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?
If I was a mercenary bitch, I’d say THE DA VINCI CODE. But I’m not, so I’ll go with Reginald Hill’s ON BEULAH HEIGHT. Tender, savage, clever, funny and moving. Beautifully written and immaculately plotted. What’s not to envy?
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Jim Hawkins. So I could play inside the perfect novel.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I go back to childhood and read the Chalet School books by Elinor M Brent Dyer, and Agatha Christie.
Most satisfying writing moment?
When I figured out a structure that would allow me to tell the story of A PLACE OF EXECUTION. That was a beautiful moment in itself, but it also made me trust myself and not worry that sometimes it takes years to find the right way to tell the story.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Oh yeah, right. Like I’m going to stick my neck out like that just before I visit Ireland ... That wouldn’t have been too tough a call ten years ago. But now? Seriously, there’s been so much quality crime fiction coming out of Ireland in the past few years it would be invidious to single out any one book. I love youse all. Well, most of youse.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
If you’d just let my throat go ... Thank you. I think Adrian McKinty’s Dead trilogy would make a great sequence of films. But so would many others. What’s more important is that Irish writers keep on writing great books.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Working alone. I love my own company but I’m also a very social animal. Sometimes I spend so long with characters I can push around that I forget how to interact properly with real people ...
The pitch for your next book is …?
A woman is going through US airport security with her kid. She sets off the metal detector and while she’s waiting in the perspex box to be patted down and wanded, someone walks up to her kid by the X-ray belt and walks off with him. As she attempts pursuit, she’s thrown to the ground and tasered. When she comes round, the kid is long gone. That’s next year’s book.
Who are you reading right now?
It’s the time of year when I read mostly debut novels so I can put together my wish-list for next year’s Harrogate Festival new blood panel. So I’ve just started the proof of a first novel called TIDELINE by Penny Hancock which is not out till January. I’ve just finished a proof of Stuart Neville’s third novel, STOLEN SOULS, which somehow sneaked into the pile. And I can exclusively reveal that it’s nail-biting, gut-wrenching and nearly made me miss my stop on the train. Next up will be something called ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL by some Irish guy who claims he’s holding my wife, my kid and my dog hostage.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I’m not as arrogant as people might think I am; I’d read.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
I’d rather leave that to other people. Preferably those to whom I have already slipped a £20 note.
Val McDermid’s THE RETRIBUTION is published by Little, Brown. Val will be appearing at the Mountains to Sea Festival, in conversation with Declan Hughes, on Saturday, September 10th. For all the details, clickety-click here …
“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. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “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. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.