1. How did you get started writing?
When you’re ten years old you can fall in love with any story, so long as it’s a good one. But what do you do if you’re growing up in a home without books? Actually I wrote a childhood memoir, ‘Paperboy’, about life in suburban London and spending my days between the library and the cinema devouring novels, comics, cereal boxes – anything that might reveal a story. I kept volumes of stories I’d written and still have them all. I finally got published at 28.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel
I’d always loved the Golden Age crime novels, and a few modern ones. I knew that Margery Allingham regarded the mystery novel as a box with four sides; ‘a killing, a mystery, an enquiry and a conclusion with an element of satisfaction in it’ – I put all crime novels through the Allingham test.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
.Conan Doyle, of course. Then Allingham; the first time I read ‘The Tiger In The Smoke’, I kept losing my place. The chase to track Jack Havoc, jail-breaker and knife artist, in the London fog was as densely confusing as the choking gloom through which he carves his way. There’s that central image of a hopping, running band of ragtag musicians silhouetted in the murk that stays beyond the conclusion. It’s a dark, strange read and I realized, possibly not the best place to begin. Then the wonderful Edmund Crispin, hilarious, charming and clever. Oh, and the sadly forgotten Pamela Branch.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
Oddly not at all. I began with no confidence so started out with some silly humour books, then moved to short stories. The first novel, ‘Roofworld’, had a good hook, and the publisher loved it – but didn’t know which shelf it sat on. One of the reasons why I like crime is that I know where to find my books now!
5. There are many interesting characters in your Novels, do you have a particular favourite one?
Arthur Bryant has to be my favourite to write. He’s a Luddite, antisocial, rude, miserable, erudite, bookish, while his partner John May is likeable, friendly, modern, techno-literate, and a bit of a ladies’ man. Their inevitable clash of working methods often causes cases to go off the rails.
6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novels?
Take today, for example; in an hour’s time I’m meeting the river police at Tower Beach to investigate the Thames’s tidal effects on washed-up corpses…I talk to a lot of people, and back up their stories with library research.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
Nearly all of them come directly from people I know, including one police officer. Arthur Bryant is based on my best friend. There’s even a photograph of him in one of the books. Nearly all of the main characters are real, especially Maggie Armitage. Weirdly, I’m not the only person to use her as a fictional character. The author Tom Wakefield did too.
8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Crime Fiction Novels out there ?
I don’t try to copy the market – I just write about the things that interest me, and I get a lot of feedback from readers online, because I blog every day. I think you have to talk to your readers regularly or you lose touch with their tastes. I don’t network or play by the rules very much. I tend to go my own way.
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
Hah! Very good question, that! Oh yes. Someone pointed out that all of my books, non-crime ones included, contain two opposing characters. I think I’m horribly full of opposites. I can be incredibly impatient and easily bored, but will spend huge amounts of time getting the details of a story right.
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned.
Next out is ‘The Sand Men’ in October, a thriller set in Dubai. A British family live in a gated community reserved for foreign workers. In the oppressive heat, the wives appear happy to follow behind their husbands, cooking and arranging tea parties, but the heroine finds herself a virtual prisoner in a land where Western women are regarded with suspicion on the streets. Then her most outspoken friend is killed in a suspicious hit-and-run accident….The book is about what happens in a world where only the rich are considered important.
After that comes a collection of missing cases, ‘Bryant & May: London’s Glory’ in November…
11. Out of all the Novels you have written do you have a favourite one that stands out to you?
I’m very proud of ‘Calabash’ – It’s a coming-of-age novel set in a rundown English seaside town and a mythical version of Persia. I also loved writing ‘Paperboy’, a memoir about my childhood, and was very pleased to know that my family read it, and that it won some nice awards.
12. As a well known crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
Fiction means you can make things up.
Don’t just write about what you know; write about what you hope, dream, fear, wish.
Write every day, until it’s as natural as breathing. Don’t talk about it to others while you’re doing it.
Red Bride (1992)
Darkest Day (1993)
Menz Insana (1997)
Soho Black (1998)
Hell Train (2011)
#ChooseThePlot (2014) (with Jane Casey and James Oswald)
The Sand Men (2015)
The Bureau of Lost Souls (1984)
City Jitters (1986)
More City Jitters (1988)
Flesh Wounds (1989)
Sharper Knives (1992)
Personal Demons (1998)
The Devil in Me (2001)
Old Devil Moon (2007)
Crimewave 11: Ghosts (2010) (with Nina Allan, Ilsa J Bick, Richard Butner, Cody Goodfellow, Dave Hoing, Alison J Littlewood, O’Neil De Noux and Luke Sholer)
Red Gloves: Devilry (2011)
Oh I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside (2012)
Invisible Ink (2012)
Film Freak (2013)
Amazon Author Page