Chania, Crete-born author and playwright Polychronis Koutsakis is building a solid career with several novels and plays to his credit. He recently spoke with the National Herald about his books, two of which are now available in English translation.
Athenian Blues, published by Bitter Lemon Press in 2017, is the first in the Stratos Gazis mystery series and the first time the Greek novelist’s work is available in English. Koutsakis’ Baby Blues, the second novel in the series, also published by Bitter Lemon Press, is due out in June. He told TNH that he is currently translating his Trilogy of Crete which is a crossover hit in Greece, enjoyed by teens and adults.
He said, “The reason I wrote the Trilogy is that I wanted to talk about the light and the darkness of Crete, which is a beautiful place but it can become very dangerous and I thought that the best way would be to put teens as the central heroes – because teenagers see things with fresh eyes, a sharp tongue, and everything that happens to them, great and small, happens for the first time, so it’s particularly exciting for them.”
Koutsakis studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering at the University of Patras. He earned his PhD at the Technical University of Crete and worked as a professor at McMaster University in Canada and at the Polytechnic University of Crete. In recent years, Koutsakis has been living and working as a professor at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. He has written novels, poetry, and plays, and was awarded the Greek State Prize for Teenage Book 2016 for his novel A Breath Only, the second volume in the Trilogy of Crete. Koutsakis’ plays have also won awards. He was honored twice in 2005 and 2007 with the State Prize for the Theatrical Project by the Ministry of Culture.
Of his books now available in English, which “present life in the Athens of the crisis,” he said, “Athenian Blues and Baby Blue were released in America (by the British publishing house Bitter Lemon Press). I think that adults and teenagers can read Baby Blue as an introduction to my books.”
Koutsakis continued, “Stratos Gazis, the protagonist of the novels, does not want to call himself a professional hitman.”
As noted in the book’s description, “Stratos hates being called a hitman. A conscientious fixer is what he is. He fixes problems that very few can deal with. Things that people are willing to pay handsomely to get done, without wanting to know about the small stuff. Stratos is their man, provided that his meticulous research shows him that the targets deserve their fate.
“But now, in the midst of the Greek economic and political crisis, this film-noir loving assassin takes on the highest-profile case of his career. He finds himself caught between the most beloved lawyer in Greece, known as ‘the guardian of the poor,’ and his actress wife, the most desirable woman in the country. They are both in dire need of his killing services, but which one is telling the truth? Helped by three childhood friends, Costas Dragas, a homicide cop, Teri, a transsexual high-class hooker, and Maria, the passion of his life, he discovers that truth, in shattered loves and broken families, is, as ever, a relative thing.”
“In Baby Blue,” Koutsakis said, “a man whom Stratos owes a lot to asks him to protect a charismatic blind teenager, who performs magic tricks (that is, a magician) and is in great danger.”
Koutsakis’ books in Greek and in English are available online.