My final interviewee in this series for the Fusion Spotlight is Danuta Reah writer of dark, psychological suspense novels suspense who was one of the invited professional contributors. The main focus of her fiction is crime, but she has published widely.
Of the Fantastic Books Publishing anthology, she says, ‘I was delighted when I got the invitation to contribute to Fusion as one of the professional authors. I think these days it’s small publishers who are making the running with new, cutting-edge books. The big publishers are too often playing safe and looking backwards with the same old same old. It’s small publishers who are finding the writers with new ideas.’
She goes on to say, ‘I knew the editorial team on Fantastic Books would publish good stuff, and I think the quality of the stories in Fusion is very high. I was confident it would be a collection I’d be happy to be part of.’
Danuta made her crime debut in 1999 with Only Darkness the rights to which have recently been purchased by Escazal Films. The settings of her books range from the claustrophobic parochialism of the South Yorkshire mining communities to the international settings of new Europe. The four South Yorkshire novels form a loosely connected series: Only Darkness, Silent Playgrounds, Bleak Water and Not Safe. She has written two novels under the name Carla Banks. The Forest of Souls and Strangers explore the unresolved consequences of Nazi atrocities in Eastern Europe during the 1939-45 war; and the lives of the expatriate community in Saudi Arabia.
You can read a review of The Forest of Souls here
What would a writer like Danuta recommend as a compelling read? She says, ‘Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman. It's a sequel to Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. I don't usually like sequels written by another writer, but this one is excellent - gripping and convincing. Beauman is always presented as a writer of popular romance – the covers are all gold embossing and romantic typeface, but her books are much more nuanced than that. They are also tremendously readable.’
And if she were to recommend one of her own books? ‘I would suggest Bleak Water – it’s a very suspenseful psychological crime novel, set in an art gallery on the banks of an industrial canal. Someone is playing games with images from a horrific medieval painting. It’s a scary book – but on a plane, at least you know who is behind you – or you hope so, anyway.’
Danuta, along with the other writers is given the option of stepping into the shoes of a space scout for an alien race. Would she recommend that the aliens make contact with Earth? She says, ‘I'd be inclined to suggest giving us a wide berth. We seem to have an endless capacity for trouble and destruction, but combined with a passion that produces the most amazing art, acts of courage, and an ability to come up with goods once our back are firmly against the wall. But not until then. In other words, we're dangerous. Avoid.’
I ask Danuta to tell me about her current writing projects. ‘I'm working on a sequel to a crime novel,’ she says. ‘It comes out in June with Salt Publishers. This book is a new direction for me. It’s set partly in Poland, so I'm writing it under my family name - D R Kot (Danuta Reah Kot). The book is called The Last Room, and it's dark, psychological crime fiction with a new European focus. It’s about a man trying to make sense of his daughter’s death.’
How did she research the setting for this one? ‘I visited Łódź when I was writing this book, and I found the city compelling. Like much of Eastern Europe, it’s still carrying the scars from the last war. In the Jewish cemetery, there are grave pits along one wall that the survivors of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto – the German name of the ghetto in Łódź – were made to dig. The Nazis were going to shoot them and bury them there, but the Red Army liberated the city before those executions could be carried out.’