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James Lee Burke interview
SHOTS: You worked at a number of other jobs. You were a newspaper reporter, a social worker in south central L.A. how did those experiences contribute to your development as a writer?
JLB: Well, I think the work a person does outside of his art is a relative matter. The story is there in any human situation. It’s a matter of recognition. A person can indicate that he has all kinds of exotic and romantic experience, but sometimes the more grandiose the experience, the less contributive it is to a person's art. It was Dr. Johnson, I believe, who said that the strength of a nation is in its yeomen. I just know that I met some of the bravest, most hard-working and loyal people in my life in some of those early jobs.
SHOTS: And you continued writing throughout this time. After Half of Paradise came To the Bright and Shining Sun and Lay Down My Sword And Shield, then Two for Texas, The Convict and then The Lost Get-Back Boogie. How were those books received and how do you feel about them now in the light of Hyperion's republication of them?
JLB: It's wonderful to see the books resurrected, to see them have another life. My earlier work did well enough. The hard period was between Lay Down My Sword And Shield and The Lost Get-Back Boogie and The Convict. It was being out of hardback for so many years that was difficult. I don't know how many novels I wrote during this thirteen-year period. I literally collected hundreds of rejection slips. The Lost Get-Back Boogie was under continuous submission for nine years. It received 108 rejections in New York.
SHOTS: Did you ever feel like quitting?
JLB: No. Never. I couldn't imagine not writing.
SHOTS:Ever get discouraged?
JLB: (Laughing) Well, yeah, I got discouraged. It gets discouraging when people reject your work for thirteen years.
SHOTS:With The Neon Rain, you created the character and began the series of books that's gained you your widest readership and greatest success as a writer. Where did Dave Robicheaux come from?
JLB: During this period when I couldn’t sell in hardback in New York, I w rote two unpublished novels. One dealt with the search for the Holy Grail in modern times and the other dealt with a young Cajun prizefighter. Those books contained many of the characters and elements that eventually became the series.
SHOTS:With the third Dave Robicheaux novel Black Cherry Blues, you won an Edgar. What effect did that book have on your career?
JLB: It was my breakthrough novel. It enabled me to become a full-time writer.
SHOTS:Were you surprised to discover that you were a mystery writer? Is that what you set out to do with those books?
JLB: Well, I never thought of my books as essentially changing directions. The themes have always remained the same: I've always written about the same people, the same situations. The only fundamental change is the use of a first-person narrator who was a sometimes police officer. But otherwise, there's very little difference from the earlier work. The series and the earlier work are one story.
James Lee Burke's latest novel is BITTERROOT, published by Orion

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John Baker on Urban Renewal
The classic detective story is based on a simple formula that introduces the detective and presents the crime before proceeding through the investigation to a solution and the apprehension of the criminal. When Dashiell Hammett came along in the nineteen-twenties and thirties he used the same formula for his short stories and later the novels, Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key and The Thin Man. Unlike the heroes that had gone before, however, Hammett’s leading characters had many of the same problems that normal people face each day. They were insomniac, they had debts and worried about sickness and ageing and all that paperwork mounting back at the office. The fundamental difference in the formula for the classic story and the hard-boiled story were in setting and resolution. In the earlier novels the city or town or village had an air of romance about it. There was no attempt to make it a real place or to reflect the reality of urban life. But with Hammett the city was depicted as a sore. Its modernity was seen as empty, its institutions were corrupt and its solutions were destructive and often led to death. So much for the backdrop. But the really revolutionary change that Hammett brought to the art of detective fiction was in the resolution of the narrative. Before, it had been enough to determine who the guilty person was, to unmask the criminal. In hard-boiled fiction the detective has another task. He still has to reveal who did the deed, but he also has to define his own moral position. And in defining that moral position this newer version of the detective has to reject the values and ideals of the society in which we live. He has to seek out a position where a new set of ethics and values challenge the existing order.
John Baker's latest novel is SHOOTING IN THE DARK published by Orion

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Deryn Lake, author of the John Rawlings series
Interview with Mike Stotter
Deryn Lake is the pseudonym of a popular historical novelist who lives in the historic 1066 town of Battle in Sussex. Though as Dinah Lampitt she recalls that she wanted to be a writer at a very early age. “I know it sounds a bit pretentious but it was at the age of six. I’d learned to read when I was five and shortly after, as soon as I could write, the appeal of writing my own stories came to me very strongly. I think my father must have realised I’d got something because he bought me little red notebooks in which to write these short stories. I used to write a weekly short story with very bad spelling, very bad writing but it was there.” As an adult without regret, she made a bonfire of all her early work and watched with relief as it was consigned to the flames. It was whilst working on the now defunct London Evening News as assistant to the fiction editor, that she felt confident enough to consider writing a novel for possible publication. “I want to go back a bit further before I became a journo. I started to write novels when I was about 15 or 16. They were all historical novels and they were all absolutely appalling. I think the way to learn to write is simply to write books. I think this is where it falls down with some of these writers on writing courses (and believe me I don’t want to sound patronising) but they look at their work through rose-tinted spectacles. The only way to look at your own work is through black-tinted spectacles. See what actual crap it is and then go back to the drawing board and start again. Believe me, I wrote six extremely bad novels long before I believed I was capable of being published!” Dinah’s big break through came in 1983 with an historical series called Sutton Place. “It was through a lucky coincidence that I was taken to Sutton Place, which of course was the home of the late John Paul Getty, by a relative of his. What I didn’t realise was that there was a curse on the house, the land and its occupants - a fact which has turned out to be absolutely true! I had no concept of what I was walking into. There I’d been, practising away on these terrible gauche schoolgirl novels for years and suddenly I was in the right place at the right time.
Deryn Lake's current novel is DEATH IN THE WEST WIND, published by Allison & Busby

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Mike Jecks asks Why Write?
I was recently giving a talk at Bristol University, and one of the students asked me afterwards whether I really enjoyed writing. It sounded and still sounds a daft question to me. Who wouldn’t want to be a writer? I started off life with the firm determination that I was going to be an actuary, one of those steady, stable fellows who designs pension schemes by working out how many people are likely to die each year. It is a wonderful career, being an actuary. I should know: my father was one and one brother still is; I married an actuarial student,and I worked hard to be one myself for two years. Yes, detractors say that an actuary is someone who finds accountancy too exciting, and all the interesting people I know who qualified almost immediately found other jobs to do which involved nothing to do with actuarial tables, but I knew as a student that it was the highest paid profession, and what more stimulating fact about a job does an arrogant, callow youth need? Well, there was one more thing I needed, which I lacked, and that was ability. After two years at university, the Head of Department and I came to the conclusion that City Uni and I could probably stagger through life quite happily without each other. It was a knock, but my arrogance hadn’t left me yet, and since I liked the idea of money, cars, expense accounts and people, I picked on a new career as a computer salesman. Wonderful. Soon I was earning double what my friends (with degrees) could get, and life was good. Except, to be fair, my friends tended to stay with the same firm for a little longer than me. After thirteen years, I realised I’d had thirteen. Companies employing me tended to collapse with monotonous regularity. Once, in desperation, I joined IBM’s largest software house, thinking my jinx couldn’t harm IBM. Remember how IBM was rocked in the early 1990s? I had to find a new career and, with my mortgage - fast. So, I took up scribbling. I knew I loved books and reading, and what other qualifications does an author need? The first book was remarkably easy. I had always been fascinated by mediaeval history, especially the period between 1300 and 1350. It was appalling. First, the Kingdom of Jerusalem disappeared, overrun by Egyptian Mamelukes in 1291, and in the early 1300s it became clear that there was no possibility of firing European kings with enthusiasm for killing heretics abroad when there were so many opportunities for bickering among themselves. As though to cap the gloom, the Templars were accused of the most extraordinary and, literally, unbelievable crimes. On Friday 13th October, all the Templars in France were arrested and their property confiscated. The Order was destroyed, the Grand Master himself being burned alive, and as though to show God’s displeasure, Europe began to suffer in earnest. In the years immediately following disease spread among cattle and sheep; torrential rain fell causing widespread famine and people cut down the bodies of hanged felons to eat them.
Mike Jeck's latest novel is TOURNAMENT OF BLOOD, published by Headline

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Extract from DRIVING FORCE
a short story by
Carol Anne Davies
‘I’ll have me some of that,’ Arnie whistled as we reached the estate. For a moment I thought he meant Shenaz, the girl he was keen on. She’d only come to the shop with us to help carry the six packs, was walking on his other side. Then I saw the sports car parked outside the bookies and suddenly knew exactly what he desired. A Lamborghini. Low slung, high speed, the shade of glossy red that supermodels slick on their bee-stings. Even a non-mechanical guy like me knew that he was looking at engine class. With a car like that you could go someplace, be someone - just looking at it made my belly ache with wanting. You wouldn’t be forced to walk to the store for some overpriced cans of leg-over if you owned a two hundred miles an hour vehicle like that. A vehicle like that lasts an hour in an area like this. It takes that long to check that it doesn’t belong to any of the main drug dealers. After that there’s a race to see who does the breaking and driving away. But a word in a few shell-likes brought back the news that the car belonged to Bevan which meant that it was here to stay. You didn’t mess with Bevan. One student dropout had been stupid enough to welsh on a deal so Bevan had sent round some of his men to kick the door down. They’d gone in wearing Klu Klux Klan hoods and rearranged his dental work to scare the hell out of him. If the guy had had any savvy, he’d have put his murdered molars under his pillow and drunk whisky until he was seeing fairies. But this stupid wee bampot let his fingers do the walking and promptly phoned the police. They’d turned up after a good three days: it probably took them that long to get in the reinforced patrol car from the army. ‘I can identify some of the men by their tattoos,’ the student had explained. Even the police had been lenient enough to give the guy a second chance, not getting out the Basildon Bond too quickly. ‘Are you sure, sir?’ He had been and had named names after which... Well, someone heard a muffled scream and then Bevan had a fire burning in his flat for a full five days despite the fact that it was the hottest July on record. And rumour had it that an onyx nose-stud just like the one the student wore had ben found sizzling in the grate. Anyway, I thought Arnie would now forget all about the car. Especially as the local wags had only nicknamed him Arnie because he was thin as an anorexic lurcher and a girl-sized five foot three. With his little tan leather trousers and his wee tape recorder spouting Tammy Wynette from his pocket, he was about as hard as a Euro mountain of cream. ‘I’m going to take Shenaz away in that,’ he told me as we brought my kitchen table into the living room and deposited all of the cans on it: full preparation for a party. ‘In Bevan’s car? You’re going to take it round the block?’ ‘Christ, no.’ ‘Thank God for that.’ I opened a can and drank deeply. ‘No, I’m going to take it and scarper for good,’ Arnie said. As I wiped the spluttered export from my shirt, I wondered if he’d been sniffing the Tippex. Either that or he was climbing the high bit of a manic depressive phase. In the six months I’d lived here Arnie had been the most legit of all my neighbours. But he’d told me all about his earlier failed life of crime.

Carol Anne Davis's recent non-fiction title, WOMEN WHO KILL, is published by Allison & Busby

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Mark Billingham, debut author of SLEEPYHEAD
Interview with Mike Stotter
Your novel features a police inspector with a haunted past which we’ve seen in previous crime fiction. How do you think that DI Thorne differs?
For a start he doesn’t have a major drink problem! Yes, of course, there are certain characteristics that Thorne shares with many cop heroes of recent crime fiction. But I think of it in the same way that cowboys always wear Stetsons and six-guns. It goes with the territory. I hope Thorne is a fully rounded character. I want the book to be character based. I want the characters, and above all, the dialogue to be believable and convincing and to come off the page. Thorne is a complex character. Yes, he has a haunted past, but he just doesn’t sit and reflect on that past, he lets his past effect what he does now. He’s a doer not a moper. Also he fucks up a lot. There’s no point in reading about characters who are not flawed, I find that terribly dull, really. Human beings are flawed, they screw up, they get it wrong, and in that way, Thorne is no different from anyone else.
One of Thorne’s earlier cases exerts great influences throughout the story; with that in mind do you think the novel is about redemption?
Hmm - if I was to say it was about anything, I’d say it’s about obsession. It’s about the obsession of two men, one of whom happens to be a cop, the other a killer. Their two obsessions mean they’re on a collision course. They’re going to affect each other’s lives in a major way. Undoubtedly the psychological aspect of the novel may upset a few people but it doesn’t advocate violence. God - absolutely not!
Lots of people say they’ve found it disturbing, chilling or scary - but it’s not blood-drenched. It’s not swimming in guts and viscera.
That was a conscious decision on my part. There have been a few books recently that are so graphic and I don’t believe you necessarily need to be. Would that tarnish the realism when you are trying to write? Yeah. In a way I was trying not to write about a serial killer. Without giving too much away about the book, the guy is in no sense a conventional serial killer. I had thought that perhaps, the serial killer had been done to death. That it had had its time. Then you notice that the most recent books by Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, and Reginald Hill all feature serial killers. These are arguably the biggest, the finest crime writers in the country. Not to mention some of the younger writers - John Connolly and Mo Hayder. I think this is because writers will always be fascinated by these characters, and so will readers. For the simple reason that ninety-nine per cent of killings happen for very dull reasons: anger, jealousy, greed. These are reasons you and I can identify with. I find it much more interesting to read about someone who kills for reasons that I cannot possible fathom or work out and that are alien to me. It’s this strangeness, this otherness that I find so fascinating to write about. One of the main characters, Alison Willets, is the killer’s sole survivor but her story is told whilst she is in a coma.
How important was that to you and would it have been a different book if you cut that back story out?
Oh, completely. In all honestly, they were the most enjoyable parts to write. They were the easiest. Plus, this is where I was able to bring some comedy into it. I felt it was important to make Alison a woman with a good sense of humour, to make her a spunky character. She is in the most heart-breaking and tragic situation. To make her interior monologues, which break the book up, morbid and depressing and full of self- pity would have made the book feel like that. I wanted those moments to be funny and sparky. Obviously her moods go up and down enormously and it’s not like she doesn’t get angry or become filled with rage or terror. But she is also funny. She’s by far the funniest character in the book. I found it hugely enjoyable to write those little streams of consciousness written from a woman’s point of view, in the first person.
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Catherine Stewart re-examines Raffles
The influence of the Raffles character exceeds that of his far more famous contemporary, Sherlock Holmes, plus such luminaries as Father Brown, Hercule Poirot and so forth. Both directly and indirectly, the Raffles character influenced much classic 1920s and ’30s fiction, and thus what came after. Raffles is clearly visible in Leslie Charteris’s The Saint and John Creasey’s characters The Baron and The Toff, whilst slices of his character can be observed in a man code-named 007. Gerald du Maurier, famous thespian and father of Daphne, played him on stage. P. G. Wodehouse wrote a play, A Gentleman of Leisure (starring Douglas Fairbanks Snr) based on him, as did Graham Greene (snappily titled The Return of A. J. Raffles, An Edwardian Comedy in 3 Acts Based Somewhat Loosely on E. W. Hornung’s characters in The Amateur Cracksman). The likes of David Niven, Ronald Coleman and John Barrymore queued to play him on the silver screen alongside the A-list actresses of the era, such as Olivia de Havilland; even heavyweight author George Orwell contributed the short story, Raffles & Miss Blandish, to a Raffles anthology (The Complete Short Stories of Raffles - The Amateur Cracksman, St. Martin’s Press, 1984) and he spawned a thousand now-forgotten imitators, such as John “Blue Mask” Mannering (by Anthony Morton). A radio broadcast of Raffles stories lasted an impressive twenty years. Such was Raffles’ appeal that, in 1932, 23 years after his last adventure, permission was given to author Barry Perowne to “resurrect” him for serialisation in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, alongside the creations of Agatha Christie, Erle Stanley Gardner and Isaac Asimov. Hints of Raffles in plot-lines and characterisation echo down to this day on page and screen - in June 2001 the BBC screened an adaptation of the Raffles story starring bona fide aristocrat Nigel Havers (son of Lord Robert M.O.Havers (1923-1992), Baron of St. Edmundsbury, Lord Chancellor and Attorney General). Yet Raffles languishes in literary obscurity and his creator is invisible. Many people have heard of Raffles in the same way that they know England’s pre-eminent cricket ground is Lord’s, yet in the same way 99% have no idea why Lord’s is Lord’s*,. Ask them who wrote the Raffles stories and 99% will give you a blank stare, while the other 1% will probably plump for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So who was the originator of this vastly influential character? His name was Ernest William Hornung, and he was a lot more interesting than his lack of fame implies.
Mike Carlson Q&A with Harlan Coben
I was amazed at the reaction, it was shocking, and gratifying. The response was greater than I ever expected, from the first, when I submitted a rough draft to my agent, who made the sale and got a film studio to take an option immediately. WATCHING YOU PERFORM ON THE PROMOTIONAL CIRCUIT IS ALWAYS FUN.
Well, I get practice. In fact, I was in your territory, doing sports…on Canada’s TSN (their version of Sky Sports) as a guest talking about ice hockey…as you know New Jersey, where I’m from, is now the home of hockey, not Canada. Anyway, because I’ve written about a sports agent, I’m good for these discussions, and I always go third, so I can be a pain the neck and generate some excitement. But what can you do when you’re a pro!
It is always recurring, but the idea for the book came from two directions. My parents died when I was young…now I have three kids, and a fourth on the way, and I would have loved to have my parents see my children. And I thought, wouldn’t it be worse if the children were to die, or if your loved one were to die before you could have children. And then I also love romance, old romance movies, and I was thinking, what about the guy who absolutely can’t go on without the woman he loves. W
Well, it’s been a strange experience. Myron is actually harder to write, but I know I can do them because I’ve done them before. There were lots of hurdles. I really wanted a lot of emotional impact in the ending, and I felt I had to keep raising the level of suspense with surprise after surprise, and actually, until I wrote it I really wasn’t sure about the last twist. I didn’t know whether to solve the crime or have a broken reunion, whether her father would give away too much at any one moment…I really wanted to build the emotional impact like a roll of fireworks. Or like that last hand coming out of the ground in Carrie!
IT IS VERY O HENRY, ESPECIALLY THE WAY IT RELATES TO THE CHARACTER’S OWN EMOTIONS Yes, he’s a major influence. But so are old Twilight Zone episodes, and Alfred Hitchock Presents. I think you compared it to Hitchock in your review ((I DID)), but I think that’s less the suspense, because his movies don’t really have twist endings, than the idea of ordinary men placed in extraordinary circumstances.
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andy taylor
Andrew Taylor explains more about his Lydmouth series
Lydmouth began with a mystery, if not with a crime. Imagine a hot Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1993. Weighed down with a substantial cream tea, we were driving across Monmouthshire to the Forest of Dean. Work was the last thing on my mind. Yet an hour later, I had the framework for the Lydmouth Series, a framework that has remained unchanged from then to now. Where did it come from? It started with a casual question. A friend said, staring out of the car window at the blue hills, “Wouldn’t this be a great location for a crime novel?” “Yes,” I said - and then came another mystery, because I added with inexplicable certainty, “but it would have to be set in the 1950s.” That fragment of conversation was the trigger. The question collided with my own long-held desire to write about the border country, the enigmatic and very beautiful strip of land which isn’t quite England and isn’t quite Wales. At the time I was actively casting around for a new series and there, suddenly, it appeared. It had been under my nose all the time. Why the 1950s? One reason was that I felt it would be refreshing to write not just about a different time but also about a different moral climate from our own. The 1950s are so relatively recent that we tend to assume that they are part of the present, that people were not so very different from ourselves in 2001. But they were different. That generation sits uncomfortably on the fence between past and present. Britain had won the war, more or less, and was in the slow and inexorable process of losing the peace. We were discarding an empire and acquiring a welfare state. The political, social and economic certainties of the past were dissolving. The differences between then and now weren’t just a matter of the externals - the dandruff, for example, the omnipresent cigarettes, the ill-cut demob suits smelling of sweat and the council estates jerry-built for returning heroes. There was an even bigger difference in the psychological and moral baggage that people carry around them. I wanted the plots of the novels to turn as far as possible on how people thought and lived in that extraordinary decade just after World War II. The place - Lydmouth, a town and its hinterland - emerged simultaneously from the creative mulch. The town belongs in the geography of the mind, but its nearest approximations in reality are eastern Monmouthshire, the Lower Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean. The setting is important. Crimes don’t occur in a vacuum. Even now, my fictional area’s real life equivalent has a strong sense of its own regional identity. Fifty years ago, of course, this was much more pronounced. Following from this was the idea that, book by book, the series could build a picture of an entire provincial society. Certainly part of my enjoyment in writing the Lydmouth Series has come from gradually exploring the town and its surroundings, and the people who live there. I have never been able to subscribe to the idea that crime fiction should restrict itself to the formulaic. Why shouldn’t a crime series at least aspire to create a picture of an entire society, of a little world, a microcosm of the wider one? “Man,” Auden wrote, “is a history-making creature who can neither repeat his past nor leave it behind.” But perhaps by understanding the 1950s, our immediate past, a little better, we might also be able to understand a little more about the present. Two more elements arrived after we had reached home on that Summer afternoon in 1993 and opened the wine. What if there were two competing investigators? Not a new idea, of course, but an effective way of investigating some of the sexual and social tensions of the period, as well as of managing the processes of detection. This led me to my two protagonists. Jill Francis is a journalist, who comes from London; she sips tea on equal terms with local grandees; she’s unmarried; she instinctively sympathises with the underdog, perhaps because she has never been one herself, and she tempers justice with mercy.
Andrew Taylor's latest in the Lydmouth series is published by Hodder & Stoughton - DEATH'S OWN DOOR

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Q&A with Rob Reuland, author of Hollowpoint
Q: Rob, you're a Brooklyn homicide prosecutor. How do your colleagues treat you now that you've written a novel featuring an assistant district attorney?
RR: With the same disrespect as before! We're a pretty cold crew. These are people who walk around in blood and take death penalty convictions - it's hard to have much awe for anyone or anything after you do this job for a while and see what you see. Knowing they would read it, though, kept me honest. I wanted to get it right, because I knew they would be merciless if I didn't.
Q: What do you mean "get it right"?
RR: Most of what you see and read about law enforcement gets it wrong. True crime is far less imaginative than you see on TV, for instance. It's mostly "Give up that chain, motherfu****. BANG" and that's your case. And prosecution is much less dramatic, too. There's not a lot of hand wringing over trial strategy or great moral dilemmas. It's just hard work. I'd have to say, though, that the moments of drama on trial - when a witness falls apart, summations to the jury, waiting for the verdict - are far more dramatic than in books or movies. But maybe that's because it's happening to you.
Q: How do TV shows, novels, and movies distort reality?
RR: Sometimes it's fairly benign. The better ones get it technically right, although with a certain amount of dramatic license. I can't fault them for that, since I take some license myself in Hollowpoint. But there are shows and books where you know they just have no clue how it goes on in the world. 'The public doesn't know the difference, though, so I suppose I could let it slide. And I would, except that you always get jurors who expect the trial to go down like they see on TV. That can jam you up in trial, because fiction begins to shape reality - you have to tell the jury to disregard what they see on TV, but you still have to contend with it. Jurors expect a lot more evidence than we can deliver. Like TV, where the police always carefully pick up guns by putting a pencil in the barrel, and then they find fingerprints on it. Case closed. The thing is, you can rarely lift prints off a gun. They're oily and hot and their surfaces aren't conducive to latent prints. But juries still want them. Sure science helps, but you need witnesses to win. You have to get the witness who's scared out of her mind to come forward and point the guy out. That's the hard part. Particularly in Brooklyn. With good reason. I mean if a witness wants to testify, they're usually nuts.
HOLLOWPOINT is published by Jonathan Cape