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 confess a weakness for dense historical mysteries like Umberto Eco’s THE NAME OF THE ROSE, so something like that … or maybe Ian Pears’ AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST. The more historical detail, the better, I say!
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Sherlock Holmes, of course …
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I like big books and I cannot lie — and I certainly don’t feel guilty about it. That said, I’m a pure sucker for potboilers, the more plot twists, the better — bring ‘em on! I find that I have little patience any more for novels in which nothing much happens.
Most satisfying writing moment?
It’s a bit odd, and this has happened to me not once, not twice, but multiple times: I’m transcribing, typing into the computer some pages that I’ve written out in longhand maybe two or three weeks earlier, and all at once I get a great idea for the next chapter. And I mean a really great idea—feckin’ brilliant! And I start pounding the keyboard, revelling in my own bloody genius, only to turn over the next page of handwritten notes and find the scene that I’ve just created from thin air is one that I’ve already written, and have apparently just typed out from memory, word for word. I think the reason I find that strange little moment satisfying—or at least reassuring—is that what emanates from the deep recesses of one’s subconscious actually seems to stay there, apparently intact. So I have very little fear of losing anything by not writing it down immediately. And I also take comfort in the fact that it will only be my own work I’m ever guilty of plagiarizing ...
If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
Well, I really hate to sound like a complete suck-up, but I am an evangelist for THE BIG O by a fella called Declan Burke … And I was really excited to read Stuart Neville’s debut, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST—or THE TWELVE, as you call it on that side of the Atlantic. Great characters, a really outstanding parallel structure, and a particularly Irish flavour, or blas, as they say in Irish traditional music. Shot through with wry humour and real pathos. You know, come to think of it, the same things could be said about THE BIG O ...
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Well, in addition to THE BIG O and THE TWELVE, I’d love to see Gene Kerrigan’s book THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR adapted for film. I love the interlocking stories, plus it has the sort of mordant humour, and the sort of inexorable forward motion that would make for a great movie.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Is this a trick question? Okay, best thing: not being gainfully employed. Obviously. And you guessed it, the worst thing: not being gainfully employed.
The pitch for your next book is …?
A postman goes missing on Christmas day in 1927, and is never seen again. All of my novels have been based on real historical cases; this missing postman really did go missing, and his body has never been found. I’m fascinated by the notion that a whole village can keep a secret for generations about something as dark as murder.
Who are you reading right now?
Just finishing up a tale of 13th-century historical intrigue from fellow Minnesota writer Judith Koll Healy, THE CANTERBURY PAPERS.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Oh, reading, definitely. For the pure pleasure of it. Writing is very rewarding work, but truth to tell, I’m quite lazy, just a simple hedonist, deep down. If your aim is to live vicariously through fictional characters, reading is faster and so much more efficient than writing!
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Well, you’re probably better off asking readers that sort of question, but all right… I’ll have to go with ‘haunting,’ maybe ‘layered’—I do write about archaeology, after all—and to those perhaps I might add ‘melancholy.’
Erin Hart’s THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN is published by Scribner.
“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.