Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - By AN­DRE PAINE

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.


When The Mu­sic’s Over ( Hod­der & Stoughton) is out on 14 July.

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