Christopher Galt Novels

6 January 2005

Murder in the European melting pot
by Benedicte Page

In the first of a planned series of six crime novels set in the German city of Hamburg, Hauptkommissar Jan Fabel investigates a disturbing and extremely violent series of killings. In each instance, the lungs have been ripped from the victim's body in imitation of an ancient Viking rite.
But as Fabel investigates, it becomes clear that something more complex than the work of a single psychopathic individual is taking place; a complex and carefully researched tale, Blood Eagle invokes modern Hamburg's criminal underworld and sex industry, and terrorist activities past and present.

Russell spent a brief period as a policeman himself before developing a career as a copywriter.

"Of all the European nationalities, German is the one that we still portray in this stereotypical, 'Allo, Allo' image. Our impressions of the Germans seem to begin and end with the Second World War.

"What I felt was that no one had written an intelligent novel about contemporary Germany. I have a lot of very close friends in Germany and have spent a great deal of time there. Hamburg as a setting is so atmospheric, it's the perfect place to set crime novels.

"There are strong links between Germany and the east coast of Scotland, both linguistically in terms of the Scottish dialect, and with the character of the people.

"Very briefly, a long time ago, I was a policeman. After having a reasonably sheltered home life, I wanted to broaden my experience and see another side of life. In the police I saw things I'd never seen before; it wasn't necessarily a positive experience - I used to get very distressed about many things.
"But from the very beginning, the Hamburg police have supported this novel - they feel it's authentic. I've called up the police reports, and been able to track the relevant levels of activity of the various immigrant gangs. Everything I mention is based on research.

"Hamburg is the second biggest port in Europe, and a link from east to west. It's got a transient population and is so cosmopolitan; it's got 95 consulates, which is more than any other city in the world, apart from New York. It's a melting pot of nationalities in the heart of Europe.

"You could almost argue that the Second World War was caused by Germany's struggle to find an identity, and it's still struggling to find an identity. What I wanted to explore was the myths that the Germans have about themselves, and dig deep into European culture and mythology. The whole 'blood eagle' ritual was just so great.
"Fabel studied medieval history and was diverted into the police through a tragedy - his girlfriend was murdered. Fabel literally means 'fable', and I chose the name because all the novels have this either mythological or historical element to them.

"I feel very strongly that the crime novel is more intelligent than it has ever been, and more demanding than it has ever been. I think we're looking for something complex and stretching."