I am so pleased to welcome author Paul Ver Bruggen onto my blog tonight. Every now and then, you come across a book that totally blows you away ; a book that has you totally engrossed from start to finish; a book that you could read again and again and never get tired of it. I would rate The Gaming Room by Paul Ver Bruggen, as one of the best books I have read this year. In fact, if I had to name my top 10 all time favourite books it would definitely be on the list along with classics such as Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca”, F Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and D H Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.
The Gaming Room is a fusion of history, romance and psychological thriller. There are two intertwining stories – one set in the 21st century; the other 18th century – both separate stories yet linked . In the 18th century we meet John Law, gambler extraordinaire, who aspires to become banker for the French monarchy….. and then, in the 21st century we meet his descendent, Theo Law, who also takes a gamble as he launders money via on the Dark Web for the Russian Mafia as well as the Vatican. And a trip to Venice they both take … 11/10 for me 😊
Hello Paul and welcome!
Hi. I’m Paul and I’m that unusual person: I live in London and I’m actually from London.
I’ve been happily married for many years to Carin, an American, originally from Detroit, Michigan, and we have one daughter, Skyler.
I work as a freelance video producer/director and a writer of fiction.
I love singing, cinema, cycling, reading, playing tennis and baking bread.
“The Gaming Room” is my first published novel.
Who or what inspired you to write your excellent book “ The Gaming Room”?
I was first inspired by the extraordinary real life of John Law, a gambler and financier in the early 18th century, who killed a man in a duel and was forced to flee London. He became the most powerful man in France, made and lost a vast fortune and spent his final daysin a notorious gaming room in Venice, overlooking the Grand Canal.
I then decided to interweave his story with that of a fictional moneyman, his 21st century descendant, Theo Law, an investment banker turned major money launderer for the Russian mafia.
Then came the biggest inspiration of all – I had them haunt each other across the centuries.
I really enjoyed reading your book, “The Gaming Room”. I loved the way the modern day chapters featuring Theo Law entwined with the 18th century John Law and although both were distinctly different “stories” it was surprisingly easy to immerse yourself into both centuries equally! I loved the characters equally too – John and Theo and surprisingly, Maggie! Which character was the hardest to write about?
Theo was actually the hardest. Almost all the others were either based on historical figures or someone I knew or had met, including Maggie. (An ex-girlfriend’s alcoholic mother, from the East End.)
Also, Theo speaks in the first person – you hear most of what’s going on inside his head and he has to carry that whole section of the book. He’s a tricky combination. He’s behaves badly, but he also has to be redeemable, and to some extent likeable, so that you care enough about him to want to stick with the story.
Were there any aspects of writing The Gaming Room or indeed, writing about any of the characters, that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?
One of the things that surprised me was the way the two stories seemed to echo each other quite naturally, without my having to force things. And then there was the decision for the two main characters to haunt each other and eventually meet in a kind of parallel universe. Like so many decisions in writing fiction, theyseem to be taken for you, as if your unconscious is at workthroughout.
In terms of characters, John Law’s partner Catherine really took me by surprise. My wife, Carin read an early draft of the novel and thought the women were all too passive. I set about making Catherine a rival to Law as much as his advisor. Suddenly she took off as a very strong character and, indeed, seemed to take over the whole story! She was so real to me that I was actually in tears when I wrote her final letter to the dying Law.
What era of the story did you enjoy researching or writing about the most – the 18th century John Law or the 21st century Theo Law?
As regards research, the 18th century story was obviously the hardest. It was a mountain of stuff, not just on the macro, political level, but on the more micro and every day – what did they wear? what did they eat and drink? what card games did they play? Exhaustive and exhausting!
On the plus side, there was a real historical story that I could base my own narrative on. Sometimes it felt like I was channelling the spirit of John Law and that was very enjoyable.
Overall, I derived a real sense enjoyment from how and where the book was written. It was mostly in long hand, on trains, buses and station platforms, or at lunchtimes, in local cafes. There’s somethingoddly satisfying about scribbling a scene at the court of Louis XIV in Versailles or some steamy lovemaking with a courtesan in Venice, whilst travelling on a very crowded tube train between Queen’s Park and Oxford Circus!
Growing up, did you have aspirations to become a writer or did your career hopes lie elsewhere?
I really wanted to be a novelist from my mid-twenties and wrote a couple of duds, as you do. Gradually, as my career as a Producer/Director took off, I set fiction to one side, and didn’t return to it for over 20 years. I then had to write another couple of duds before I got to The Gaming Room. It’s been a long journey.
Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?
Now that I write more, I’m less bookish – I just don’t have time to read as much as I used to and I usually only manage to read our book group choice, or something that’s part of my research for the current novel.
I think The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is probably as perfect as a novel gets.
I must be getting younger instead of older, because I used to be a stickler for actual books and now I usually read them off my phone. Help
Is “The Gaming Room” available to purchase worldwide?
It’s available on Amazon UK and US in Kindle and paperback.
If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?
The novel I’m working on is set in Italy during the Renaissance. My first ports of call would be the Arena Chapel in Padua and the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, both of which are important locations in the story.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing? What’s lurking your wardrobe? Boots Or Shoes
If I do say so myself, I’m a snappy dresser. When I was travelling regularly into Soho and the West End, I put a lot of money and thought into it, especially the colour palette. Now I put less money, but just as much thought.
Then, my wardrobe ranged from anything Italian to the Jermyn Street shirt merchants – T.M Lewin, Charles Tyrwhitt, Pink etc. – to the smart casuals like Ben Sherman and Banana Republic. These, together with the odd foray into TK Max, particularly for shoes –suede Chelsea and Chukka boots – and the posher charity shop and stalls in Notting Hill and Portobello, for cashmere woollies and tweedy coats.
Now, it tends to be ‘vintage’/charity shops for everything – and they’re not always so posh. And it’s not always cashmere.
Sadly, the Ben Sherman shops folded a few years back, but for personal, biographical reasons, they were my true favourites. Along with a mohair suit and sharp pair of brogues – even now, I have many pairs – a Ben Sherman shirt was de rigeur for a smart, trendy young geezer growing up in East London in the ‘60s.
But there’s also another side to my fashion sense. No, I’m not a cross-dresser, but I do cross the Atlantic. I’ve spent a lot of time in the US down the years – hey, I married one – and I take a shine to that Western look that includes vintage Levis, suede waistcoats,cowboy shirts and fancy cowboy boots. (I leave off the spurs – although I am a supporter…) At one point, after I’d spent some time on a filming job in Texas and Louisiana, the Western style almost took over my whole wardrobe. YeeHaw!!! I had to work hard to haul it back towards the classic English preppy and it now remains a mellow blend of the two
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed today; thank you for the copy of your book The Gaming Room for reviewing; and thank you to Ben Cameron for introducing me to you and your writing!
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Paul Ver Bruggen