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?
Can we stretch it to thrillers? HARRY’S GAME, by Gerald Seymour. He can do dialogue and pacing like no other. Or perhaps Le Carré’s A MURDER OF QUALITY. Ditto the dialogue. You can almost taste it.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Prince Myshkin. He runs under the radar.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Guilty as accused: mysteries and thrillers.
Most satisfying writing moment?
I’ve published a dozen books over the years, but getting my first royalty check for my narrative history, HITLER IN VIENNA, thirty years after publication was definitely a high point. No lie. That book was sold I don’t know how many times from the German original, translated, sold in revised editions (without my blessings) and I never saw a dime. Only financials for years were the photo rights I had to pay for with each new edition. But patience pays out. I now can afford five bottles of plonk.
No. On second thoughts, I believe I will frame the check.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst is promotion - endless, ceaseless (is it even productive?) promotion. The best is that feeling of getting it right, nailing a scene or character with exactly the right words.
The pitch for your next book is …?
Here’s for book four of my Viennese Mysteries series, set around 1900: THE KEEPER OF THE HANDS is a murder mystery that quickly morphs into a thriller of assumed names, false identities, and internecine turf battles between espionage arms of the state, employing the technology and tradecraft of a century ago. It is also a work of social and political commentary in which the demands of state power trump the privacy of its citizens, a scenario that is prescient of our own times.
Who are you reading right now?
Perhaps this is my guilty pleasure: I always have several books going at the same time, fiction and nonfiction. Nabokov’s SPEAK MEMORY, THE AGE OF WONDER by Richard Holmes, and Jonathan Littel’s THE KINDLY ONES.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Neither. Don’t believe in God.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
I’m breaking the rules (so I can’t count, so sue me) and quoting from Kirkus about my last novel, REQUIEM IN VIENNA: “Sophisticated entertainment of a very high caliber.”
J. Sydney Jones’ THE EMPTY MIRROR is published by Minotaur Books.
“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.