Lunching with crime writer Martin O’Brien is both fascinating and confusing because he switches between his very amusing self and his protagonist the French detective Daniel Jacquot. After 10 years of developing Jacquot’s character, O’Brien and Jacquot are almost interchangeable. Whilst we are talking I can see him clocking up potential criminal personalities or situations. O’Brien says his story lines begin with a dead body in a particular situation, a murderous character or a weapon; he works the story backwards and forwards with masterful chicanery till all the loose ends meet up.
Jacquot is thoroughly French, a former National rugby player (who scored a winning goal against England),a hipster cop in jeanswho wearsespadrilles or cowboy boots depending on the season;he is a foodie and wine connoisseur and a great appreciator of women. The novels are set in the 1970’s,80’s and 90’s, pre-technologyin the days of old fashioned sleuthing; O’Brien says Jacquot is a bloodhound.O’Brien invented him while he was travel writing in Marseilles, he knows the port city like the back of his hand. O’Brien’s readers are very familiar with Jacquot, his lover Claudine and his family life and there is great familiarity in the style of writing, it is as if O’Brien is writing about an old friend. The Frenchness of the books wafts from every page either via the scent of buttery garlic and red wine sauce, Gitaine cigarettes or other scents redolent of fishy Marseilles. Founded by the Greeks Marseilles is gritty and edgy, urban with 1500 years of history, it provides all the drama, decadence and disasters a crime writer needs.
O’Brien wears the Jacquot jeans and smokes roll-up cigarettes but he is a bit more sedentary and abit more countrified than in his gallivanting twenties. He came to the crime genre after a career as globetrotting journalist and ladies’ man, while he worked as the travel editor for British Vogue it is said his smile and laid back humour won him many admirers, to their astonishment he departed on an investigative tour of whorehouses and hookers around the world which resulted in his first two books. Now as a devoted husband, proud father of two girls and a dog lover, he has been tamed by his professional digital genius wife. Recently O’Brien published his ninth Chief Inspector Jacquot adventure “Talking to the Sharks” set in Martinique and the Bahamas; Jacquot, is a touch younger than O’Brien, at59 years heis widowed andapparently retired but an old flame enters his life and her circumstances force him back into investigative mode.In his other non-de-plume, Jack Drummond, O’Brienwrites “straight to paperback” disaster novels based on natural events, Avalanche- Storm, but there is no political comment about climate change, they are rated simply as “thrilling” - strangely as at least decent twelve people lose their lives in these sudden catastrophes- certainly both the Jacquot series and the Disaster novels merit 4-5 stars on Amazon.