We've been aware of Tony Gartland's work for some years. The hallmarks have always been there: love of the craft, a commitment to excellence, innovation, and a single-minded drive to please his audience.
Yes, if you've ever sampled any of the exceptional beers created by the Saltaire Brewery in West Yorkshire you'll know what we mean.
Tony set up the brewery in 2005 ahead of the wave of craft micro brewers that followed in the UK. Now serving 5 million pints a year to customers across the world, Saltaire has won countless awards since it opened in Shipley, West Yorkshire.
When we received Tony's submission for his first novel in the George Zammit series, Bodies in the Water, we were quickly swept up by Tony's gripping storytelling, at once familiar with police procedural setting, but soon gasping at the audacious scope of the story that encompasses both sides of the Mediterranean sea: from the ancient walls of Malta's harbours to the chaos of post-Gaddafi Libya and the bitter power struggles between different factions, warlords and Islamic State.
This is fiction befitting its creator: fearless, inventive and so satisfying you'll want more. Which is a good thing as Tony, writing as AJ Aberford has completed four Zammit adventures and is working on a fifth.
So who is DI George Zammit? In short, he's an unlikely hero. A middle-ranking member of the Malta Police Force, overly fond of his food, he is caught in the middle of an unwinnable power struggle: above him senior officers who seem a little too comfortable with the questionable business figures of the island, and at home his ambitious wife Marianna. George's hopes for a solid career and uneventful life are never going to survive for long.
Like all good fiction, the setting is as much a star as the characters are. Malta, in all its facets, is brought to life brilliantly by Tony, who has lived there for some years. As he says, "Upon moving there, I soon became enthralled by the culture and history of the island that acts as a bridge between Europe and North Africa. Malta’s position at the sharp end of the migrant crisis, as well as the rapid growth of its commercial and offshore-financial sectors, provide a rich backdrop for my writing."
Tony also draws inspiration from his career. In addition to founding the Saltaire Brewery, Tony has been a corporate and banking lawyer, and owned and run a private investment company. But writing is his new passion, and as his beer proves, when he pursues his passions, great things happen. So here's to our latest Hobeck author, Tony Gartland, writing as AJ Aberford. The only question remaining is which Saltaire brew should we celebrate with?