The Cool Facts About ‘Hot Water’


This is a worst-case scenario for the French villa set.

Yikes, just a month away from the launch of ‘Hot Water’ and I haven’t done anything about it beyond shamelessly cold-calling a dozen authors I admire and asking them if they would read it.

The response was low, by the way. It was Christmas and authors don’t usually do this sort of thing, so I probably offended a couple of them. On the other hand, one eagerly agreed to read it, and gave me a lovely quote just a couple of days later (she made the front of the finished cover). I can’t tell you her name. It was the delightful Ann Cleeves.

My team includes Cat and Fenton (no ordinary names allowed at Titan) and they’re a tad more louche than in the larger companies, but a standalone thriller is a tricky sell even for them. If they can pull it off I’ll do more unusual projects with them, health permitting.

The other day I showed a friend the ARC of the book and he recognised certain elements in it. For a story involving a couple of wincing moments it’s pretty biographical in places. So what’s true?

I stayed in a villa exactly like the one in the book, right down to the layout of the rooms. There were ten of us, and during our time together there was a bizarre, unfounded accusation of infidelity that affected the dynamic of the group. I thought; the puzzling truth about what actually happened might just have happened for real. Suddenly I had a story. It was like the Villa Deodati with more bad behaviour. Stresses came out between the couples on holiday. I took certain characteristics of those who attended and exaggerated them, then stirred it all up, tightened the lid and let it simmer.

‘Hot Water’ is closest in tone to ‘Nyctophobia’, without a supernatural element, and will probably remind those who were there of what could have turned out to be a holiday in hell. But of course it’s also fiction, a story built around a few seeds of truth. This is a worst-case scenario for the French villa set.

Another element taken straight from life was the indifference of the village locals to tourists, and their occasional outright hostility. I’ve asked friends who go on about the delights of living in France, ‘Have you made a real set of friends there? People who aren’t simply earning off you?’

So part of the novel’s background is based on my experience of living in the South of France, its joys and horrors.

One part I had to make up was the cheating husband scenario. I had a friend who was caught sexting a girl by his wife, and they’re now divorced. Apart from that I avoided ‘The Girl…’-type suspense tales with unreliable or ridiculous narrators in favour of a more mysterious female lead.

Ann Cleeves summed it up; ‘A group of entitled, comfortable Brits bring about their own destruction in the heat of the French sun. I loved that simmering, relentless tension between apparently civilized people.’ She’s called it ‘A fable for our time.’ I’m just thrilled to get it out there.

12 comments on “The Cool Facts About ‘Hot Water’”

  1. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Looking forward to it.
    I have enjoyed all your books, so I’m sure I will enjoy this one.
    Approval from Ann Cleeves makes it even more certain.

  2. Liz+Thompson says:

    I’ve pre-ordered it. Recently read all of Ann Cleeves Shetland books, excellent.

  3. Adam says:

    Excellent news! Ordered, and really looking forward to it.

  4. Jay Mackie says:

    Pre-ordered and can’t wait. Chris, I know you mentioned a while ago about the possibility of a single, iconic volume of all your short stories (and maybe one or two new or unpublished ones) but is there any news on this idea or is it still a case of finding a way to self publish as it’d be too big a thing for a publisher to take on??

  5. Wayne Mook says:

    Looking forward to this, nyctophobia was really enjoyable.

    I remember in Prague I had slight trouble with a local place, when I told what had happened in a bar we had been drinking in near where we were staying a number of people from the bar wanted to go round and make sure it didn’t happen again. I had to persuade the locals not too take my complaint forward.


  6. Jo W says:

    There’s still room on the “Fowler shelf” Chris. Keep on keeping on and I hope the sun’s shining in Barcelona? X

  7. Stu-I-Am says:

    Holidays have always provided fertile ground for thrillers and mysteries. Apart from different actual surroundings and experiences which come into play, it also happens that the daily life ‘filters’ at home which suppress impulses often become somehow less effective or inoperative with the alternate ‘current’ of a new environment. Here’s hoping your myopic American agent ‘eats his (your?) words’ about the salability of ‘Hot Water’ as not neatly fitting into a particular genre. I suggest he have his condiments ready.

  8. admin says:

    Jay, it pretty much looks like it’s happening. The volume(s) will be definitive and pretty chunky. Meanwhile, I’ll be featured in an upcoming collection of new stories celebrating JG Ballard.

  9. Jay Mackie says:

    Hi Chris

    Many thanks for that update and do let us all know more as and when

  10. Stu-I-Am says:

    Enquiring minds want to know: are the apparently soon-to-see-the-light of-day literary ‘door stoppers’ still to be called collectively ‘Total Midnight ?’ Or at this stage, is you saying it like actors in a theatre uttering the actual title of ‘the Scottish play ‘ If so — there must be a literary equivalent of the ritual to remove the curse. And what pray tell is the new story in the Ballard celebratory collection ? You’re not reimagining ‘The Sand Men’ are you ?

  11. Helen+Martin says:

    Can’t be the Sand Men – that’s too long for a short story collection, even if you pare it back to the bone and lose all the good bits.

  12. Wayne Mook says:

    Now is that a new tale or an old one?

    With collections called City Jitters and Ballard known for his urban paranoia you should be a shoe in.


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