As any discerning crime fiction fan will know, the author Mark Billingham is a constant and excellent presence on the festival circuit. His background in stand-up has served him well – he’s a great compère and interviewer – but this time he was the interviewee.
Journalist Mark Ellen was the interviewer this time around and Billingham dispensed plenty of interesting nuggets about his writing process, which has spawned 15 or so novels.
His Thorne novels were the obvious focus and it’s always interesting to hear what a writer of Billingham ‘s stature has to say about the genre.
He said that it’s a cliché that crime writers have the most fun because it’s generally true. They’re the smokers of the literary fraternity (ie. always outside having a drink or a smoke when others are inside).
He said that he finds the police and police officers fascinating, more so than private detectives because these days they tend to just sit in old Ford Escorts outside someone’s house trying catch people who are dodging benefits or cheating on their spouse.
If you’re going to write a crime novel you have to accept there are certain elements you have to build in, he said, and while the crime novel isn’t quite the vessel for changing the world it’s a great prism through which to look at the world.
As for his upcoming TV adaptations – the filming of Rush Of Blood will start next year, followed by Time Of Death (without Thorne, as we’ve already discussed) -and that his executive production role allows him to be involved to the extent of viewing scripts and making notes.
But he also said he’s ok relinquishing some control and letting the experts do their thing. The book’s the book and the TV programme is the TV programme, he said.
He also gleefully explained that he’s a Columbo nut and will often lose time watching several episodes at a time.