Monday, August 22, 2005

Interview with MARK BILLINGHAM

Mark Billingham is a very accomplished crime writer and one who certainly mines the dark side of the human psyche. His new book 'Lifeless' is just published and this , along with 'Sleepyhead' are a good introduction to his work.

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1. What are you currently up to?

I’m just finishing off my next novel which is called BURIED and will be out next year. Then I have some odd projects to work on for a while including a sitcom and maybe even a kids book. Then I have to get to work on the next Thorne novel which is starting to take shape in my head. It may not finish up that way of course....

2. You new book, 'Lifeless' gives a very in depth view of London's homeless as the book's main backdrop. How did you resercah this and do you use your books to get personal mesages across to readers and.or highlight issues?

I’m not issue-led. I think that’s the kiss of death to a good story which is basically what I’m trying to write. There WERE certain things I was keen to get across though so yes, I had to do a fair bit of research. I worked with a brilliant organisation called Connection at St martin’s who took me out on overnight outreach shifts and so on. I got to see the hidden side of that world which most of us never see. It was a real eye-opener and I wanted to put some of that across in the book.

3. How do you view the current crime writing scene? Is there a move towards much more graphic, dark crime writing like John Connor, Ian Rankin and yourself?

Yes, the stuff is getting darker but only as a reflection of the world we live in. It’s not conscious I don’t think.

4. Did you ever envisage the success you have had so far? What have been the highlight(s) so far?

Winning the Theakston’s Old Peculier Award for crime novel of the year a few weeks back was a definite highlight. It’s an award which is voted for by readers so that’s a really nice thing to win. The fact that the books are getting this sort of reward as well as doing well in the charts is really more than I ever dreamt of. That...and getting to hang out with writers who up toa few years ago were heroes. That’s a major buzz/

5. Like many characters in crime novels Thorne enjoys music. Do you add your own musical tastes and albums you enjoy into your books?

Oh for sure. I can’t be arsed researching EVERYTHING, so if Thorne is at home listening to music or in the car or whatever, chances are he’s listening to whatever I’m listening to. His tastes in country music were a bit conservative to start with but I’m getting him into the end of the spectrum more and more.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Reading mostly, but sadly I don’t have as much time as I used to. Going to the movies when I can and playing poker.

7. If (and hopefully when!) any of your novels are televised/made into a film who ideally would you like cast as the main characters and why?

I would love an actor called David Morrissey to play Thorne, and I also have a vision of Eddie Izzard or Bill Bailey as Phil Hendricks,. Why I’m thinking of comedians O really don;t know...

8. Do you enjoy the specialist crime conventions/events and which ones do you most look forward to and why?

Yes, they’re great. I’m off to Bouchercon (the world mystery convention) in Chicago next week and I can’t wait. It’s a chance to catch up with old mates and drink a lot and talk about crime fiction. What more do you want. The festival at Harrogate every year has become my favourite and next year I’m lucky enough to be programming it myself. Basically I just asked all my friends. It should be great...

9. What made you want to go from a stand up comedian into a full time writer? And was crime writing always your first choice or is this how your writing developed oncce you started writing?

It was accidental really. I’ve always written and I’ve always loved crime fiction but it seemed such a long way away from comedy which seemed to be what I was destined to spend the rest of my life doing. Then I realised that it wasn’t such a big jump. It’s all about using words to create effect. The punchlines in the books are just darker, that’s all. Now I can’t envisage writing anything other than crime fiction. There is a certain amount of snobbery but I don’t care. I’m proud to be a crime writer.

10. Message to your readers...

Thanks to all those who’ve supported me and bought the books from the beginning. I hope you continue to enjoy the Tom Thorne books. I can promise that Tom will go in some interesting directions...


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