As the creator of HBO se­ries Bored To Death, Jonathan Ames com­bined com­edy with a nod to de­tec­tive fic­tion. Ven­tur­ing into thriller ter­ri­tory for his novella You Were Never Re­ally Here, he dis­cusses his dam­aged hero and the movie adap­ta­tion di­rected by Ly

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - By AN­DRE PAINE

The Bored To Death creator re­veals his crime fic­tion ob­ses­sion.

What drew you to write a relentless thriller with no ob­vi­ous hu­mour?

I specif­i­cally wanted to write some­thing that wasn’t funny. So much of what I’ve done has been en­tirely comedic, so I wanted to see if I could do some­thing with a dif­fer­ent tonal­ity.

How do you find writ­ing vi­o­lence com­pared to writ­ing com­edy?

I had some mis­giv­ings about ad­ding vi­o­lence to the world, but jus­ti­fied it, I guess, by think­ing that I’ve en­joyed genre books and vi­o­lence is a sta­ple of such writ­ing. Not sure which one is eas­ier. The chal­lenge was the same – to write in such a way that the reader is not bored, that you pro­vide enough de­scrip­tion for the reader to cre­ate pic­tures in their mind.

Do you read thriller authors? Lee Child?

Yes, I’m a fan of Lee Child. Some­times I get frus­trated with the Reacher nov­els – the plot­ting, Reacher’s ut­ter in­fal­li­bil­ity, cer­tain re­peated tropes – but I rapidly con­sume them nev­er­the­less. You Were Never Re­ally Here was very much in­spired by the Reacher books and also by Richard Stark’s Parker books. I pri­mar­ily only read genre fic­tion. I love page-turn­ers. I love se­ries about a sin­gle pro­tag­o­nist. I love the ef­fi­ciency of the prose, the sto­ry­telling… the fan­tasy of be­ing a ca­pa­ble man.

So is Joe a clas­sic hero or a bro­ken man?

How about we merge the two – he’s a clas­sic and bro­ken hero.

Where did you get the idea of mak­ing a ham­mer his weapon of choice?

I don’t re­call where this idea came from. Per­haps I’ve al­ways been scared by ham­mers.

How in­volved are you with the movie adap­ta­tion?

Lynne Ram­say and I have cor­re­sponded for two years and I read many drafts of her scripts and would tell her my thoughts. Re­cently we met in per­son and we talked more about the script and the orig­i­nal story, some of my mo­ti­va­tions. So my in­volve­ment is kind of like a sound­ing board. I’ve loved all her movies. She’s a great film­maker, a great artist, and she’ll make Joe’s story her own.

How do you feel about the cast­ing of Joaquin Phoenix?

I’m thrilled – what an ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­tor. I’ve been mes­merised by him in every movie of his that I’ve seen.

Read­ers will want more of Joe – are you writ­ing an­other book?

Yes, I’d like to write more about Joe, maybe an­other novella. I’d also like to write more crime/thriller fic­tion.

Bored To Death also had a de­tec­tive el­e­ment. Are you in­spired by the genre?

It was very much in­spired by my love of Ray­mond Chan­dler (and also Dashiell Ham­mett). Every few years, I reread all or most of Chan­dler’s books. I’ve prob­a­bly done this five times over the last 25 years. So it was kind of a Don Quixote story – it’s about some­one read­ing too much de­tec­tive fic­tion and as a re­sult sort of los­ing their mind and coming to think that they are a pri­vate de­tec­tive, in much the same way that Don Quixote read too many books of chivalry and came to think he was a knight.


Joaquin Phoenix in In­her­ent Vice.

You Were Never Re­ally Here (Pushkin Press) is out now.

Bored To Death fo­cused on frus­trated writer “Jonathan Ames”.

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