Howard Linskey is the author of two crime fiction books, with his debut novel The Drop named in the top five books of 2011 by The Times. His latest release, The Damage, has found great acclaim and was reviewed a few weeks ago here on Crime Fiction Lover. Even more fame and glory is on the way – David Barron, the producer of the Harry Potter films, is adapting The Drop for television. Howard joins us for a chat about how his new novel, and writing in general.
The Damage has been out for a short while. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
The Damage picks up the story of reluctant Newcastle gangster, David Blake. Blake is now the boss of his firm because he can’t trust anyone else with the job. He has to deal with a world of troubles, including a rogue dealer in his crew, a very unreliable drug supplier, far too much interest from the local law and clashes with footballers, hookers and a Newcastle MP. Oh yeah, and someone has taken a contract out on him but he doesn’t know who.
The Drop was your debut. Did you always envisage writing more than one book about David Blake?
Initially I viewed The Drop as a stand-alone but, as I was writing it, I kept getting more and more ideas for the characters and realised there was a natural follow-on from The Drop. I wanted to write about the people who survived the first book and how they coped with the aftermath of those events a couple of years down the road.
The Damage has an action/thriller feel to it. Did you intentionally shift the tone from the grittiness of your first book?
To be honest it wasn’t a conscious shift in style. I didn’t even notice it. I try not to analyse what I do too much and just write each story in the way that feels most natural to me. I think I would run the risk of disappearing up my own arse if I was too analytical of the way I wrote. I do like to include some action in a book though. I couldn’t imagine writing a crime novel that just had detectives pondering clues in a murder case, until they eventually wander into someone’s living room and arrest him.
How have the books gone down in Newcastle, where they’re set?
Really well, thankfully. People from Newcastle seem genuinely chuffed to read something set in their city. They like the fact I mention pubs they drink in, their beloved Newcastle United or places they visit. I’ve not had any negativity about the books at all. I launched The Damage in Newcastle at the beginning of May and there was a lot of press interest, partly due to the TV adaptation of The Drop. I did interviews on radio, TV and for the newspapers up there.
If you could name one book which inspired you to write, what would it be?
I read A Kind of Loving by Stan Barstow in my early teens and loved it because he wrote about normal life in a northern town, and up till then I hadn’t realised you could do that. I thought everything had to be set in London or New York or exotic far-flung locations. It made me realise you could be a writer no matter where you are from.
What are your future plans?
To keep writing and see how far I can go with it. I’m thrilled to be a published author after a lot of years graft and now have the opportunity to work on more book ideas. The Drop and The Damage both had excellent reviews thankfully but they just make me want to work even harder on the next book. I never want to read a review that says ‘it’s not as good as his last one’.