This Wednesday, a new novel from the writing team of Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts will be released from Raw Dog Screaming Press! They quickly embraced the spirit of family that I love about RDSP, and jumped on the idea when I suggested a bit of cross-promotion since our newest books are arriving a week apart. Today, I’m interviewing their main characters, while they’re returning the favor with Victory on their blogs!
Hounds of the Underworld (The Path of Ra Book One) is now available for pre-order. I’ll post my review of this excellent near-future supernatural noir murder mystery on Wednesday!
ABOUT THE BOOK
On the verge of losing her laboratory, her savings, and all respect for herself, Pandora (Penny) Yee lands her first contract as scientific consult to the police department. And with seventeen murder cases on the go, the surly inspector is happy to leave her to it. Only she’s going to need to get around, and that means her slightly unhinged adopted brother, Matiu, will be doing the driving. But something about the case spooks Matiu, something other than the lack of a body in the congealing pool of blood in the locked room or that odd little bowl.
Matiu doesn’t like anything about this case, from the voices that screamed at him when he touched that bowl, to the way his hateful imaginary friend Makere has come back to torment him, to the fact that the victim seems to be tied up with a man from Matiu’s past, a man who takes pleasure in watching dogs tear each other to pieces for profit and entertainment.
Hounds of the Underworld blends mystery, near-future noir and horror. Set in New Zealand it’s the product of a collaboration by two Kiwi authors, one with Chinese heritage and the other Māori. This debut book in The Path of Ra series offers compelling new voices and an exotic perspective on the detective drama.
[Note: The characters in the following interview refer to me as Hanna, my real name.]
What’s your favourite place to be?
Penny: My favourite place? The lab. Without question. Partly because it’s mine — well, it will be just as soon as I can pay Dad back the money I borrowed to set it up. Even a standard benchtop DNA sequencer will put a big hole in your bank account, let alone the consumables. Anyway, the lab is my space. I love everything about it: the straight lines of the epoxy benches, the waft of cold air when I open the cold store, and the scent of Decon cleanser. I guess that’ll be the potassium hydroxide. I share the lab with my technician, Beaker. Beak came with me when I left LysisCo, my last place of employ, and he’s a real asset to Yee Scientific, although he will insist on hanging his lab coat on the wrong hook.
Matiu: Tough question. I haven’t got a favourite place so much, unless you count being behind the wheel. I like it because… going places, you know? Being on the road, the hiss of the tyres, scenery drifting by. I like driving, and I’m lucky, I know, because of my dad and the job and all, but, yeah, that’s my time. My favourite “place”, know what I mean? I like it, because it gives me a little bit of peace and quiet, in my head. Time to think for myself, without anyone else… getting to me.
What’s your hometown like?
Matiu: The big smoke, Jafa-land. Auckland. It’s a seething pit, is what it is, but you wouldn’t know that to look at it. I mean, let’s be fair, it’s the multi-ethnic capital of the South Pacific, so this city has about as much diversity as any half-bit hipster could ever hope for, and we all get on all right, for the most part, but have no doubt this town’s got an underbelly. We’re stuck down here at the bottom of the world and it’s not like the old days, when the tourists used to flock here for the greenery and [mimics inhaling, puffing] the green, right? So the only folk we’ve got to prey on are each other. City has its divides, might be down cultural lines, or the lines we draw on each other with money and fame. But there’s always something going on, you can be sure. Might be people trying to do things to make the world better, like we didn’t miss that boat a good fifty years ago, and always someone looking for a way to profit off everyone else. Let’s just say, you can survive here, and if you live in the right places and know the right people, you might even like it. Can’t be all bad, two million of us crammed into these dirty streets. Sure beats the hell out of living in Wellington, anyway.
What’s your family like?
Penny: Oh, don’t get me started on our parents. You know they only want to marry me off to Dad’s associate, Craig Tong, don’t you? Craig’s in the Transport Ministry and the olds have this weird idea that I’ve got a thing for him. I haven’t! Try telling them that. But apart from that, I suppose they’re not that bad. A bit overprotective. I suppose there are worse things.
Matiu: Family? Whanau is whanau, bro. They reckon you choose them, but I dunno about that. Mum and Dad, they chose me, for sure, not that they had much choice. Not like Mārama could look after me. As for my sister? [shakes head, feigning disgruntlement] Not sure how I ended up a babysitter for my big taina, eh? Hell, I’m the one who’s done time, surely she should be watching my back, not the other way round? Unless that’s the game. Maybe it’s just Mum’s weird way of keeping tabs on me, making sure I’m not getting up to my old tricks by making me hang around Penny all the freaking time. So busy playing her bodyguard and dishwasher I don’t have time to go off getting into trouble. But yeah, that’s what our family’s about, keeping each other honest. Watching each other’s backs. Driving each other a little bit insane. Normal family stuff.
What drives you crazy?
Penny: [elbows Matiu] You mean, apart from my darling little brother here?
[Pulls Hanna aside]. Do you really want to know what drives me crazy? When people like Detective Tanner make assumptions about Matiu. They take one look at my brother and they shake their heads and narrow their eyes like he’s just stepped out of Charon’s boat. Okay, so a while back, Matiu got himself in with a bad crowd, he did a couple of stupid things, and because of that he spent some time inside. But he’s straightened himself up! Got himself out of that scene. It isn’t everyone who can do that. You’d think that would be the end of it. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? But once you’ve got a conviction, well that’s it. It’s all anyone sees. That, and the ink on Matiu’s face. It makes my blood boil!
Matiu: Crazy? Well, I’ve had this voice in the back of my head for such a long time. Seems like someone standing behind me, but turn and look, he’s gone. Makere, I call him. Always whispering, filling my head with ideas. No-one believes me when I tell them it was him, this voice in my ear insisting I do bad things, threatening me if I didn’t. They gave me these pills once to make it go away, but guess what? No dice. Medicine can’t fix it when it’s really happening, right? Anyway, what I said about driving, that’s the shizz. When I’m driving, I can’t hear him. That’s all the reason I need to stay on the straight and narrow, because I spent months locked up in a tiny cell with that… with that guy muttering in my ear, and when I’m driving, it’s quiet. Why would I risk going back inside and being stuck, alone, with him again? That would drive me crazy.
What do you want most in the world?
Penny: Only one thing? I’d really love for Mum and Dad to get off my case about the science consultancy. Just because I work with the police, they seem to think there’s something seedy about it. They don’t get that there’s nothing purer or cleaner than science: the answers are there in black and white if we just take the time to uncover them–
Penny: Whoops. I’m rambling, aren’t I? What I want most in the world. What I want most…I’d like to beat my ex Noah Cordell to a contract sometime, and not just the dregs he hasn’t got time for. Making this month’s payroll would be a plus. Matiu staying out of my way while I’m working — he’s my driver, not a card-carrying detective inspector. And as my driver, it would help if he turned up when he was supposed to, instead of two hours after the fact. Clean Erlenmeyer flasks. Liability insurance that doesn’t cost the earth. Being taken seriously as a professional female. Beaker remembering to put his lab coat on the right hook…I could go on.
Matiu: Hot coffee, cold beer, spicy kebabs. I’ve got fairly simple needs, really. But stepping away from the BS that got me in the slam, that gives me a different perspective. What I want most in the world is just to be free, free of other people’s demands on my time and energy, free to breathe the fresh air and go for a walk when I want to. Because I’ve got people I need to look after, people who rely on me, like Mārama. She needs us around. Hell of a hassle to drop in and make her tea from inside a ten-foot cell.
Penny: I take back those other things. Matiu’s right. We both want just Whaea Mārama to be well again.
If you could change something about your past, what would it be?
Penny: In retrospect, I probably wouldn’t have gone out with Noah.
Matiu: Holy shit, where do I start? You want, I could write a book about the stuff I’d rather not have done. Fights I started, things I stole, some people I hurt really, really bad. Most of that, I regret, looking back on it, though, you know, not all of it. Some of it felt really good. But really, if I knew now what I knew then, I would probably be a hell of a lot better off if I’d never fallen in with Hanson’s gang. Which isn’t to say that I mightn’t have fallen in with a worse crowd, so who knows? You play the cards you get dealt.
Penny: Not me. Not at the moment. Right now, I’m too busy trying to get science my consultancy off the ground, so I don’t have time for anything like that.
Matiu: That’s not quite true, Penny. What about Beaker?
Penny: Matiu! There’s nothing going on between me and Beaker.
Matiu: [raises eyebrow] Well, how come he blushes every time you pass by?
Penny: In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been very warm this summer! There’s been a heat wave.
Matiu: The lab is air conditioned.
Penny: [folds arms across her chest] I’m not discussing this. He’s my employee.
Matiu: [making fish lips] Pandora, mon amora.
Penny: Oh for goodness’ sake. You know that isn’t even proper Italian. And don’t call me Pandora. Anyway, why don’t you tell us all about your romantic interests, Matiu?
Matiu: You’re changing the subject. But that’s fine, I can handle the jandal. Romance is a form of currency, that’s all. Like money, it comes into your life, you spend it up, it runs out, you go out and earn some more. Burn it up. That’s romance.
Penny: So dramatic.
Matiu: Hey, you know as well as I do there’s only one woman outside of family that I see regularly and she’s my probation officer. And the only thing she wants to do with my arse is kick it.
Penny: As opposed to…?
Matiu: I think we’re done here.
Penny, one last question: what do you wish people knew about your brother?
Penny: Don’t be fooled by the leather jacket and the sunnies: when he was a kid, Matiu Yee wore dinosaur pyjamas. You heard it here, folks.
What about you, Matiu? What do people not see when they look at Penny?
Matiu: Look, Penny makes out like she’s this smart, confident, funny science entrepreneur with a bright future ahead of her, when actually, she’s kinda broke and dependent on the people around her to make her look good, and to be honest she can be a bit flaky. But she’ll surprise you, you know? She gets results, even if she has to reorganise her wardrobe alphabetically to do it. Yes, even her underwear drawer is organised alphabetically. Don’t ask me how I know that.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Dan Rabarts is an award-winning short fiction author and editor, recipient of New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel (SJV) Award for Best New Talent in 2014. His science fiction, dark fantasy and horror short stories have been published in numerous venues around the world, including Beneath Ceaseless Skies, StarShipSofa and The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk. Together with Lee Murray, he co-edited the anthologies Baby Teeth – Bite-sized Tales of Terror, winner of the 2014 SJV for Best Collected Work and the 2014 Australian Shadows Award for Best Edited Work, and At The Edge, a collection of Antipodean dark fiction, which won the SJV for Best Collected Work in 2017. His novella Tipuna Tapu won the Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction as part of the Australian Shadows Awards in 2017. Hounds of the Underworld, Book 1 of the crime/horror series The Path of Ra, co-written with Lee Murray, is his first novel. Find out more at dan.rabarts.com.
A nine-time winner of the New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, Lee Murray is the author of numerous novels and novellas, including award-winning military thriller Into the Mist (Cohesion Press) described by World Horror Master Michael B. Collings as “adrenalin-fueled excitement in a single, coherent, highly imaginative and ultimately impressive narrative”. Lee is proud to have co-edited six anthologies, one of which, the charity collection Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror (with Dan Rabarts) won her an Australian Shadows Award for Best Edited Work 2014. Her current projects include the second book in her supernatural crime noir series The Path of Ra (co-written with Dan Rabarts), and Into the Ashes, the third title in her Taine McKenna adventure series. She lives with her family in the Bay of Plenty. Read more at www.leemurray.info.