Cameron King is a former professional Mixed Martial Artist whose career ended on the same night her brother disappeared. Rehabbing from an injury, working as a Skip Tracer and processing the anger at everything that’s happened to her, Cameron isn’t quite aware of just how good at her job she is. Until she gets a case that hits too close to home.
Andrew Reid is an old friend and a fantastically talented writer. I had the honor of beta-reading The Hunter and I’m incredibly happy it’s out in the world. I talked to Andrew about the book, the tech, the Hunter herself and how Cameron King came into his life.
Andrew, tell us a little about the background to The Hunter. What led to the MMA element coming in?
I fell almost instantly in love with the idea of an ex-MMA champion working as a bounty hunter. I had read an amazing article about a woman working as a freelance bounty hunter in the US and I wanted to write a story about someone like her, but a great deal more…direct in how she deals with problems. I wanted to avoid the ex-cop/ex-army routes, but still have that underlying layer of discipline and fighting spirit that would root her. I wrote a piece with Cameron getting stuck in the middle of a bank robbery and it threw up so many fun ideas: that she has a small amount of fame that still has to be managed; that all fighters will, at some point in their career, have come into contact with some form of criminal…it threw up a ton of angles that made me really want to write her.
Are there any plans to release the short story?
No plans as yet. I might adapt it to promote the paperback release in November if I can find the right place to carry it, but for the moment it’s staying dormant.
Likewise the technological side of the story.
One of the big conflicts of the last ten years has been the question of how much of our information we freely give away, and to what extent companies treat user data as a revenue stream. The tech involved in The Hunter was built off of the question that appears in the epigraph: what happens when the corporate world starts trying to monetize people in the real world? What would you have to offer someone in order for them to hand over some part of their bodily autonomy and it occurred to me that if the circumstances were right, it wouldn’t take much at all. The technology isn’t quite there yet, especially in terms of implants, but it’s close enough that the tech in the book doesn’t fall out with the bounds of possibility.
The novel has this brilliant combination of ‘She’s a professional fighter turned skip tracer! Her partner is a cop! They fight crime!’ mismatched dynamic to it mixed with this kind of Michael Mann-esque, sodium light drenched noir. What was the playlist in your head while you wrote this?
I listened to a great deal of Harry Gregson-Williams scores. Enemy of the State and the Metal Gear Solid 2 soundtracks were on heavy circulation, and I found it added a lot of momentum to writing chase scenes to have that driving, orchestral sound just filling my head.
If there was a theme for Cameron, it’d be Bulletproof, by Alabama 3. I love the singer on the track, this tiny woman with a huge voice just belting out “I got fifteen felonies/I got twenty-three misdemeanors” with an enormous amount of attitude. It’s very Cameron King.
Did anything not make the cut?
There were a few false starts. My original pitch was very different, and the book grew out of a handful of brief attempts that were really just me finding my feet with the story. When the first draft was done, there was a plot thread involving a lot more cutting edge biotechnology that got pulled and required a fairly heavy rewrite from the midpoint on. It was a shame – I really liked the opportunities it opened up – but it was the right call. The book is a lot tighter for it.
These characters are absolutely tailor made for a series. Are there more books on the way?
I would love to write more books with Cameron in. I guess we just have to cross fingers and see how The Hunter does before anything concrete happens on that front.
What authors influenced you? Tonally the novel’s got that lean feel that Lee Child works with but feels more grounded and pragmatic.
I really like Lee Child’s writing. I picked up Reacher Said Nothing – the book about Lee Child’s process – and a lot of things that came up in the transcripts of their interviews struck a chord with me. Like the bit about not worrying *too* much about research. I felt like if Child wasn’t too worried, then I was definitely off the hook for making stuff up.
I grew up reading thrillers by authors like Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Wilbur Smith, and Eric Van Lustbader. The 90s techno-thriller will always have a fond place in my heart, and a large part of writing The Hunter was trying to find that same joy in writing a thriller as I found in them.
I’m really happy to find myself on a long list with Chris Brookmyre. His books were a big influence and I love that he has always been really upfront about the influence of cinema on (and in) his writing.
Who plays Cameron in the movie?
Cameron is *tough* to cast. Some suggestions? Ronda Rousey is a genuinely talented fighter with a great physique. Emily Blunt has action credentials and great acting chops. Alicia Vikander was great in Tomb Raider, Natalie Martinez (Kingdom) is a good shout, too. I think the part would be wide open for any actress who could hit the intensity and train up to do the action.
Massive thanks to Andrew for the chat and congratulations on both publication and being long-listed for the Mcilvanney Prize. The Hunter is out now and you should absolutely pick it up.