Who is Dominic Martell?
Dominic Martell is a pseudonym used by me, Sam Reaves. My first four novels were set in Chicago. They featured a Chicago cab driver with a knack for getting involved in police business. Four books in the series were published, and then Putnam said, “Give us something different.” So I gave them Pascual. They said, “This is too different from what you’ve done before. No thanks.”
I took the book (this was Lying Crying Dying) to my British publisher (Gollancz at the time, later subsumed by Orion) and they liked it. But they said, “Sam Reaves sounds so American, and these books are so European. We need a more continental sounding name for you.” I drew up a list of vaguely Latinate first names and another of vaguely Latinate last names and told them, “Choose one from Column A and one from Column B.” They chose Dominic Martell.
Pascual Rose has a great deal of Dominic in him; I really do speak all the languages Pascual does, and I am in fact a free-lance translator by trade. To some extent Pascual also reflects my own trajectory across the political landscape: I’m an exemplar of that saying, attributed (possibly incorrectly) to Churchill: “A man who is not a liberal at age twenty has no heart, and a man who is not a conservative at age forty has no brain.” I had hit forty by the time I was writing about Pascual, and if not really a conservative (we can argue labels some other time), my views had certainly moderated. I took that trajectory and exaggerated it: what if you really had been an extremist, even a terrorist, and then had second thoughts? And there was Pascual, waiting for me.
How did the Pascual Rose series come back to life?
I had long since written off Dominic Martell as a relic of an earlier period of my career. Under that name I wrote three novels in the late nineties that were published first in the U.K. and then in the States. They featured a protagonist inspired by John le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl, set in that subculture of European youths who got radicalized in the 1980s and gravitated toward terrorism. I wondered what made those people tick, and I wondered if any of them ever had second thoughts. A little research indicated that some did, and Pascual was born.
I wrote three novels featuring Pascual Rose, a repentant ex-terrorist living in Barcelona under a new identity after defecting and selling out all his old comrades to Mossad and the CIA. The hook to the series is that terrorism is a tough business to get out of; in each book, Pascual’s past comes back to bite him, hard.
The books won some fans but didn’t set any sales records, and I went back to writing American-based crime fiction under my other name. Nearly twenty years went by.
In 2018 Adam Dunn contacted my agent and asked if Dominic Martell would be interested in resuscitating Pascual. Adam had considered a simple question: what would Pascual Rose be up to in the twenty-first century? The Cold War world of Pascual’s youth is gone, replaced by a chaotic international scene with new lines of force and vast amounts of money sloshing around a new technological landscape. Would Pascual have managed to stay out of the fray?
You can guess the answer to that. I told Adam I would be thrilled to revive Pascual and shove him back in the ring. Kill Chain gives me a rare second chance to revisit a character I had retired prematurely and bring him into the modern world.
Who is Pascual Rose?
Pascual Rose was born in Barcelona in the early sixties, the son of a December-May marriage between an American poet who had fought for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War and a young Catalan woman anxious to escape a stifling bourgeois family. The marriage did not last, and Pascual was raised in genteel poverty by his mother in Barcelona and Paris, though he spent a couple of years of his adolescence in Brooklyn attempting to reconcile with his father. While at university in Paris, he drifted into radical left-wing politics, and upon the death of his mother in an accident, he impulsively ran off to offer his services to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Because of his languages (he can pass for a native in Catalan, Spanish, French and English and is fluent in German and Arabic) he was given a role as a liaison between terrorist groups, attaining unparalleled knowledge of a wide range of radical organizations and the connections between them. He spent most of the eighties underground in Europe and in Syria before a crisis of conscience drove him to defect and inform on his former comrades to the CIA and Mossad. As a reward for helping to dismantle multiple terror networks he was set up under a new identity in his childhood home of Barcelona. Here he lived a hand to mouth existence, supporting himself by translation jobs and language tutoring. Reconnecting with members of his mother’s family and with Father Costa, an old priest who had long ago loved his mother, Pascual struggled to make sense of his life and atone for his misdeeds. However, he found out that what we sow we must reap, and he has been dealing with the consequences of his youthful transgressions ever since.
I first set foot in Barcelona as a college student in the fall of 1973, arriving for my junior year abroad at the Universidad Central. It was a different world then. Franco was still alive, if barely, Spain was a deeply conservative country, Catalan language and culture were restricted if not totally repressed. What I knew about Barcelona was that it was the second largest city in Spain and that there was some interesting modernist architecture. I was about to have my eyes opened.
Walking for the first time up the Ramblas, that wonderful tree-lined river of life that slices through the heart of the old city, I began to fall under the spell of the place. That year I only began to appreciate the many diverse Barcelonas, from the seedy portside districts through the pleasant streets of the Eixample to the intimate charm of old neighborhoods like Gràcia. In succeeding visits over the years I watched the city evolve with the end of the dictatorship, Spain’s liberalization and the resurgence of Catalan identity. The 1992 Olympics gave Barcelona a facelift and made it hip, a world-class travel destination, with all the good and bad effects that entails.
It remains one of the most intriguing cities in Europe, and, for a crime writer, an irresistible setting. For beneath the surface Barcelona, like any major city, has its secrets, its intrigues, its paradoxes, its dangers. A great Mediterranean port, a magnet for migrants, a nexus for organized crime, capital of a region in full political and identity crisis, an ongoing experiment in urban living; all of this in a captivating physical setting between the mountains and the sea. When I conceived the character of Pascual Rose, I knew immediately where he came from and where he would return to, wherever his misadventures may take him.