Show 028: February 2010

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I spent the first two weeks in January in Peru, walking in the Amazon rain-forest and in the Andes, but but I was also reading for the Faber Crime Readers’ day in Jarrow which took place almost immediately on my return. This was a great day and many of the five authors I encountered there will, I hope , feature in future podcasts

I read at the National Holocaust event in Halifax on January 27th and the poem I wrote for that occasion is featured as this month’s Poem of the Month.

I’m looking forward to readings in Sowerby Bridge and York, as well as the Scarborough Literature Festival in April.

Book review

This month’s book is Dead Lovely by Helen FitzGerald, who is interviewed on this month’s podcast. I read this in the last couple of days, finishing it over breakfast this morning. The central character Chrissie, a social worker working in Glasgow is badly behaved, balancing the needs of a professional life and friendship; she has a baby and she and friends share a holiday in the Scottish Highland, ending in bodies buries in cliffs and revenge. The book examines what shapes the present that her characters live through at the moment. And there is enough gut-churning detail to satisfy any crime noire fan.


Here follows an edited interview with Australian crime novelist Helen FitzGerald.

I did the Aussie thing, went to university and then did the Big Trip. I fell in love with a Scots-Italian guy in London. We were both really into reading and writing. I moved up to Glasgow to be with him. I then trained as a social worker at Glasgow University and became a probation officer. I did it for ten years and I think all that time I was gathering fantastic stories. I wrote several film scripts and one of them was called The West Highland Way; I thought if it didn’t happen as a film I would write it as a novel which became Dead Lovely.

I always wanted to kill people in my stories, and I wanted to kill as many people as I could.

I like Dead Lovely starting off as a comedy, and then something happens half way through which turns it into horror.. I wrote it in two months and my agent got me the deal with Faber.

I never wanted to write a series, but the publishers were interested and wrote The Last Confession, but I don’t think I’ll write any more with these characters. I think I wrote some of the prison details on the quiet when I was actually visiting there. Seeing all sorts of different guys and their stories made it all very fresh, I would quite like to go back in and get more material, but I don’t think they’ll let me.

I’ve got a deadline for my present novel, but I found myself cheating on it recently, by writing some of the next one. I’ve written a teen novel for an American publisher which is coming out soon. I like the variety. The Donor is coming out with Faber next year.

Before I start writing everyday I always Google myself. It’s a terrible admission. But it’s impossible not to..

I’m not absolutely like my main characters, but I can understand them. Chrissie is a bit like me, and bit like some of my friends. It was fun writing about Sarah too. I think I’m a mixture of the two characters. I love them both and hate them both. I like writing books about women on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I like complex women characters.

Two things helped me as a writer. One, I kept on writing, and I kept writing new stuff, whatever was happening with stuff I submitted. And also networking is really important, so getting out to events and talking to other writers, agents and publishers is really important. All these things played to that luck which got me published in the end.

Marrying a writer is also a good thing.’