Saturday 8 August 2020

In The Spotlight: Andrew Wilson

Name: Andrew Wilson
Job: Author and journalist
Twitter: @andrewwilsonaw

Andrew Wilson is an award winning journalist and author. He is the author on books on Patricia Highsmith, Harold Robbins, Sylvia Plath and Alexander McQueen. In 2003 he won both an Edgar® Award and a Lambda Award for his biography Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith. He has also written a series of novels featuring Agatha Christie as a character. These include: - Talent for Murder, about the real-life disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926 (2017), A Different Kind of Evil (2018), Death in a Desert Land (2019). His most recently published book is I saw Him Die (August 2020)

Current book?
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. I’ve been seeing the hype about it for the last six months — Stephen King called it ‘a package of dynamite’. I’m always a bit wary of books that come with an extraordinary level of pre-publication buzz, but at the moment — I’m 150 pages in — I’m hooked. 

Favourite book? 
So difficult to choose, but I would have to go for either The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (see below) or The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith. I like to think that I’ve learnt something from these two very different crime writers. 

Which two characters would you invite to dinner and why?
I’d love to have Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple over and quiz them about their differing investigative methods. I wonder if they’d get on? 

How do you relax?
I read - of course - and I go on long walks. I’m lucky enough to live in South Devon, and I can walk to the sea from my house. It’s magical at all times, but I’ve never been more grateful for it than this year.

What book do you wish you had written and why?
Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd because of its technical achievement and the audacious, jaw-dropping moment when the identity of the murderer is revealed. No wonder Christie’s book from 1926 is regularly voted the best crime novel of the twentieth century.

What would you say to your younger self if you were just starting out as a writer.
When I was writing Beautiful Shadow, the first biography of Patricia Highsmith, I was astounded to learn how heavily she was edited. One of her editors, Joan Kahn, was particularly tough with her and some of her novels were rejected out of hand. You need a tough skin to survive. 

I’d also flag up that wonderful piece of advice from Stephen King: tell the story!

How would you describe your series character?
Agatha Christie is the central character in all four novels: A Talent for Murder, about her famous 1926 disappearance; A Different Kind of Evil; Death in a Desert Land; and the new one, I Saw Him Die

Agatha uses her skills as a novelist to investigate deaths for the British Secret Intelligence Service. She is an acute observer, she has an eye for detail, she’s a wonderful listener. But she’s sharp as a tack, cool under pressure, and, as you’d expert from the world’s bestselling crime writer, she is expert at picking up hidden clues. 

When people think of Agatha they often see her as an elderly woman. But at the beginning of my series she is only 36. She’s lost her mother, her first marriage is breaking down, she’s emotionally distraught and she’s at the lowest ebb of her life. We follow her through the next four years of her life, and we see her grow in onfidence.

Information about 202o St Hilda's College Crime Fiction Weekend and how to book tckets can be found here.

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