Barry Maitland, author of Chelsea Mansions, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |July 19, 2011

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Barry Maitland

author of Chelsea Mansions, Dark Mirrors and more

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Paisley, an industrial city in Scotland. When I was five my family moved to London where I grew up and went to school.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At 12 I wanted to be an architect like my father; at 18 I wanted to run away to New York and become a painter like Jackson Pollock; at 30 I wanted to be a writer.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That England could win the soccer World Cup.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

• A book that made a great impression on me when I read it at school, A Child of the Jago, by Arthur Morrison, about a boy growing up in a notorious London slum, opened my eyes to the power of fiction to create a totally real world.

The Yellow Chair, by Vincent Van Gogh, showed me how art can observe reality in a way that doesn’t just mimic it, but recreates and transforms it.

Georges Simenon’s crime novels taught me that the answer to the mystery lies in the hearts and histories of the characters.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I think the novel is the most extended, comprehensive and powerful representation of reality that we have available to us.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Chelsea Mansions is the eleventh novel featuring my London detectives DCI David Brock and DI Kathy Kolla. Each of their investigations takes us to a different corner of the great city, and is coloured by a theme relating to that location. This time we go to Chelsea, one of the so-called ‘golden postcodes’ of London, home to the rich and famous and, most recently, wealthy Russian expats who made a killing during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here the two detectives are faced with the murder of the multi-millionaire Mikhail Moszynski, who, with his new Caribbean model wife Shaka and a colourful Russian entourage, has created a glitzy palace in Chelsea Mansions, a grand Victorian residential block.

(BBGuru: Publisher synopsis – A deadly virus, a vicious killer and a long-buried mystery push Brock & Kolla to the limit.

When Nancy Haynes, an elderly American tourist, is brutally murdered in a seemingly senseless attack after visiting the Chelsea Flower Show, DI Kathy Kolla suspects there is more to the case than first appears. When another occupant of the palatial Chelsea Mansions is murdered hot on the heels of the first – but this time a Russian oligarch – everybody wants to get involved.

Is it a Litvinenko-style KGB assassination? The spooks muscling in certainly think so. Are the murders linked? Or is Nancy’s death just the result of mistaken identity? Kathy is determined to dig deeper, but comes up against walls of silence. If she persists, does she risk her career – and possibly more? DCI Brock, meanwhile, faces the fight of his life as his past comes back to haunt him.

A crime long buried, a deadly African virus, and some of the most resourceful criminals Brock and Kolla have ever faced, conspire to make this Maitland’s best mystery yet. )

Order your copy of Chelsea Mansions from Booktopia here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

A sense of having explored a new corner of the world and emerged with greater understanding and even a feeling of resolution.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I’d have to say Dickens, for the sheer exuberance and vitality of the world he creates.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Not to give up.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Not to give up.

Barry, thank you for playing.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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