Interview: Hollywood author with the killer touch

Author Kevin Wignall.
Author Kevin Wignall.

By Graham Chalmers

A major street in Harrogate turned into a film set? Star actor Sam Worthington of Avatar and Terminator 3 fame enjoying a pint in one of the town’s pubs?

It’s not often Harrogate finds itself at the epicentre of Hollywood glamour but it happened last week and it’s all thanks to author Kevin Wignall.

He may not have written the script but it’s his book which is currently being turned into a $23 million Hollywood movie.

Kevin said: “It’s the first of my books which has actually been made. It’s great when people love your work but I hope it will also spread the word about the books. Books always come first for me.”

For the Dogs, which has been renamed Hunter’s Prayer for the film adaptation, was first printed in the USA in 2004 by Simon & Schuster.

A gripping thriller about a teenage girl on the run across Europe who gets involved with a retired hitman, it wasn’t published in the UK at the time but has acquired a cult reputation over the years.

As always with these things, a bit of luck and personal contacts was involved, that and the passage of time.

Kevin said: “The book has been in development on and off for nine years. The project was stalled until I got an email from someone called Paul Leyden who had just read it on his honeymoon and loved it.

“He asked me if I would let him know if the book ever came back on the market because he thought it might be great for a friend of his who was just about to appear in the film Avatar. That was Sam Worthington.”

He seems happy enough with the casting, though he’s not been involved with the film’s production itself.

“I became convinced Sam was right for the character of Lucas when I saw Terminator Salvation. He was the best thing in it and his character hit many of the same notes.”

“I chose not to be involved with the script, movies are just not a world I understand.

“I think the producers will be loyal to the spirit of the novel, not least because Sam also loved it and has probably read it more than I have!

Harrogate’s role in the movie has been to pose as a street in Switzerland where a car chase is taking place - hence the foreign licence plates and French signposts which sprouted overnight.

Partly financed by Screen Yorkshire, it’s ironic that the town should be chosen as one of the locations for this fast-paced thriller.

Although born in Brussels where his father was stationed in the British Army, Kevin knows the area well.

He’s been coming for years as a guest author at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and loves the place.

Kevin said: “Harrogate’s a great town. The people are friendly and it’s got a nice vibe, if that’s the right expression for it?

It turns out he even learned to drive in Harrogate a long time ago, though he doesn’t explain why.

The air of cloak and dagger seems to extend beyond the enigmatic author’s books into his real life a little.

Some have even suggested in jest he may be a spy himself, which does seem far-fetched.

A graduate of Politics and International Relations at Lancaster University, Kevin published his first novel, People Die in 2001.

Three more have appeared in vaguely the same vein with common themes of international intrigue and contract killers, save for Among the Dead which told the story of a group of students involved in a fatal hit-and-run.

I ask Kevin whether he could see himself writing any novels without black humour and hitmen. He replies he’s also written children’s stories.

They do tend to feature vampires and lots of blood, he adds.