I was kindly gifted a book by Cameron Publishing, a thriller called “Carbon Game” by Miles Montague, to review. Published on 16 February 2020, this thriller looked, well, thrilling, when I read the blurb on the back of the book. I am a great fan of thrillers and this one was set within the explosive political battles of the 1980s between South Africa and England; and the diamond trade. It was refreshing to read a thriller based on a topic that has rarely been explored, and as Miles is a former diamond valuer who operated from London in the 1980s, the thriller was made more credible due to the attention to details. Miles was born in Kenya and came to England in the 1960s and as I was reading the book, it occurred to me that there were similarities in style and pace of writing between Miles, and fellow African writer, Wilbur Smith – who happens to be one of my top favourite authors. Miles book jogged my memories of London in the 1980s although I did not know the ins and outs of the diamond trade nor the extent of the politics of the time. I found the thriller fast paced and exciting to read, the characters were believable and obviously the locations I could relate too. For a first thriller, this was more than excellent and I, for one, look forward to reading his second thriller! I was honoured therefore, to get a chance to chat to Miles who also shared his photos with me of the London locations used in “Carbon Game”. Hi Miles and welcome…
Hello, I’m Miles Montague, I’m British, married and currently living in Belgium. I’ve also lived in Germany, Switzerland and Africa.
I worked in London as a valuer in the diamond industry in the 1980’s. My first thriller, Carbon Game, is set during this period of great social upheaval, both in South Africa and Britain. My work taught me a great deal about the international diamond business. I have a deep interest in international politics and economics, and love the challenge of complex plot and deep character creation required of thriller writing.
I was born in Kenya and lived there until my family, like many other colonials, returned to England in the mid 1960s. I can still remember, as a young boy, watching the severe storm at sea when we rounded the South African coast on our way home and the swimming pool almost emptying of water as the liner lurched to the battering of waves. This gave me a love of nature and drama. So, I suppose it’s no surprise that today, I am turning a rundown, hilltop Italian wine-producing property into a sanctuary for nature where I can watch the storms rolling in whilst I write my second thriller, which is also partially set in Africa.
Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?
I cannot be specific on this, but my early interest was radio plays. The reason for this is primarily that I like character creation. The plot also needs to unfold quickly in a realistic manner that you can follow. These are quite difficult challenges which I like.
“Carbon Game” – your 1st thriller – published on 16 February 2020 – and what a thriller – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. Being set between South Africa & England during the political turmoil of the 1980s and the plot being based on the diamond trade; it was certainly fast paced. As you were a former diamond valuer in London during the 1980s, a lot of the characters must have been based on people you knew and situations experienced. Which character did you enjoy writing about the most? Which character was the hardest?
Actually only three minor characters were based on people I knew of or had met in the diamond industry. I used my imagination to create the rest. The way my writing brain works is that I first create an outline plot and then sub plots which give rise to situations wherepeople find themselves in. I then think of what kind of people might get themselves in those positions. I have met a lot of people in my life and I also like watching TV and films.
I enjoyed writing about all the characters even the minor ones.
Janet Bromsgrove was a challenge as I was creating a female character who in some ways is not what you would expect. She is tough, self-assured, confident and had a background that offered her opportunities, and yet she chose to turn her back on those opportunities and follow a radical direction. An interesting character to write.
The locations were based primarily on my experiences. The bomb threat on the DTC building was something I went through and the streets and buildings were often places I had been to or ones I had researched. I was born in Kenya and lived there as a child and so have some knowledge of Africa. I have relatives who live in South Africa, although most of these have now gone to Australia.
Were there any aspects of writing the thriller that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?
A huge amount of effort went into the plot. Even so, along the way I was pleasantly surprised by ideas that came along that made it more interesting. For instance, I changed the ending of the finished book despite the fact that it created a lot of additional work. I was lying in bed in that grey zone between being awake and asleep, and at 4am a new ending came to me. I remember thinking, ‘stay in bed, you will remember it’, but I forced myself to get up and change it. I often get ideas during my sleep.
What made you decide to write a thriller about the diamond trade? Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the thriller developed?
My inspiration for Carbon Game came from when I was working for an international diamond company in London as a valuer, I was told a story by a diamond buyer which really got my imagination going.
He told me that in Western Africa there was a great deal of diamond smuggling from the alluvial deposits, primarily because of the civil war in Angola. This theme is partially shown in the film Blood Diamonds starring Leonardo di Caprio. The buyer went on to say that there were agents or buyers from all over the world located there and their task was to buy the best stones they could. He went on to describe how the smugglers would buy brand new 4×4 vehicles, often Land Rovers. They would bag up their diamonds and hide them in the engine oil sump. However, often some diamonds would escape and get into the engine mechanism which would wreak havoc. One way the buyers would know that the smugglers were coming was the loud rattling noises coming from those broken engines. After the smugglers had got the diamonds out from the engine sump they would often just leave the vehicle in the middle of nowhere and go buy another one.
These highly valuable alluvial diamonds are the best in the world. They are quite literally beautiful as they are eroded so they have a smooth skin and when they trickle through your fingers they give a sensation that you will never forget.
Are there any new thriller ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?
I am currently writing my next book, and this will be a suspense / psychological thriller with some criminal subplots. It starts in Uganda where certain significant events lead to tragic consequences about twenty five years later in Britain driven by personal ambition and lies. I have already written the first 30,000 words.
I actually have plot ideas for my next four thrillers. The world is in such a state of flux at the moment that opportunities for ideas have probably never been better.
Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?
I would not classify myself as a bookworm, but I am a bit of a news, economics and politics follower. My favourite authors are Alistair MacLean and Frederick Forsyth. I like real paperbooks, but appreciate that Kindle is really popular.
Is “Carbon Game” available to purchase worldwide?
Yes, via Amazon and you can get to it via the links on my website: www.milesmontaguebooks.com
If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?
Places in Africa, probably the coffee region in Uganda.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Smart casual. Jeans and sweatshirts. In the Summer I wear more linen shirts and trousers.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Definitely an Armani man but I also like Weston for shoes.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Some decent jeans.
Boots or Shoes?
I like both. I have some old ostrich leather boots which I love made by Lanvin which need some renovation.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Twitter and Facebook accessible from the website
Thank you Miles for agreeing to be interviewed. I really enjoyed reading your book and I can highly recommend it. My thanks also go to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for my review copy.
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Miles Montague (apart from the top photo which is by Linda Hobden)