LIFE OF CRIME
HEROES OF CRIME DRAMA REVEAL THEIR INFLUENCES AND INSPIRATIONS THIS ISSUE: Bestselling novelist and creator of DCI Banks, PETER ROBINSON
Bestselling author Peter Robinson tells us about his heroes and inspirations.
What’s the very first crime fiction you ever remember reading?
When I was a teenager, I remember reading Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. I cut my teeth on Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, and the crime writers who fascinated me were Georges Simenon and the Maigret novels, Ed Mcbain’s 87th Precinct series and, of course, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie.
What’s your favourite crime novel ever and why?
I’m very fond of Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. It’s the atmosphere, the writing, and the sense of place. Chandler wasn’t a great plotter, and in fact his books can get quite confusing towards the end. But it’s the style, the humour and the voice of Marlowe too.
Who’s been your greatest literary role model?
Ed Mcbain and Ross Macdonald, although I couldn’t do the American style. Among British writers, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell – I read everything they wrote. When I first came to Canada in the mid-’70s to study English and creative writing, Joyce Carol Oates was my professor. I admire her tremendously, her energy and the breadth of her vision, it’s quite staggering.
Who or what most inspires you?
I was in Canada and I was feeling homesick, and that’s when I started thinking I might like to write some crime fiction. I kind of liked that idea of using the crime novel to illuminate a particular area of England, and for me it was Yorkshire. So it came partly out of homesickness and nostalgia. If I was sitting in Windsor [ Ontario] or Toronto and writing about Banks in Yorkshire, it was the next best thing to being there.
What would you be doing now if you weren’t an author?
The only other thing I can do is teach. I did a lot of teaching over the years because I couldn’t make a living from writing, so I’d go back to that. Preferably I would teach English literature in a university, but failing that I’d teach people in community college how to write sentences.
What advice would you give to your 14-year-old self?
Writing is a very difficult dream to nurture, so I would say don’t worry what anybody says.
Other than DCI Banks, what’s your favourite TV crime show, past or present?
I like Waking The Dead. Although I don’t write that kind of book, it was a programme I enjoyed a lot. I’m hooked on the second series of Happy Valley, which is terrific. I love private eye shows like The Rockford Files and Cannon.
What’s the best crime novel you’ve read this year?
I did enjoy Pierre Lemaitre, the first two of his trilogy, Irene and Alex, they’re very harrowing books but very good reads. I like that anything goes. He’s not going to be nice to his characters – it’s a bit stomach churning.
As an established writer, who do you now most admire among your peers?
I have people I’ve known for a long time like Ian Rankin, John Harvey, Mark Billingham and Mike Connelly, he’s a good bloke. Then there are people I don’t see so often like George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane. I used to do a lot of touring in the States, so I got to meet a lot of American crime writers.
Which fictional character do you wish you’d created?
One of my favourite literary characters is Tess Of The d’urbervilles, I wish I had the talent to create a character like that. It’s the complexity, the way that Hardy captures the innocence and the hardship, and the fact it is actually a terrific crime novel.
What’s the craziest letter you’ve ever had from a fan?
I’ve had some strange ones, but the most fascinating was after [ standalone novel] Before The Poison, which had a lot of details about the main character after the fall of Singapore. It was based on a lot of books I’d read about the Queen Alexandra’s [ Royal Army Nursing Corps] nurses at the time. I got an email from someone in Australia who was convinced it was his 99-yearold grandmother, because she’d had those experiences.
If you could commit a crime and get away with it, what would it be?
That would be telling, wouldn’t it? The first thing I would make sure I did would be to not tell anybody about it.
WRITING IS A VERY DIFFICULT DREAM TO NURTURE. DON’T WORRY WHAT ANYBODY SAYS
When The Music’s Over ( Hodder & Stoughton) is out on 14 July.