Feature Q&A with Robert Schofield, author of Heist and Marble Bar

Schofield, Robert - credit Ross Swanborough


I’m excited to introduce you to author Robert Schofield today.

After graduating with a degree in engineering from Cambridge University, Robert worked as a structural engineering consultant, designing signature architecture including East Croydon Station, The Eden Project, Madrid Airport, Lichfield Theatre, and the London Imax Theatre. He then travelled to Australia, and finding no call for creative architectural engineering in Perth, adapted his skills to the mining and offshore industries. For the last twelve years Robert has been working in the gold industry. using whatever time he has left after working, writing, and wrangling three young children,  reading, cycling, kayaking on the Blackwood River, or maintaining his scooter: a beautiful 1972 Vespa Rally.

This month Robert is celebrating the release of his second novel, Marble Bar, a sequel to  Heist {Allen & Unwin 2013), an entertaining and action packed debut crime novel featuring Gareth Ford set in the Western Australia’s goldfields.

“Gareth Ford, with a cloud still hanging over him because of his involvement in the Gwardar Gold Heist, has decided to make a new beginning in the iron mines of Newman. But when he returns home from the night shift and finds his flatmate has been murdered, suspicion quickly falls upon him. He, however, fears he himself was the real target and soon discovers he is being tailed. He summons his old ally from the Gold Squad, DC Rose Kavanagh, and soon they find themselves in Marble Bar, searching for the Gwardar Gold and being pursued by a variety of desperadoes, each with their own agendas.”

I was given the opportunity to ask Robert a few questions, and I am happy to share his answers with you today. Read on to learn more about Robert Schofield and Marble Bar…

Q:What five words do you think best describe Marble Bar?
RS: A hot, sweaty, rollicking crime thriller.

Q: What inspired the plot of Marble Bar?
RS: This book is the sequel to my first novel: Heist. It follows my characters north into the Pilbara. A few years back, I went to Marble Bar for the first time; I’d been visiting a mine site up there and spent an afternoon drinking at the Ironclad Hotel.
Marble Bar’s claim to fame is that it is the hottest town in Australia. They have a sign there that tells you this, with a digital read-out that displays the current temperature. It takes a special kind of person to live there. You need to be mad as a cut snake.
As I started to read more about Marble Bar, I found there was a wealth of stories from the distant and recent past, any one of which could have been the spark for a book. I made another trip up there, and as I stood in the Ironclad the locals told me their own stories about things that never made the history books.
I wrote a little piece for a newspaper last month about writing. I said that you have to write about something that you care about; an idea that’s burning fiercely inside your head; because you’re going to be shut in a room on your own with that idea for a year or more, and it has to stay alight for all that time.
Marble Bar was founded during the gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century, but at the beginning of the twenty-first century it finds itself surrounded by the iron ore boom; but it has barely touched the town. It made me think about who should benefit from the mineral wealth lying under Australia: should it be the multinational mining companies, the Chinese steel mills, the super-rich entrepreneurs, the men and women sweating in the mines, the taxpayer, the general public, or the traditional owners? The book was an attempt to explore that question.

Q: What traits do you wish you shared with your protagonist, Gareth Ford?
RS: Unfortunately there is rather too much of me in Gareth Ford as it is. I’d rather I shared a bit less with him. Thankfully I don’t drink as much as he does, and I don’t have nearly as much bad luck.

Q: Why choose the mining towns of WA as the setting for your stories?
RS: I first went to Kalgoorlie in 1990. I’d met a girl in London who told me she came from this wild gold-mining town stranded out in the Western Australian desert, and I followed her there. I am from a cold and wet town in the north of England and the promise of unblemished blue skies was too strong to resist. So there I was, this pale Pom, standing in the front bar of the York Hotel during Race Round, the sun blaring down on the wide street outside, watching the barmaid knock the head off my beer with her bare breast. I thought I’d stepped into the Wild West. It was the exact opposite of everything I had experienced before: the sun was hotter, the beer was colder, and the people were warm. It was three parts heaven and two parts hell.
Two years later I met a different girl, and this time I fell in love. When she told me she came from Kalgoorlie as well I started to think the town had got some sort of a hold on me. A few years after we were married , I switched career into the mining industry, and found myself in the Goldfields again, working as a consulting engineer on the mines. Kalgoorlie had got me. I have been going back regularly ever since, sometimes for work, and sometimes for pleasure. I feel I have a connection to the place.

Q: Has your approach to writing changed between the publication of your debut, Heist and Marble Bar?
RS: Marble Bar was the Difficult Second Novel. I had to prove that the first novel was not a fluke, and I had to do it to a deadline. If you’ve poured everything into your first novel, what can be left for the second? It’s only natural that on the second visit to the well, you might find that it’s gone dry. This of course is why publishers offer two-book deals. They understand that it is the second book that separates the professional from the dilettante.
I wrote my first book in complete freedom, with no expectation of publication. It was just something to keep a restless mind occupied. This second one had a whole lot more riding on it, and I had to learn a different approach. It taught me discipline.

Q: Which writers do you most admire?
RS: When I started my first book I was influenced by American writers: Elmore Leonard, James Crumley, George V. Higgins, Donald Westlake., and by British writers such as Patricia Highsmith and Ted Lewis. I’m now slowly working my way through the Australian crime canon, and enjoying Kenneth Cook and Gary Disher.
I still have a love of the American Beat Writers and Charles Bukowski, and will re-read them every few years. My guilty pleasure is the Aubrey-Maturin novels of Peter O’Brian.

Q: What are you currently reading?
RS: I usually have three books on the go at any one time.
I will have a non-fiction book, usually connected to my research, and I read this at my desk. Currently this is ‘Beautiful Shadow’, a biography of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson.
I’ll also be reading a crime thriller, and this book sits at my bedside. I consider it to be research too, trying to keep up with what’s happening. I’m currently reading ‘Sweet One’ by Peter Docker, a cracker of a crime story set in the WA Goldfields.
And finally I’ll read something else, just for me. I usually have this on my Kindle in my pocket, for those joyous bits of stolen reading time. I’ve just started ‘Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys’, the autobiography of punk guitarist Viv Albertine.

Q: What are you working on now, or what can we expect next?
RS: I’m currently working on a sequel, the final part of the Gareth Ford trilogy, which I am doing as part of a Doctorate in Creative Writing at Curtin University. As if I hadn’t got enough on my plate working full time and wrangling three kids, I thought I’d set myself another challenge.

Marble Bar is available to purchase from June 25th

Allen & Unwin I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Also available


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mystica
    Jun 19, 2014 @ 11:03:08

    The gold fields of Australia is a place I know nothing about. Has to be an interesting setting



  2. Trackback: Review: Marble Bar by Robert Schofield | book'd out

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