D V Bishop is the author of the Cesare Aldo series. The first in the series, City of Vengeance, was published by Pan Macmillan on 4 February 2021 in hardback and 6 January 2022 in paperback. The second in the series, The Darkest Sin was published in hardback on 3 March 2022.
David kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about City of Vengeance.
City of Vengeance is a historical thriller set in Renaissance Florence. It introduces Cesare Aldo, an officer for the most feared criminal court in the city. When he investigates the murder of a Jewish moneylender, Aldo uncovers a plot to overthrow the Medici Duke who rules the city. Meanwhile one of Aldo’s rivals is determined to usurp him. Can Aldo stop the conspiracy before anyone else dies, or will Aldo’s own secrets destroy him?
It was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize, won the Pitch Perfect contest at the Bloody Scotland international festival of crime writing, and earned me a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship. But one of the best accolades was when global bestselling author David Baldacci called it a ‘first class history thriller’ and ‘a tour de force’. That was amazing!
2. What inspired the book?
Two things! First, I found an academic monograph in a remaindered bookshop near the British Museum years ago, all about the criminal justice system in late Renaissance Florence. It said that was roughly comparable to a modern police force, which surprised and delighted me – all the lightbulbs were going off in my head when I read that.
The second thing emerged as I read and researched historical crime fiction. If you’re going to write in a genre or sub-genre, you must be well read in it. As I read I realised there were very few queer sleuths in stories with pre-Victorian settings. It was almost as if LGBT+ people hadn’t existed in the past. I knew that wasn’t true, yet such characters were conspicuous only by their near total absence from historical crime fiction set before 1837. That invisibility inspired my central character, Cesare Aldo. He enforces the law in a time and place where his sexuality makes him a criminal, which provides me with all sorts of storylines and drama to explore in coming books.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I used to write tie-in novels for characters like Doctor Who and Judge Dredd where you had to supply a complete chapter breakdown before you got the job. After that I was a screenwriter for nearly ten years, scripting TV dramas for the BBC and winning awards for my short film scripts. Again, to get a job in TV writing you need to supply complete proof of concept, so lots of planning was required to do that.
Having returned to writing prose, I deliberately choose to loosen my stays a little. I wanted to have more freedom with that aspect of my process. Plus City of Vengeance was written on spec, so I didn’t have to satisfy anyone else of my capabilities before starting the novel, meaning there was no need to have it all planned out in advance.
The novel does revolve around an actual conspiracy from history, so to some extent the timetable of events in the book was pre-ordained by the past. But aside from some general planning about five act structure and a lot of research to get the history right, I only plotted one day ahead within the timeline. Once I finished that day I would review it, take notes about which characters knew what and how they felt about things. Then I would plot the next day’s events, letting the characters and their motivations be my guide.
For my next Cesare Aldo novel The Darkest Sin, I didn’t have history providing a timetable so my planning was a lot looser. That proved quite the highwire act and I wasn’t completely comfortable vamping on every page! So for the next one I’ll be doing a bit more planning, give myself a safety net (if needed).
4. Was there anything about the publishing process that surprised you?
Only how long there was between signing the contract and City of Vengeance being published in February 2021. I think it was eighteen months, which seemed to stretch on forever at the time. But as the pandemic hit in 2020 I was grateful my crime debut was going to avoid all that chaos. Then we went back into lockdown at the end of 2020, and I got to discover what it was like trying to launch a novel when everything was shut. Thank goodness for the Wee Three Indies here in Scotland, who put on a wonderful digital launch event – Ian Rankin even turned up, which was a lovely surprise!
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I run the creative writing programmes at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland, so that eats most of my time. And I’m trying to complete my PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. City of Vengeance is the book I wrote as the creative element of my doctorate, but that’s already out in hardback and will be out in paperback long before I finish the critical element of my PhD. So I don’t get much time to relax or get away from it all. But the rare occasions I do then reading, going for walks or listening to music are definite treats.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Jings, what a question! I’ll say My Side of the River by Ted Reynolds, which is a gentle non-fiction book about a New Zealand who quits the rat race to create his own vineyard in Marlborough (from where all that Sauvignon Blanc comes). It’s droll and thoughtful and inspiring, a book you can dip into whenever you like.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I’ve never been asked how I would kill my worst enemy.
The answer is with a blade, and slowly.
I don’t actually have a worst enemy, but there’s still time!
About the Books
Florence. Winter, 1536. A prominent Jewish moneylender is murdered in his home, a death with wide implications in a city powered by immense wealth.
Cesare Aldo, a former soldier and now an officer of the Renaissance city’s most feared criminal court, is given four days to solve the murder: catch the killer before the feast of Epiphany – or suffer the consequences.
During his investigations Aldo uncovers a plot to overthrow the volatile ruler of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici. If the Duke falls, it will endanger the whole city. But a rival officer of the court is determined to expose details about Aldo’s private life that could lead to his ruin. Can Aldo stop the conspiracy before anyone else dies, or will his own secrets destroy him first?
Florence. Spring, 1537.
When Cesare Aldo investigates a report of intruders at a convent in the Renaissance city’s northern quarter, he enters a community divided by bitter rivalries and harbouring dark secrets.
His case becomes far more complicated when a man’s body is found deep inside the convent, stabbed more than two dozen times. Unthinkable as it seems, all the evidence suggests one of the nuns must be the killer.
Meanwhile, Constable Carlo Strocchi finds human remains pulled from the Arno that belong to an officer of the law missing since winter. The dead man had many enemies, but who would dare kill an official of the city’s most feared criminal court?
As Aldo and Strocchi close in on the truth, identifying the killers will prove more treacherous than either of them could ever have imagined . . .
About the Author
D. V. Bishop is the pseudonym of award-winning writer David Bishop. His love for the city of Florence and the Renaissance period meant there could be only one setting for his crime fiction. The first book in the Cesare Aldo series, City of Vengeance, won the Pitch Perfect competition at the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival and the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Adult Fiction Book. It was also shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. Bishop was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship while writing that novel. He teaches creative writing at Edinburgh Napier University.