Interview: Mark Billingham talks about World Book Night

Mark Billingham, the creator of the Thorne character appearing in Sky’s detective series, is a great crime fiction writer. His fans eagerly await each new release. Not only that but he was one of the first authors to send us a new book when we launched Crime Fiction Lover last year. Hence, one of our earliest reviews was Good as Dead in which Thorne is the main character.

So we were delighted to see his earlier book Sleepyhead appear on the World Book Night recommended list this year. It was a surprise that more crime fiction wasn’t selected given the popularity of the genre. We decided to catch up with the author, who used to be an actor and is also a stand-up comic, to see what he thinks of World Book Night…

How does it feel to see Sleepyhead selected for the World Book Night list?
It’s a tremendous honour to be part of such a wonderful initiative. Obviously it’s great that so many people who might not otherwise have done so will have a chance to read my first book, but anything that encourages the reluctant reader is to be applauded.

It’s a little surprising there aren’t a few more crime choices on the list. Who are some of the authors, that you’d recommend at the moment, which you’d recommend on World Book Night?
There are so many geat writers working in the genre right now. Anyone who appreciates well-written crime fiction that does much more than provide a traditional whodunnit would enjoy writers such as George Pelecanos, John Harvey, Laura Lippman, John Connolly. Among slightly newer writers, or those who might be less well known in the UK than they should be, I can heartily recommend Gillian Flynn whose forthcoming novel Gone Girl is simply stunning.

A lot of the titles WBN have selected are very accessible examples of fiction. In what ways do you think working as an actor and a stand-up comedian in the past has helped bring immediacy, drama and a connection with readers to your writing?
You’re right about the immediacy and about drama. I’ve always considered writing a novel to be a performance of sorts. The comedy has certainly helped with timing – so important in a crime novel, of course – and with the imperative to engage your audience quickly. You don’t get that first laugh fast, they’re going to throw things. Similarly, if you don’t engage a reader within a few pages, they may well just put your book down and pick up another.

And as an author what is it that you enjoy about a good crime book that can’t be achieved through film, TV or even theatre?
No special effect can compete with the power of a reader’s imagination and the pictures that form in a reader’s head will of course be completely unlike those in the head of the reader sitting next to them. In these days of movies, TV, computer games and social media, there is so much competing for people’s attention, but the power of a great story will always be seductive. We have always been hard-wired for narrative and as long as books can still fulfill that need they will be popular.

Tell us a little bit about the next standalone story due out this summer, Rush of Blood?
It’s a very different book for me. It’s the story of three English couples who meet on holiday in Florida and make what turns out to be a very bad decision to stay in touch when they get home. Each of these six people has secrets and of course – well, it is a crime novel – one of them has a secret far darker than anyone else’s. And a certain north London copper makes a rather shocking cameo appearance.

Where are things with Thorne at the moment? When and in what capacity will we see him again?
Ah, there’s that north London copper I mentioned! Well he will be back in the book I’m currently writing which is provisionally called Hell Let Loose and will be out in 2013. You will see him coping with the life-change that is revealed to readers at the end of Rush Of Blood. After a year away from him writing Rush Of Blood, I’m enjoying hanging out with him again.

Rush of Blood is released in August, and is already available for pre-order via Amazon below.

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