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The American Files: TV and Books that influenced Alex Caan

Guest Post by the author of 



The American Files: TV and Books that influenced Alex Caan

My debut novel Cut to the Bone features DI Kate Riley, an American now living in London. How she got here is a mystery that only unfolds during the course of the novel, but she does have a career in US law enforcement and government security agencies behind her. This wasn’t a random choice on my part, I deliberately wanted an American heroine so I could indulge in my love for American culture and bring to the page my own influences. So below are just some of the US TV shows and books/writers that have influenced me to write Kate Riley in particular (I had to cut half a dozen as I ran out of words and had to cut Xena: Warrior Princess as well it wasn’t set in America!)


TV Shows


The  X Files:

Any list of influences has to begin and end with this show. Layered, complex and technically brilliant stories and characters. It was revolutionary, and even now is still fresh and relevant. It also gave me the blueprint for someone like Kate Riley. Dana Scully was a breath of fresh air. When she walked into a room people took notice not because of the way she looked, or what she wore, but because of her intelligence and confidence. She is for me the ultimate fictional role model. On top of that, the chemistry between her and Fox Mulder, the messy personal/professional lives they had, the idea of a specialist unit existing slightly outside of the rules, and it will come as no surprise to anyone who reads Cut to the Bone that I love this show.



You could never tell where the season would end with 24, there was so much going on. I like to believe my own novel does this, as one thread unravels another unexpected direction opens up.


Buffy: The Vampire Slayer:

Not only did Buffy break stereotypes, it was also hilarious even in the most dire world is about to end scenarios. I hope Cut to the Bone while being dark also has its’ lighter moments.


Cagney and Lacey/Magnum/Miami Vice:

I can’t decide who is cooler, but these shows were great favourites of mine. Again strong leads but also a mix of drama/comedy and real life.


The A Team:

The good guys can win by being cooler/funnier/classier and just generally more fantastic than the villains.



Technical, cool, sophisticated and pacey. With great characters and always fascinating science as well as emotional drama. And the female characters probably have more courage than the men.


North and South:

I like to think Kate Riley’s ancestors were part of this epic moment in TV and US history.



Diana. How to do a villain. I always secretly wanted her to win!


Dawson’s Creek:

Kate Riley could only ever have come from New England when I wrote her, and that was thanks mainly to this very erudite series. The scripts were written like literature in places.




Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series:

In a post CSI world, it is easy to forget how ground-breaking these novels were. Scarpetta is just such a brilliant lead too, very much in the Scully mould. Her strength is her intelligence and conviction, and an instinct second to none.


Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series:

I came to these very late. I felt enormous pressure to write what I know, until I read these novels, and saw half a dozen interviews on YouTube with the author. She gave me the courage to write exactly what I wanted to, and her female leads are brilliant.


Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles:

Evocative writing, broken characters, moral philosophy and lots of blood and drama. Anne had a huge impact on me growing up, and my penchant for damaged characters like Kate and Zain is thanks in part to her.


Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series:

The master of the page turner who really gets under America’s skin. Kate Riley might seem nothing like Reacher on the surface, but her moral core is something she shares with him.


Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series:

Global plots and the intricacies of political life in America, all of this has a bearing on Kate Riley in my own work.


Charlaine Harris Southern Vampires/Midnight Texas series:

There’s a genteel charm to Harris’ novels that infuse her mysteries, which are very adult in subject matter.


To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee):

The novel that I would probably take to a desert island with me.


The Silence of the Lambs/Hannibal (Thomas Harris):

Clarice Starling/Hannibal Lecter. Two of the best characterisations in fiction ever.


Others: Michael Connelly, Raymond Chandler, Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reichs, Stephen King, Jeffrey Deaver, John Connolly, John Grisham, James Patterson, David Baldacci, Dan Brown, Jackie Collins, James Ellroy, Mario Puzo, Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins (I think I need a Part 2!)



CUT TO THE BONE, out now. Here's an ebook link. 




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