Charity Norman: a visitor from Hawke's Bay.

Nicky Pellegrino and Stacy Gregg continue their podcast series of author interviews. This week: Charity Norman.

After switching careers from criminal barrister to novelist, perhaps it was inevitable that Hawkes Bay author Charity Norman would find herself writing gritty family dramas. Her books have found international success but the latest, The Secrets Of Strangers, was inspired by events close to home. During the 2009 Napier siege when gunman Jan Molenaar opened fire on police officers, Norman’s house was taken over by the Armed Offenders Squad and peppered with bullet holes.

The Secrets Of Strangers involves different circumstances but explores similar themes. A suspenseful page-turner, it is set in a café where a group of people find themselves being held hostage by an armed man who is growing increasingly desperate.

Excerpt from The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin, $32.99)

It’s the rattle of coins dropping into his cup that wakes him. That, and his friend the one-legged pigeon with his happy-bird crooning. That, and the stream of arctic air invading his sleeping bag. That, and the whole bench shuddering as a bus wheezes down the High Road.

Thirty seconds ago he was comfy in his old bed, his arms around Heather, his nose in her hair. Shampoo and laundry powder. But there must have been a door open somewhere because ice was seeping in. He’d have to get up and shut that bloody thing. Anyway—dammit—he needed a pee.

Then the clatter in his tin mug. Heather’s beautiful warmth is going, going, gone as reality pours back in all its disastrous glory. Mind you, it’s a relief to wake up at all. Always good to know you’ve made it through another night. He opens his eyes just in time to register the squeak of rubber soles and glimpse a sturdy silhouette marching off across the church car park. Buddy pokes his head out from his blanket, ears pricked, sniffing.

There’s four quid in the cup: a lucky birthday present from someone who doesn’t even know it’s his birthday. Many happy returns, you useless sod. He mouths it, not quite aloud. Tries not to talk to himself. Losing battle. Soon he’ll be one of those shambolic wrecks who mutter and curse under their breaths, the kind he used to feel sorry for. To be honest, he doesn’t want many returns of this kind of day.

Buddy heaves a sigh, and his greying muzzle sinks back onto his paws. He’s old. He just wants to sleep. Neil watches the onelegged pigeon pecking at a hefty crust of bread. His bladder’s becoming insistent but he’s putting off the moment when he has to face the cold and find out the hard way which bit of him aches the most. His dodgy knee. Maybe his creaking hip. Maybe his back.

He lowers his feet to the ground just as a pair of fire engines come bellowing past, sirens dropping and slowing. Doppler effect. He used to teach kids about that. He even had a video clip of a passing ambulance he used to play in the classroom, once upon a time when he was a clean-shaven know-all with a family and friends and a home and a sofa to sit on at night to watch telly.

BookBubble is made with the support of Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa

Previous BookBubble interviews have been conducted with Damien Wilkins, Kyle Mewburn, Nalini Singh, Christine Leunens, Elizabeth Knox and Brandy Scott.,dpr_auto,f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto,w_1200/k4dswzptnfv4vwoj2zr5

Nicky Pellegrino is the author of 11 novels, many of them published internationally. Her latest book is Tiny Pieces Of Us (published by Hachette in 2020).

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