NTN: Anya Lipska interviewed

New author Anya Lipska is a TV producer and scriptwriter for well-respected documentary series such as the BBC’s Panorama, and Dispatches on Channel 4. Based in London, her first book Where the Devil Can’t Go is a detective mystery and political thriller drawing on her first hand experiences of the lives of Polish immigrants in London’s East End. We catch up with her before the books imminent release in paperback…

How would you introduce Where the Devil Can’t Go to our readers?
The story follows the shovel-fisted Janusz Kiszka, fixer to the London’s East End Polish community. His enquiries over a missing 19-year-old waitress, on behalf of the family, lead him to be threatened by drug dealing gangsters and accused of murder by DC Natalie Kershaw, a tough young female detective investigating the death of a girl washed up on the Thames foreshore. Janusz finds himself embroiled in a sinister conspiracy with its roots in Poland’s Solidarity era, when he was part of the uprising against the Communist regime. His quest takes him on a visit home to the port of Gdansk, and into the cellar of a former secret policeman, before a thrilling denouement unfolds in a derelict warehouse in London’s Docklands.

Why did you decide to set your novel amongst London’s Polish community?
Many people have had contact with a Polish builder or cleaner, but probably know little about the country’s rich culture and recent history. Being married to a Pole gave me an ‘in’ to the community and a great setting for the novel. The drinking habits, sexual mores, politics and religion of ex-pat Poles seem foreign to native Brits but at the same time remind us of how we used to be some decades ago: a reserved, church-going people who value duty, and enjoy a good drink but retain a suspicion of authority. It inspired what I hope is a rich cast of characters – from priests to pole dancers, and stern matriarchs to petty smugglers.

Who are your main characters and what do you think crime fiction lovers will enjoy about them?
I hope crime fans will enjoy the contradictions in the character of Janusz, who skates a fine line between criminality and old-fashioned respectability, ready to use violence while observing his own, distinctive moral code. His sparring encounters are with police protagonist DC Kershaw, a feisty girl from the East End trying to succeed in a man’s world. I also hope they’ll get a few laughs from the antics of Janusz’s best mate, the incorrigible Oskar, and Kershaw’s boss DS Bacon, a neanderthal throwback to CID’s bad old days who also happens to be a fine detective.

How did you get started as an author?
I’ve been a journalist for more than 20 years, mostly as a television producer for drama and factual documentaries which involve a great deal of writing and sub-editing. Writing for TV is a totally different animal, but I think it has trained me to express myself clearly and economically.

How much has your background in television – especially investigative journalism – influenced your writing?
The biggest legacy of my time on current affairs programmes would be research skills: the ability quickly to grasp the essentials of quite complex subjects and make them comprehensible. Being able to separate reliable sources from conjecture and conspiracy theory was also invaluable when it came to reading the history books and countless newspaper articles on Soviet-era Poland and weaving the facts into my story. Two decades in the press and TV has left me with an extensive contacts book: I’ve spent many hours with helpful murder detectives (most of it in pubs), and talking to toxicologists about effects of drugs on the central nervous system; I even attended a post mortem.

You’re working on your second book, can you give us any hints as what readers might expect?
It will be a crime novel, because I love the structure crime stories offer the writer, but my next book may go a little further off piste… More than that would be giving the game away!

Where the Devil Can’t Go is available on Kindle at the excellent price of £0.94. Watch out for the review here on Crime Fiction Lover.