Scott Mariani is the author of the worldwide-acclaimed action-adventure thriller series featuring ex-SAS hero Ben Hope. Scott’s novels have topped the bestseller charts in his native Britain and are translated into over twenty languages worldwide.
His next book released in the US is The Nemesis Program, available Feb 15, 2015.
I interviewed Scott for The Big Thrill magazine – free for thriller readers. The full edited transcript will be available there in Jan 2015. Below is an excerpt as well as the audio interview.
What are the themes that you return to in your books?
There is always a historical element. I’m very interested in history, but also the Ben Hope books belong to a certain genre which grew up out of Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code.
In that genre, there’s always some kind of historical theme running through each book. Ben’s not a historian; he’s not even interested in history, but it’s interesting from my point of view, having to find something that’s going to happen, some intrigue that involves history but has a relevance today, that somehow manages to involve Ben. There’s always a different way in which Ben manages to get embroiled in these historical things.
With regard to the modern-day element, there’s very often a conspiracy involved, sometimes on a huge, epic scale, sometimes involving massive global forces, other times involving more private conspiracies, and more low-key things involving maybe just one individual or a few individuals. I’ll very often find a character with suicide not really being suicide, with people being bumped off because they know too much or they’ve discovered something or found out something and they become dangerous or a threat, and somebody’s out to get them. Of course then Ben Hope has to come in at a certain point and sort things out. But the conspiracy element is something I quite enjoy. And some of them one could believe in, I think.
I wouldn’t say that I was a huge conspiracy buff, but I definitely have dark opinions about a lot of things that go on in the world, to the point where I couldn’t really discuss them too openly, because I’d probably get assassinated or something. But yes, there are a lot of very terrible things happening in this world, and we are not told the truth about very many of them, which of course forms a wonderful resource for people like me who can conjecture from that.
There’s also a lot of action and shooting and driving and cool chase scenes in your books. How do you do the research, and do you do some of those thrilling things yourself?
The driving part is all imaginary, because I’m a very, very timorous, slow, unadventurous driver! I drive an old Landrover, which physically can’t do more than about 45 miles an hour, so all this sort of high-speed stuff is just my imagination. I have done a lot of shooting and things in the past. I was, back in the day, a pistol shooter, before they banned it in Britain.
I still shoot; I do a lot of target shooting but I don’t kill things: I don’t go out and murder God’s little creatures, honest! But I do a lot of target shooting, so I’ve murdered enough little paper targets in my time, and I still do a lot of that. I love it: it’s just something I’m very passionate about. It’s not terribly exciting or thrilling. I also do a lot of practical shotgun, which involves a lot of running around and shooting at make-believe bad guys, knocking over steel plates and things, which is great fun, and it’s probably the most action-orientated shooting discipline still available to people in the UK, and that is enormous fun.
Joanna: I want to do that now!
Scott: It’s great, honestly: you’d love it. It’s like paintball shooting and things. I like that we all go out in the woods and kill each other! With paintballs!
It’s great fun, as long as you’re safe. Safety is obviously the most important thing. But once you know what you’re doing and you’re safe with it, it’s enormous fun.
Joanna: And you’re an archer as well, I think?
Scott: Yes! The good thing about archery is that you don't deafen yourself; it’s lovely and quiet. I’ve got a little archery range in my back garden, and I can go out there any time I like and shoot all day long without bothering the neighbors, although we’re quite remote here: nobody would really hear, I think, even if you were to let off a cannon! But yes, archery is a wonderful sport, and again, it’s something that I’ve always done. Even when I was a kid, I used to make my own bows and arrows out of branches from trees and do all sorts of irresponsible things, shooting arrows where I shouldn’t have been shooting them. But that is also a great sport. You should take it up: you’d love it!
Joanna: I’ve done a bit of archery, actually. Do you find it like a meditation?
Scott: Well, there is a sort of martial arts background. You have the whole Zen thing with archery. You step up to the target, and you have to get yourself into this meditative kind of state. But this is also true of shooting, as well. When you get in the zone, when you’re target shooting and you’re hunkered down behind a rifle on a firing point, completely still, and you have to lower your heartbeat, and your breathing is very controlled, and it’s possible to get into a really almost Zen-like state. Ben Hope is very good at getting into that state. He’s much better at it than I am. But he’s got sniper training and all that. Anything I can do, he can do ten times better!
It’s very cathartic and restful, until you pull the trigger and it goes Bong! That’s not so restful. But with archery, it’s a lovely thing to get into. I definitely would urge anyone who hasn’t tried it to try it.