The Dead, the final volume in Tunbridge Wells author Mark Oldfield’s acclaimed Vengeance of Memory trilogy, was published this summer. He reveals to the Times what it’s about, and why his former forensics career proved such a great inspiration
Local author Mark Oldfield only had his first book published five years ago, but he has enjoyed literary success ever since.
His debut offering, The Sentinel, came out in 2012 and received high praise and rave reviews from the national press. It was also shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for Best Thriller of the Year in 2013.
The Guardian described the tale, which was inspired by the gruesome legacy of the Spanish Civil War, as ‘polished, propulsive and plausible’, while the Daily Mail said it was ‘a sprawling, striking debut, superbly told and with a fine villain at its heart’.
Mark went on to pen a second book in his Vengeance of Memory trilogy called The Exile before writing The Dead, the final tome in the series, which has just hit the shelves.
Mark says that it will ‘conclude the thrilling journey into the dark heart of Spain’ which has gripped readers from across the globe.
“The Dead and the previous two thrillers in the series draw heavily on contemporary Spanish history and my experiences in Spain through its turbulent transition from dictatorship to democracy,” he explains.
“There are not many books in English that address the issues of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath. Vengeance of Memory explores the complex relationship between Spain’s past and present – issues of memory, revenge and justice – within the parameters of a thoroughly researched and fast-paced thriller.”
Mark says he was ‘inspired by Hemingway’, and first visited Spain in 1976 to experience the Fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona first hand: “Many of the evocative sights, smells and sounds of my early visits have found their way into the trilogy.”
The author reveals that, as with the first two volumes, The Dead alternates between two time periods.
“In the present day, forensic scientist Ana María Galíndez, of the Guardia Civil, continues her investigation into the crimes of secret policeman Leopoldo Guzmán, committed in the years following the Spanish Civil War.”
Mark says the most striking character in his trilogy is that of Comandante Guzmán: “His secret police unit is dedicated to eliminating the enemies of Franco’s regime. Guzmán is utterly ruthless, brutal and both cynical and corrupt. But his caustic wit and love of good food and drink also make him an enigmatic and entertaining villain.
“Back in 1982, Guzmán decides there is no place for him in the new order and it is time to disappear. But as he looks for a way out, Guzmán finds his many enemies in Madrid have other plans for him.
“The sections of the book set in contemporary Spain relate to a young woman who is the opposite of Guzmán. Ana María Galíndez’s investigation awakens the dark memories and hatred that still lie beneath the surface of Spanish society.”
Before becoming a full-time writer in 2008, Mark worked as a criminological researcher for the Kent Probation Service and Kent Police for over 20 years.
With a PhD in Criminology, he has lectured at various universities on research, crime and criminal justice, so it’s no surprise that his trilogy combines his professional experience with his long-term love affair with Spain.
“As I began work on The Dead, I did so with a sense of imminent loss,” he continues. “Whatever the ending, I was saying goodbye to Guzmán and Ana María – two people who, for almost a decade, have occupied an important place in my life.”
The Dead is published by Head of Zeus and is available from leading booksellers. Hardback: £20; Kindle Edition: £5.03. The Sentinel and The Exile are available in hardback, paperback, ebook and audio.