Today I’m delighted to feature author Chris Lloyd. I ‘found’ Chris when I was looking for books set in Spain. When I learned that he not only set his work in Catalonia (Girona to be precise) but also wrote crime novels he was definitely added to my ‘to read’ list. When I finally read the first book I was not disappointed. It was wonderful to discover a fabulous female detective in Elisenda Domènech as well as being able to delight in the location having also finally visiting Girona.
Much longer ago than he’s comfortable mentioning, Chris Lloyd hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia and stayed there for over twenty years, falling in love with the people, the country, the language and Barcelona Football Club, probably in that order. Besides Catalonia, he’s also lived in Grenoble, the Basque Country and Madrid, teaching English, travel writing for Rough Guides and translating. He now lives in South Wales with his wife Liz, within a shiver of the Brecon Beacons, where he writes crime novels and works as a Catalan and Spanish translator.
He’s always wanted to be a writer, ever since he can remember, but someone once told him that he had to wait until he was old enough. In the meantime, he writes the Elisenda Domènech crime series, featuring a police officer with the newly-devolved Catalan police force in the beautiful city of Girona. In 2020, the first book in his new series about Eddie Giral, a Paris police detective during the Nazi Occupation, will be published by Orion.
So over to Chris
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
OK, so now I’m completely stumped at the first question… I have no idea where to even begin to get my music down to five pieces, so given my rubbish memory span, I’ll mention five that I’ve listened to recently that made me look back at some time in my life. And then once it’s posted, I’ll immediately remember all the ones I should’ve included.
Ghosts by Horslips – Irish folk-rockers Horslips was the first band I loved, for their rock songs based on traditional Celtic tunes, often retelling Irish legends. Ghosts is a haunting song of loneliness and lost love, which was perfect for an angst-ridden teenager.
True Stories by Talking Heads – This is a bit of a cheat as it’s an album, but it’s one of those ones where you have to put the first song on and not move an inch until the last track’s played. It reminds me of late nights with old friends and bottles of wine. And I can’t even tell you which song on it is my favourite as they’re all sublime.
El Costo de la Vida by Juan Luis Guerra – This singer from the Dominican Republic was huge in Madrid when I met and fell in love with my wife, so he always has a special place for me. What I like about this song in particular is that underneath the catchy Latin rhythm is a biting political protest song attacking poverty, corruption and colonialism.
White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane – This is the coolest song in the history of music ever. It’s impossible for the hypnotic rhythm and Grace Slick’s beautiful singing not to work their charm on my frame of mind, and the live version recorded at Woodstock still takes my breath away.
El Carrer dels Torrats by Sopa de Cabra – I lived in Catalonia for over twenty years and so much of my soundtrack comes from there. Sopa de Cabra (meaning Goat Soup as they were influenced by the Stones’ Goats Head Soup album) come from Girona and were huge in the 80s and 90s. They reformed a few years ago and are as good as ever. One of my favourite bands, they’re also Elisenda’s favourite in the books, which is quite a coincidence…
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Books, books and books. That’s three – incorporating bookshops and libraries.
And linked to that, my computer, simply because I’d miss writing so much.
Tea and red wine. The first through the day, the second at the end of it.
Channel 4 News. It’s the only news service with anything like a grasp on the truth.
The sea, in any of its moods. I can watch it and breathe it in for hours and find calm or vibrancy, whichever one I need at that moment.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Stop worrying about everything. No, really, I mean everything.
Have a bit more confidence in yourself. You’ll learn everyone else is struggling too.
Try and find a balance between living the life and getting on with things. And by that, I mean getting on with writing.
Listen to older relatives more – you won’t always be able to.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I once had a private Eddie Grant concert. Not really, but a security guard and I conned our way into his sound check in Barcelona and were the only people watching him perform Gimme Hope, Jo’anna.
I have a song or piece of music for each of the main characters in my books. I play the song when I’m about to write a key scene with them in it.
I was once called an adopted Catalan by the president of the Catalan government in exile during the Franco regime.
I can’t wear a watch or jewellery as they make me feel trapped. And I hate having to do my coat up for the same reason.
I was born in an ambulance and my first cot was a suitcase with a blanket in it. It probably explains a lot.
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
I think most of them would involve travelling in some form or other. So, I’d love to travel the length of Argentina from the pampas to the glaciers, stopping off for a glass of wine in Buenos Aires and a pot of Welsh tea in Patagonia.
I’d love to learn to play the guitar. I tried years ago and I was hopeless, but I’m convinced I’d be better now. And like so much these days, that’s based on no tangible evidence whatsoever.
I’m a big fan of the Algonquin set – Dorothy Parker, SJ Perelman, James Thurber, Groucho Marx et al – and I’d love to stay at the Algonquin hotel in New York, having cocktails with my wife and soaking up the witty brilliance of the former residents. We can all hope.
I’d love to learn to sail. The first thing I’d do is pootle up and down the Catalan coast for a month, only dropping anchor for a swim and a glass of red wine.
I keep meaning to learn Danish. I think the main reason is so I can read at least some Scandi-noir in the original.
Thanks so much for joining us today Chris. My love of Spain is fairly recent compared to yours – a result of being stranded in Seville for a week in 2010. Consequently I’ve been back numerous times to discover different areas and I can see why you fell in love with Catalonia. I love the variety of your music choices and nice to see a mention of Horslips, a definite blast from the past for me. Also agree with you on tea, I’m addicted to it and have no sooner finished one, I’m making another. An ideal accompaniment to Channel 4 news which I’ve only recently converted to. How cool to be acknowledged as an ‘adopted Catalan’ that must have made you proud? Really hope you get to tick off those bucket list items, Argentina sounds good, but as a fan of Dorothy Parker the Algonquin (and New York) would be pretty special too.
A killer is targeting figures of corruption in the Catalan city of Girona, with each corpse posed in a way whose meaning no one can fathom.
Elisenda Domènech, the head of Girona’s newly-formed Serious Crime Unit, believes the attacker is drawing on the city’s legends to choose his targets, but soon finds her investigation is blocked at every turn.
Battling against the press, the public and even her colleagues, she is forced to question her own values. When the attacks start to include less deserving victims, however, the pressure is suddenly on Elisenda to stop him.
Still recovering from the tragedy that hit her team, Elisenda takes on a new case. Except it’s not new. On an archaeological dig by the coast a body is uncovered, seemingly executed with a spike thrust through the front of the skull – an ancient tribal ritual. It soon becomes clear that this body is neither ancient nor modern, but a mysterious corpse from the 1980s.
Assigned to the case along with her team, Elisenda soon uncovers a complex world of star archaeologists, jealousy and missing persons. They find a dark trade in illicit antiquities, riddled with vicious professional rivalries. And even though she’s staying close to the crime scene, Elisenda is also never far from enemies of her own within the police force.
Just as the case seems to become clear it is blown wide-open by another horrific murder. Elisenda must fight her personal demons and office politics, whilst continuing to uncover plots and hatreds that were long buried. How far will she go to solve the crime? Is her place in the force secure? And can she rebuild her life?
When the son of a controversial local politician goes missing at election time, Detective Elisenda Domènech is put on the case. They simply must solve it. Only the team also have to deal with a spate of horrifically violent break-ins – people are being brutalised in their own homes and the public demands answers.
Could there be a connection? With the body count threatening to increase and her place in the force on the line, the waters are rising…
Be careful not to drown.
Keep in touch with Chris via