Wine and murder blend in Tony Parsons' latest thriller
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Writers may, on occasion, be asked to eat their words. But drink them? Surely not.
Yet it could be said that was what happened to best-selling author Tony Parsons last Friday (Feb 26), in the online company of wine expert Susy Atkins. Many glassfuls of wine are consumed in Parsons' latest thriller, Your Neighbour's Wife (Century), a multi-twisted tale of the fatal consequences of one ill-judged night in an otherwise idyllic marriage.
Prosecco is a meaningful word in the secret language of Tara and Christian Carver, and makes its appearance in the first and last sentences of the book in which they are the principal characters. There is champagne, too, cast in a more ominous role .
But Australian shiraz has the broadest presence, both encouraging and disturbing – and it was that, in the form of a bottle of Yalumba Galway 2018 (Waitrose, £12.50), that Parsons and Atkins, and their audience on Zoom, were drinking.
It was an innovative way to broaden a virtual meet-the-author session, as Parsons sat in his Hampstead home, alone with glass and bottle.
His spaniel Stan didn't make an appearance, reluctant perhaps to steal the show. "I love the Australian people, I love Australian wines." Parsons confirmed. "They are very drinkable, when you finish a glass you feel like another one." Of shiraz, particularly.
Atkins, award-winning drinks columnist and author herself, explained the 170-year history of Yalumba, oldest family-owned vineyard in Australia, the making of Galway and its flavours – "smooth and rounded, balanced, not a tricky customer".
Unlike the book, which "had to be gripping", Parsons insisted, revealing that a major inspiration was "the most successful whodunnit of all time", Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.
"They all did it... But it has to be believable when you get to the reveal." The film Fatal Attraction was also an influence, though his story reverses roles, making the sinister villain male rather than female.
Parsons' own music journalism experience – he began his writing career on New Musical Express before moving on to national newspapers and highly successful novels and thrillers – reflects in Your Neighbour's Wife, as does his knowledge of Tokyo and of the bar that, appearing in the book in a somewhat smarter-than-actual form, restricts its offering to one drink (Aussie shiraz, of course), one dish (truffle pasta) and music from a single band, Led Zeppelin.
He was quizzed by Atkins, a sympathetic host, and the online audience on a variety of related matters, including the reason for the book's title (linked to the tenth Commandment –"this book is about not resisting temptation"), whether a film was on its way (not yet but likely), how lockdown has affected him ("even as an only child, it surprises me how much I have missed outside contact").
And the next book? Another entanglement of mystery and love, but this time the central couple's home is in the Cotswolds, not Camden Town, he replied. It is due for publication next year.