Carsten Stroud has served in the US military, worked as a salvage diver and undercover operative infiltrating biker gangs, and a journalist. He lives in the United States. His New York Times bestselling work of non-fiction is Deadly Force.
We sit down for a little chat with Carsten Stroud author of Black Moon and Cobraville and natter like a couple of old mates in a pub.
So Carsten, what’s the point of writing Cobraville?
Apart from my wife’s odd obsession with living indoors?
I’ll try to be more specific. Does Cobraville carry an ‘author’s message’?
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always loathed allegory. When I got to the end of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe stories and realised that I had been suckered into reading a blinking religious allegory, I felt like hunting Lewis down and beating him senseless with a rolled-up copy of Guns and Ammo. So if you can find a message in Cobraville, show me where it is and I’ll snap its little neck. I was simply trying to hold your attention with a damn good story, and not insult your intelligence along the way. I try to write straight across to the reader, as if we were sitting in a pub together, a couple of old friends, and my job is to be good company for the evening, not to lecture the poor chap on current events. Cobraville is a spy story and a war story – I think a damn fine one – and I hope it can stand the test of being read with pleasure by an intelligent reader. I enjoyed writing it, I’m extremely careful with the details. I know what I’m talking about when it comes to combat and I know a little about Washington DC, and I think that shows in the work.
But the parallel with the War in Iraq, with American foreign policy –
What’s the line they stick in films now? ‘Any similarity with actual people and real events is purely coincidental’?
In the book you’re pretty hard on the United Nations. You describe a UN peace-keeping operation in the southern Philippines as ‘… yet another United Nations feel-good rat fuck fiasco, a doomed-from-the-get-go Cub Scout Jamboree that was slowly but inexorably sinking into the blood-drenched malarial swamps of Southeast Asia.’ That sounds a lot like an author’s message, and a very pointed one.
Well, I used to be Cub Scout myself. So perhaps I’m still bitter about that whole knot-tying-merit-badge incident. Nothing was ever proven. It was all rumour and innuendo. Mind you, you have to be careful what you say about the Cub Scouts. They have a long reach and they’re a vengeful crowd.
We’re told that Black Moon was banned by Castro and that you’ve been warned against traveling to Cuba. How do you explain that?
Fidel and I used to room together when we were taking Greats up at Oxford. I borrowed his favorite pair of Wellies and got them all smudgy. He’s never forgiven me. Fidel, if you’re reading this, get over it. Move on.
Let’s change the subject. Are there any writers who drive you barking mad?
Yes. All the really good ones. I’m very prone to bitterness and envy. I particularly loathe Le Carre, Conrad, Chandler, Hammett … Len Deighton too. Can’t abide those chaps. Reading them makes me question my whole career. I hate being shown up as a second-rate hack. It’s not bloody fair. I wish they’d all go away and take up bee-keeping in the Outer Hebrides.
Conrad’s dead. So is Hammett. And Chandler’s not at all well.
Really? Thanks, I feel better now.