Richard Burke


Richard Burke Case File
RICHARD BURKE [Interviewed by Mike Stotter]

Can you give us some background as to how your book came about?

Frozen Jacket Bizarrely enough, I was actually making a TV documentary about dolphins at the time. I decided that I wanted to write and I was thinking bout what kind of story I might want to write and at the same time working out how to film a load of dolphins. I had an idea for a camera technique that would involve having lots of cameras placed around the dolphins and taking one shot after another, so it made you feel you were flying around the dolphins. At the same time I had a strange dream about a derelict village and a single photograph in the middle of it, going hard and crisp at the edges, of a young girl jumping up in the air with joy. For some reason in the dream, I was able to fly around that photographic image and was very much haunted by the idea that somehow that wonderful moment would be completely lost, and the girl was no more and so on. I wrote Frozen to really find out who the girl was and how she came to be no more.

Can you tell us about your characters and where they came from?

The central character, Harry is by far the most dominate character in the book. Itís almost exclusively about him and written from his perspective. It is very much his story of how he came to fall in love with this girl Verity and how he came to lose her. To be completely honest I think he came from nowhere other than me. I think he really is who I may have been in another life. His voice is very much my voice, he thinks the way I think. The other main characters: verity, who is the girl now been lost, is no one real, she is the kind of person I would have fallen in love with had I met her at that time of my live in childhood. Sadly I never did but luckily enough I have fallen in love since.

What made you chose crime as your book's subject?

I didnít actually set out to write a crime novel. In fact, Iím not sure I have written a crime novel. I think Iíve written a mystery novel. I set out to write to solve the mysteries of, who was this girl, why did the central character care so much about her, why he lost her. The answers turned out to have crime in it. But to be completely honest, I didnít discover that until I was half-way through the book. I was bought by the crime section at Orion, and Iím on the crime shelves but I would describe Frozen actually as a psychological thriller rather than something that actually fits in the crime genre.

What do you consider is the most important element in crime writing?

I think the same element is important in all kinds of writing: it has to be a good story and it has to be well told. For me, the most important thing of all is that a novel doesnít just deliver a series of complicated facts, a novel delivers a series of characters, a series of lives, a series of emotions that go along with sympathies. It has to be written in a way that allows you to understand the characters and their lives for just a little while. And thatís true in crime writing as it is for science fiction novels, as it is of chick-lit and is it of literary novels.

What does it mean to you to be included in the Orion New Blood series?

Itís an absolute thrill to be involved in part of the Orion New Blood venture. I really count myself most extraordinarily lucky. The fiction market is hugely competitive, the crime market even more so. Itís very hard to be noticed and make a difference particularly at a time when other publishers are retrenching and removing a lot of their midlist writers, to make such a huge commitment to the crime genre and to new writers, and selfishly to me, is thrilling beyond description.

What do you think of the current trends in the genre?

I find it very hard to identify trends. I suspect that more and more crime fiction is become hard-boiled, more graphic and perhaps more violence and disturbing and that could be a reflection of the world we feel we live in. However, by and large, sex for its own such and violence for its own sake in any kind of story rapidly becomes pointless and the readers become desensitised by it. That ultimately regardless of short-term trends the thing that will always triumph is a good story well told.

Some do not consider the genre to be ďliteraryĒ enough and at times it does not get the accolade it deserves. Do you believe that this is the case and if so have you any views on how peopleís views might be changed?

There is a real risk with something that is such an identifiable genre as crime, is that people will dismiss an entire genre other than looking at it author by author, story by story. However, having said that, crime fiction can run the gamut from the hard-bold graphic to the highly emotional story with a great literary content. It really depends on who the writer is and what your taste is. There is no way of changing peopleís opinion wholesale, you just have to depend on readers discovering what they like. And also trust reviewers to tell it like it is.

What novels were the early books that you read, that either influenced you, or made you take up the pen?

Iíve always loved words and Iíve always like writing. The earliest books I can remember falling in love with were C.S.Lewisí Narnia stories. I got the box set when I was seven and devoured them in quick order. And I think Iíve believed in magic ever since. And also believe in the emotional power of stories and words. Plus the fact that a book can bring another world to life. Oh endless stories: Tarka the Otter, The Hobbitt, science fiction - just a wide range really.

What are you working on currently?

My second novel, whose working title is Redemption, is the story of Matthew Daniels who is a prison governor. Whose wife is kidnapped and finds the only way he can even attempt to get her back is to cross the boundaries of what is legally right and what is morally right and associate with some of the prisoners who used to be in his care. He has to enter the criminal world to reclaim his wife and everything he holds dear.

Is there a book out there you would have liked to have written?

There are millions I would have liked to have had written. For wealth: Harry Potter, for intellect accolade: Ulysses. Shakespeare wrote a good yarn, so did Dickens. I find it impossible to pin it down.

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