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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 April 2005, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
More than a private eye on Aber
Malcolm Pryce
Pryce in the Cabin in Aberystwyth, a cafe that features in two of his books
An author, whose crime novels have helped put Aberystwyth on the literary map, said he was "astounded" by their success.

Malcolm Pryce is based in Thailand but his private eye character Louie Knight is firmly rooted in the town, where his creator grew up.

Pryce returned to launch The Unbearable Lightness Of Being In Aberystwyth.

"It's good to write about a place when you have left, when you can reflect on it," he said.

Pryce, 44, has joined the ranks of authors who have colonised a town and made it their own, but that is where the similarities end.

Detective Knight is unlike Colin Dexter's sombre Inspector Morse from Oxford and Ian Rankin's fiery Inspector Rebus of Edinburgh.

Combining humour, fantasy and a world of noir, Pryce's take on Aberystwyth has made his first two novels hits.

He is already drafting a fourth, for publication in 2007.

Loosely-based on Raymond Chandler's private eye Philip Marlowe, the books all feature Aberystwyth in the title.

Pryce is a softly spoken, modest man who like his hero Knight does not give too much away.

I potter about in the rag and bone shop in my head for the magic ingredient
Malcolm Pryce

But the critics seem to like his work. One said he combined "Monty Python absurdity with tenderness for the twisted world of noir."

The opinion seems accurate because hardboiled, trilby-wearing gumshoe Knight, deals with some quite bizarre and humorous situations.

For instance, in Pryce's latest novel Knight encounters a monkey who can understand sign language and was a former astronaut on the Welsh Space Programme.

Now living in Bangkok, Pryce tried to explain the logic behind his books. "I potter about in the rag and bone shop in my head for the magic ingredient," he said.

"I wanted to capture the soul of Aberystwyth through a 1930s Philip Marlowe gumshoe and view Aberystwyth through his eyes."

Pryce, who speaks German and Thai, said Knight and Aberystwyth were a vehicle to do "something else."

1960: Pryce born in Shrewsbury
1969: Moves to Aberystwyth
1993: Pryce quits his job in advertising and travels around the world
1994: He takes a job in advertising in Singapore and starts seriously thinking about becoming an author
1998: He quits his job to write his first novel, Aberystwyth Mon Amour
1999: Within weeks of signing with an agent he signs a publishing deal with Bloomsbury

The "something else" has obviously caught readers' attention and Pryce is astonished by his popularity. "I'm astounded by the success," he said.

"I'm a total perfectionist so I took a year off to write my first book, but all the evidence is that it's virtually impossible to get published.

"But I found it virtually straight forward. I signed with an agent fairly quickly and she got me a deal within a few weeks.

"I wrote the first novel as a one-off, but I'd created this character and knew I could carry on with him."

The Unbearable Lightness Of Being In Aberystwyth is published by Bloomsbury on 18 April. Malcolm Pryce appears at the BayLit Festival, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, on the same evening, 2030 BST.


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