“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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Robert Thorogood

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?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré. I read it (and the subsequent two George Smiley books) from start to finish every couple of years or so and am always captivated by the beauty of the writing and the sense of moral decay it has running through almost every line. When I was younger, I thought it was a ‘whodunnit’ and couldn’t wait to find out who the killer was. Now that I’m older, I realise that the killer is pretty much revealed in Chapter 1, and the greatness of the book is that Smiley also realises who it is from the start. I think it’s Le Carré’s masterpiece.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
 

I know that this is a bit bleak for a 44-year old man with a family and a mortgage, but I think I most want to be Harry Potter. Or at least, there’s still a bit of me that’s waiting for a letter to come through the post that tells me that yes, I am indeed a magical wizard, and now I’ve got to go into an intense period of training so I can become the best wizard in the world.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?

Surely there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure when it comes to reading? However, I’d agree that there are definitely some books that have shorter sentence structures than others, so I’m happy to admit that I’ve always loved a good Techno Thriller. Back in the day, I used to tear through every Tom Clancy, Larry Bond, Stephen Coonts and Patrick Robinson novel I could get my hands on. And I suppose the thing that makes them ‘guilty pleasures’ is that I’ve not dared go near any of them for years. I worry that the stories (and politics) would feel somewhat dated from the distance of the 21st century.

Most satisfying writing moment?

It’s always the same, whether I’m writing episodes for DEATH IN PARADISE on TV, or if I’m writing the stand-alone novels: it’s the moment I get to write ‘The End’ for the first time. In truth, I tend to do a mad dash on the first draft of anything, so writing ‘The End’ is never even close to being the actual end of the writing process, but I always feel an overwhelming sense of relief and release when I know that, for good or for ill, I have in fact managed to get to the end of the story.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
 

I remember living in a filthy flat in London with friends back in the 1990s. We’d just left University and were all on the dole or doing temp jobs for next-to-no cash. Whenever someone found a good book, it used to be passed from person to person, and I remember DIVORCING JACK by Colin Bateman coming into the house and it going off like a grenade. It was so flip, so sarcastic and off-the-cuff, and we all devoured it. It seemed to combine the glib wit of a PG Wodehouse with the filth and punch of a James Ellroy. I loved it.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?

Okay, so it’s not quite a crime novel (although there is a murder of sorts at the end), but I’ve been wanting to see a movie of THE SEA by John Banville ever since the day I was working as a script reader at Miramax and I was asked to write a report on the novel. The story is so wonderfully cinematic – centring on a lone man in a seaside cottage who’s trying to come to terms with the decisions he’s made in his life while the ghost of a mysterious woman and child visit him. The big cheeses at Miramax didn’t want to take things further, but it’s a beautiful, haunting novel, and I’m still convinced it would make a beautiful, haunting film.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?

The worst thing about being a writer is that you’re on your own all day. From the moment you turn your computer on in the morning to the moment you turn it off at night. It’s just you. In a shed. And, as the years pass, I find I’m increasingly unable to function in the real world. I’m distracted at the school gates when I pick up the kids. Or I’m baffled by our lovely Postie trying to talk to me as he delivers an item too large to fit through the letterbox. Or I’m terrified by a phone ringing from an ‘unknown’ number. Spending so much time on your own with only imaginary characters for company isn’t exactly a very healthy way to live.

The pitch for your next book is …?

When the owner of a coffee plantation is found murdered inside a farm building, Detective Inspector Richard Poole and his team have to work out which member of his family killed him, why, and—even more impossibly—just how the killer managed to escape from the locked room afterwards.

Who are you reading right now?

I spent the weekend at the Harrogate Crime Festival, and was really impressed with how Ruth Ware talked about her writing. The brilliant things about crime festivals is that the panelists’ books are always for sale in a ‘pop up’ bookshop on site, so I was able to buy her first book, IN A DARK, DARK WOOD. So far it’s everything I hoped it would be: a modern-day murder mystery with a brooding sense of menace and a real mastery of tension.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?

The only sane answer is ‘read’, because for all that I love writing, I love reading more. I think that as long as I’ve got a pile of novels by my bedside, I could pretty much put up with everything else I had to endure in life.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?

Fun. Comic. Thrilling.

THE KILLING OF POLLY CARTER by Robert Thorogood is published by Harlequin Mira.

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