some great events through work or travel, but there’s a definite buzz, and I was chuffed to be included on Anthony Clavane’s list of ‘West Riding iconoclasts’ in the Guardian.

ELM: Is this the end or will there be more books about Kelly and Denny?
JAL: I think there’s got to be one more. After people read Hot Knife they all said there should be a sequel with Hamed. Everyone really liked that character. Because of the genesis of Blowback, there was little chance to put him in the story, so I’m saving him for the third part of the Leeds 6 trilogy.

ELM: Have you started it?
JAL: Yes. Kelly and Denny have got to be in it to call it a trilogy, but I reckon in the third book, Hamed will be the real hero.

Available through Amazon
ISBN: 978095546994

Blowback Promo Video

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