July 2, 2015

Malta Tourism Authority to American thriller writers: set your books in Malta!


MaltaFlagCan a small European country increase its touristic appeal by encouraging three American thriller writers to use it as a setting for their books? As The Awl’s Alex Balk likes to say, “sure, why the hell not?”

As the Malta Independent’s Stephen Calleja explained in a 2011 article with the fantastic title “American Author mentions Malta in books after letter from fan,” the writer Chris Kuzneski began to refer to the country in his books after receiving a letter from a fan who lived on the island:

By then, I was already done writing Sword of God and had started work on The Lost Throne. Just for kicks, I decided to put Malta in the book—not only as an inside joke for me, but also as a reward for the fan.

Malta would subsequently appear in all of Kuzneski’s books, but Calleja dreamt of a larger role for the country in the writer’s fiction: “Who knows,” Calleja wrote. “[M]aybe one day Chris Kuzneski will write a whole novel, or a sizeable part of it, based in Malta.”

Four years later, the Maltese journalist is well on his way to getting his wish. In a new piece in the Malta Independent, Calleja reports that the Malta Tourism Authority invited Kuzneski—along with his friends the thriller writers Boyd Morrison and Graham Brown—for a weeklong tour of the country. The trip’s goal was explicit: to promote Malta as a setting for the authors’ future books.

And it seems to have worked!

“Every time I put Malta in my books, I think of what I can do more,” Kuzneski said. “It could be an archaeological mystery with something to do with Malta, or perhaps having the villain of a story living in Malta and then having the team come here to get him and there will be chasing in the streets. But I definitely have a couple of ideas cooking in my brain and the more I’m here the more ideas I’m going to get. And Malta will definitely be appearing in the pages in the future.”

Brown said it would be crazy not to think of Malta as a place where a story can be set. “Whether it’s a historical book taking place in one of your eras of the past or whether it’s a modern book where the characters are living today” are but two ideas. “We’ve been around the Valletta harbour and there are several fantastic ideas on how to use that history and those scenes to bring them alive for readers.”

“I’ve already had a number of ideas how to feature Malta because there is so much history. I feature a lot of history in my books I can already see how I can do that. I also write action thrillers so there are lots of great locations such as the narrow streets of Mdina,” Morrison said.

The Malta Independent produced a video interview with Kuzneski, Morrison, and Brown, which features a lot more from the writers on their visit (and their craft and respective biographies), along with some beautiful footage of the country:

The trip, which included a book signing for the writers’ Maltese fans, seems to have been a great success. The Tourism Authority’s CEO Paul Bugeja told Focus on Travel News that “The US market is being very receptive of MTA’s marketing efforts and these have continued to intensify in 2015,” and if the country begins to appear in more and more bestselling American thrillers, those efforts will only intensify.

“Malta is about to become the hot setting for America’s latest crime bestsellers,” reads the headline on the Guardian story on Kuzneski, Morrison, and Brown’s visit, and while this seems . . . well, pretty overstated, it’s not unreasonable to think that the bonds between Malta and American thriller writers are only going to strengthen. “We think we could probably set up a writers conference here and bring thirty, forty people in,” Brown told the Guardian. “[A]nd they won’t want to leave either, just like we don’t.”


Mark Krotov is senior editor at Melville House.