Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects …
What crime novel would you most like to have written?
I’d like to say CRIME AND PUNISHMENT or THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY but (to be brutally honest) the one I’d really, really, really like to have written is my next one.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I’m delighted to say that guilt and reading don’t go together for writers. Or not for this one. My tastes are catholic. I work on the assumption that everything I read must in some way feed into the great creative mulch from which my own novels spring like constipated bog monsters in very slow motion. Most satisfying writing moment?
When a book is going well. It’s like being God on a good day (see below).
The best Irish crime novel is …?
This is a difficult one for an author who labours under the disadvantage of being only half Irish ... At first I thought almost anything by the humane, satirical and eminently clubbable Ruth Dudley Edwards (if pressed I’d say MATRICIDE AT ST MARTHA’S is my favourite). I enjoy Declan Hughes too – he’s going places. But the one I keep coming back to, time and again, is Flann O’Brien’s THE THIRD POLICEMAN, which does what all great novels ought to make you do: it makes you think, and much else. It’s also got my favourite all-time, all genre fictional ending. Longman’s (who had published AT SWIM TWO BIRDS) turned the book down in 1940. “We realize,” they wrote with infinite snootiness, “the author’s ability but think that he should become less fantastic and in this new novel he is more so.” It wasn’t published until 1967, after O’Brien’s death, and then only because of the persistence of an Irish publisher, Timothy O’Keefe.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Writing / writing. Trite but true.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
Set in the 1930s, BLEEDING HEART SQUARE is partly based on a celebrated real-life Victorian murder case with links to my grandmother’s family. The novel deals with a young woman who flees from her abusive aristocratic husband to an uncertain refuge with her unknown father. He drinks his life away in a place where, according to legend, the devil once danced and tore out the heart of a beautiful woman. Now someone is sending raw (and sometimes rotting) hearts in the post and the British Union of Fascists are out on the streets. A seedy plain-clothes policeman haunts the square, detecting his nightmares. An unemployed journalist wants to win back the woman he loves but she seems to care more for a public-school communist with large private income. And no one has seen the woman who owns the house in Bleeding Heart Square for more than four years.
Who are you reading right now?
Tobias Smollett’s THE EXPEDITION OF HUMPHREY CLINKER and Harlan Coben’s new one, HOLD TIGHT. An interesting combination. There’s pleasure in reading more than one thing at once. They interact – in my case, most recently, with Stieg Larsson’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, a book weighed down with too much hype, but much of it is justified.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
First I say to him, You bastard. But of course it would have to be writing, if I couldn’t find a way to change God’s mind. As God Himself knows, it’s much more fun to create.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Not there yet.
Andrew Taylor’s BLEEDING HEART SQUARE is published on May 29
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.