In preparation for the publication of Hazel West's new steampunk mystery novel - A Case of Poisons - due to be released to the public June 3, 2013, Hazel has invited me to interview the novel's protagonist, private detective Anthony Maxwell!
Anthony Maxwell is a private investigator, a consultant for the mostly incompetent inspectors at Scotland Yard, on occasion a writer, and always a lover of coffee. He has been working small cases for several years to pay the bills when he's introduced to the first multiple murder case of his career early one morning, when a witness catches a man trying to unload a body to bury in a nearby graveyard. Soon the first body is joined by three more in the course of a single morning and Anthony knows this is no ordinary serial murder case. And why is the murderer targeting beggars and urchin children? If that wasn't cause enough to worry, all the victims are covered with horrible wounds and show signs of exotic poisoning. Anthony, along with his partners Tobias - an ex-broadsman and well-known charmer - and Scamp - a street smart and talented young woman - work to find out who is murdering the helpless beggars and children in such horrifying ways. The first book in this new Victorian steampunk series takes the three companions to the limits of their abilities as they go up against canny murderers, bruisers who appear invincible, anarchist groups, and even ancient British royalty in the biggest case Anthony Maxwell has ever worked in his career.
Mara A: So, Anthony, what got you interested in being a private/consultant detective in the first place?
Anthony Maxwell: I suppose it was the allure of the chase, and perhaps the promise of adventure. Of course, most of the time, it’s not like that at all, but every once in a while I have a very exciting case. I think I knew I would like to be a detective since I was about fourteen—I was a solitary lad, and enjoyed books and puzzles. It wasn’t until I was at Oxford, though, and helped solve a string of thefts on the university grounds that my friends—half jokingly—said I would make a spiffing detective. I would have applied for a position at Scotland Yard, but the structure and the length of time it would have taken to become an inspector put me off. Therefore, I started up my own business.
Mara A: What was your first case?
Anthony Maxwell: Unofficially, the thefts I helped solve at Oxford, which were really just the cause of a particularly nasty personage thinking he was better than anyone else. My first case as a private detective is actually rather boring, and a bit embarrassing. I was asked to help track down someone’s cook, but it turned out her mistress had already given her leave and had just forgot (she was quite old). I sometimes find it amazing I actually wanted to continue my profession after that!
Mara A: Tell me a little bit about your childhood; did you have an interest in detective work even then?
Anthony Maxwell: As I said earlier, I had been interested in the prospect of detecting and solving mysteries for a long time, and did so enjoy a good mystery novel. I’ve had a lot of people feel sorry for me when I told them about my childhood, but I really was never worse for it. You see, my father died when I was very young, and my mother ran off with a sailor when I was about seven, so I was raised by my Aunt Meredith, who was, for all intents and purposes, my mother. She still lives in our family estate up north. Since I never had any brothers or sisters, I read books, and came up with my own stories. I had a few friends, but living in a secluded country estate meant I didn’t get to socialize with them a lot. I mostly helped my aunt run the estate and all that.
Mara A: You and Tobias have a really close brotherly friendship; where and how did you first meet him?
Anthony Maxwell: I met Tobias not long after I moved to London, as he was about to be soundly beaten by some men he had cheated at cards. He was a rather disreputable fellow when I met him, though still charming the ladies, of course. He was a very accomplished broadsman (a card sharp) and had unfortunately been found out by the fellows he was playing against that day. Lots of people ask me why I would save a fellow like Tobs, and truthfully, I don’t know—I suppose it might have been because he was so hopelessly outnumbered. But I have not regretted it at all, and he has certainly mended his ways since he joined me and Scamp in our tight-knit little group, and he’s always at my back when I need him.
Mara A: How'd you get Tobias involved in your work? Did he think you were completely mad at first, or was he excited to meet danger head-on with you?
Anthony Maxwell: Tobs is too kind to say anything about what he thought of me at first, but I suspect he must have thought me completely mad. Scamp, on the other hand, quite plainly told me the kind of man she thought I was when she first met me. No, Tobias is one of those men who is up for anything at any time. As soon as I explained to him what I did for a living, he instantly promised his assistance. Perhaps it was because he felt he was indebted to me, I was never sure, but it seemed a natural thing to him. His set of skills have certainly come in handy in several of my cases to date as well.
Mara A: I have to ask, who do you think is more brilliant: Dupin or Sherlock Holmes?
Anthony Maxwell: Well, Dupin is very clever in his own way, but I have always admired Holmes’ thought processes, and deductive reasoning more. Some of Dupin’s cases seem a little easy compared to ones Holmes has solved, so I would have to say in the end that Holmes is the more brilliant of the two. If they were ever to meet, I’m sure it would be a bloodbath, though.
Mara A: What was your first reaction when you moved to London? The big city can be pretty overwhelming at first.
Anthony Maxwell: It was a bit overwhelming, but I had gotten used to the city in part when I was at university in Oxford. I think my initial reaction to moving to London was simple excitement. I may be a scholar, and had lived most of my life prior in the country, but I have always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of city life. There’s always something going on to stimulate the senses, not to mention more cases. I was always fascinated by the different layers of classes in London as well, even if I don’t always agree with the prejudice toward lower classes. I enjoy the prospect of observing different layers of people instead of just one.
Mara A: You seem to know a lot about poisons; what was your first case that got you interested in studying poisons?
Anthony Maxwell: I’ve only worked three cases that involved poisons, including the case mentioned in my first chronicle. The first poisons case I worked (which was actually one of the first cases I worked with Inspector Garrett and Scotland Yard) dealt with a woman poisoning her husband to inherit his money. It was an awful business, but it was not very hard to solve either. My interest in poisons actually budded during my scientific studies at Oxford. I had never quite been able to grasp the technicalities behind such things as chemistry and microbiology, but toxicology was one thing I really did enjoy. I think I rather frightened my professor on several occasions with my knowledge!
Mara A: How did you first meet Archie and his boys?
Anthony Maxwell: Archie, like Scamp, I met when he was trying to pick my pocket. I’ll admit that all my friends, besides Inspector Garrett, of course, come from dubious backgrounds. I formed a respect and almost a fatherly attachment toward Archie first off. I had always felt terrible seeing the poor children begging on the streets, and when I met Archie and befriended him, I was happy to be able to help him and the children he protected. It took me a bit for him to actually trust me, but after a few attempts on my part, he eventually introduced me to the girls and boys he looks after. Since then, he has been a willing helper in many of my investigations.
Mara A: This is a classic question that for some reason everyone likes to know the answer to: what's your favorite color?
Anthony Maxwell: It would have to be red, and, no, I don’t consider it a sinister colour. It’s vibrant and rich, and looks so classy with black!
I would like to thank Hazel (and Anthony!) for this opportunity to do such a fun interview. Look for A Case of Poisons on Amazon and Createspace June 3rd! Also, if you are interested in donating money to Hazel's campaign to promote her new book A Case of Poisons - and receiving way awesome gifts in return! - follow this link!
Sir Anthony Maxwell