TWO AUTHORS CHAT: PART ONE
Welcome to my guest, David W Robinson for the first part of our two part conversation about crime-writing. David has been writing for many years and is the author of the highly acclaimed STAC Mystery Series of novels, as well as several standalone novels in different genres.
#11 in the STAC Mystery Series Death in Distribution will be released on the 1st April.
Catriona: Hi, David, it’s lovely to have you here. I’m going to start the conversation by asking what made you want to write in the first place? And why crime?
David: What made me want to write in the first place?Crikey, you do ask some tough questions, and it’s so long ago now that I can’t really remember.
I was born and brought up in the fifties; a time when television didn’t have the influence it has these days. My mother taught me to read and write before I started school, and books became this sort of treasure trove of worlds far removed from a council estate in South Leeds. This love of reading stayed with me through my teens, when I began to take on more adult works, and I cut my teeth on authors like Ian Fleming, Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov and (for my money, the fine humourist we’ve ever had) Keith Waterhouse.That’s quite an eclectic range: spy thrillers, whodunits, sci-fi and humour, and the effect can be seen in my work today.
Back then, I dabbled with short stories. In my thirties, I began to take it more seriously, and I published quite a lot in local newspapers and small press magazines.By the time the internet took hold, I was already writing novels, and it was the most natural thing in the world for me to turn out work based on my own reading tastes: crime, sci-fi and humour.
Eventually, I narrowed it down to those fields, but I still dabble with sci-fi in works like Voices.But I’m lazy. I can’t be bothered with researching all this police procedural stuff, so I create private eyes like Joe Murray and Felix Croft in my books, and I ally them to the police. And humour? Well, Flatcap takes care of that, but Joe has his LOL moments, too.
Catriona: I know what you mean about turning out work based on your own reading tastes. In my case I write crime novels (The Craig Crime Series) and now thrillers (with the soon to be released,The Carbon Trail, set in New York) because crime series and thrillers are nearly all that I seem to watch on TV or read.
I love the work of Ian Rankin and Val MacDiarmid, but I have to say some of the recent TV offerings have left me cold. Often the stories are brilliant but the way in which they are filmed is not. Why do TV producers seem to believe that realism has to be portrayed by filming in semi-darkness and having the actors mumble all the way through? It means that no-one can see or hear the action and miss people a huge amount. And if I see one more UK crime series where the hero is a sad, lonely person, male or female, with some form of addiction, be it alcohol, gambling etc. I think I’ll scream. I know lots of real detectives and they certainly aren't like that!
I like some of the American series such as Bones, 24, NCIS and The Wire, which was amazing. In the UK, the new version of Sherlock, the current series of Line of Duty and for sheer liveliness, the wonderful Scott and Bailey. RTE has a wonderful new series set in the 1950s, called Quirke. Other than those, nothing appeals to me.What do you think of the TV detectives that we have on screen at the moment?
Amazon UK: http://tinyurl.com/oq4j2nq
Amazon US: http://tinyurl.com/ng9ulk5
David's Blog: http://networkedblogs.com/VeaXD
David: I watch very little TV and most series are a distinct turn off. The line between Lewis, Frost, Midsomer and Morse, even Taggart and Rebus, is so blurred that they’re practically interchangeable. That latest series of Sherlock left me disappointed, and I won’t watch the CSI or Law & Order stuff from either America or Britain. It’s square-eye fodder as far as I’m concerned. There has been some promise recently, quickly dumped by the powers that be. I’m thinking Whitechapel and Ripper Street. Vera is also quite good, but Brenda Blethyn’s fake Geordie accent fazes me slightly.
The only show I really enjoy these days is Death in Paradise. Simple whodunits, but with a stream of humour created by taking a fish out of water. In this case that’s putting a Met detective on a Caribbean island. Supported by Sara Martins, Gary Carr and the excellent Danny John-Jules (Cat from Red Dwarf) Ben Miller led the first two series, and he was brilliant. Kris Marshall has taken over and he’s not as stuffy as Ben’s character, but he is clumsy and the show is simply great fun with the bonus of a whodunit.
I think both the Brits and the Americans have been caught on the back foot by the rampant success of Scandinavian series like The Killing and The Bridge. Despite the subtitles, people are tuning in because the shows take time to develop both the plot and the characters. It’s demonstrated that we don’t need all the answers tied up in a pretty bundle in an hour or two. The Bridge was amazing, and it was spread over ten hours. Salamander from Belgium is even longer, at twelve hours. But to produce these things would take time and money and both the BBC and ITV are too concerned with the quick buck, which is why we see so much reality crap on our screens.
If history is anything to go by, our powers that be have it wrong. Slightly off topic, but when I was a kid, the BBC ran Quatermass and the Pit. Frightened the living daylights out of me and my brother (I was nine, he was seven). That programme aired at eight o’clock every Monday and it emptied the pubs. They crow these days about audiences of eight or ten million. Where were they when Only Fools and Horses pulled in twenty-four million viewers?My work could be adapted for TV. Indeed The Handshaker was originally written for TV, not print. It would still make a fine show, but it couldn’t be hacked down to two hours. The STAC Mysteries would make good TV, but they’re problematic in that they have a huge cast, which would need to be trimmed down. It would be interesting to see whether the outcome would match the humour of Death in Paradise. To turn this question back, what would your Craig Crime Series compare to on TV?
END OF PART ONE