Monday 26 June 2023

In The St Hilda's Spotlight - Chris Brookmyre

Name Chris Brookmyre:

Job:- Author


Twitter:- @cbrookmyre


Chris Brookmyre is a Scottish author whose debut novel Quiet Ugly One Morning (1996) established him as a firm favourite of readers who like their books with lots of dark black humour. They mainly have a police procedural frame, mixed with comedy, politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. Quite Ugly One Morning won the Critics' First Blood Award for Best First Crime Novel of the Year in 1996. Boiling a Frog won the Sherlock Award for Best Comic Detective in 2000.. All Fun And Games until Someone Loses an Eye was the winner of the seventh Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction in 2006.

His novel Black Widow (2016) won the McIlvanney Prize and the and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. In 2020 h won the CWA Dagger in the Library for his body of work. 

Chris Brookmyre is a member of the Fun Lovin' Crime Writers,

Current book? (This can either be the current book that you are reading or writing)

The book I'm working on, as yet untitled, is one of the most baffling mysteries I've ever conceived. It revolves around the concept of what would happen if an octogenarian Miss Marple-esque cosy sleuth crossed paths with a hardboiled noirish Harry Bosch figure, playing with how the styles and values of their sub genres would collide.

Favourite book:

Swing Hammer Swing by Jeff Torrington. It’s by no means a crime novel; in fact its author said of its lack of plot, “plots are for cemeteries”. But try to imagine a four hundred page Billy Connolly routine about someone going around his favourite haunts in the Gorbals in the 1960s as the world he knows is demolished around him. It’s the spirit of Glasgow distilled in literature, and quite simply the funniest novel I've ever read and reread and reread.

Which two characters would you invite to dinner and why? 

As I co-write with my wife, Marisa, I would have to invite James Young Simpson. He is a character in our Ambrose Parry novels, but he's also the historical figure Marisa is most fascinated with. He would be uproarious company if history is anything to go by, though we would need to be wary of him plying us with what he called his “special champagne”, which was basically chloroform diluted in soda water.

I'd also like to invite Danny Weir, aka Weird, from Ian Banks’ novel Espedair Street. I’d love to hear him regale us with debauched stories of excess as a Seventies rock star, and maybe he could also get out a guitar and let us hear what Frozen Gold’s songs actually sounded like.

How do you relax?

At the age of 49 I took up the guitar, which remains one of the best decisions I have made in the last five years. I can lose hours playing it, and it is the one activity that keeps my mind from straying back to whatever story I’m working on. I rehearse songs for Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers shows and learn other songs just for the pleasure of playing them.

Which book do you wish you had written and why?

Douglas Adams’ SF time-travel crime caper Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. To be able to write a fast-paced mystery story that is also warmly optimistic and gloriously funny, and to bring it in under 80,000 words would be the apex of my aspirations.

What would you say to your younger self if you were just starting out as a writer.

Don't consider it skiving off to go for a walk around the block. Walking is writing, and sometimes the worst thing you can do is force yourself to sit at the computer.

How would you describe your latest published book?

I would describe The Cliff House as a respectful riposte to And Then There Were None. It’s about seven women invited to a party on a private island, where the consequences of past misdeeds will finally catch up to them, but while Agatha Christie’s is a book about retribution, The Cliff House is a book about forgiveness.

With Celebrations: innocent parties, guilty pleasures being the theme at St Hilda's this year, which are you three favourite psychological books and why?

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. It was the first book to give me a disturbingly authentic perspective into the mind of a serial Killer.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. As disturbing as it is funny, it puts you in the mind of an inventively twisted individual who lives for murder and mayhem, only for you to find out ultimately that they are the victim via the second greatest twist I've ever read. (The greatest twist I’ve ever read was also written by Ian M Banks, in Use Of Weapons.)

The Alienist by Caleb Carr. A pungently atmospheric depiction of Nineteenth Century New York and the pioneering days of criminal psychology.

If you were to rewatch a psychological film whiich film would it be and why?

Inside Man, directed by Spike Lee. In essence, all heist stories are psychological thrillers, as they're all about social engineering and manipulating perception. I can watch Inside Man over and over because it's a Swiss watch of a movie, intricately constructed, perfectly played and directed with such panache.

What are you looking forward to at St Hilda's?

I am looking forward to hearing some great writers offer refreshing perspectives on the work that has inspired them. It’s the kind of experience that tops up your creativity tank.

Cliff House by Chris Brookmyre

One hen weekend, seven secrets... but only one worth killing for. Jen's hen party is going to be out of control. She's rented a luxury getaway on its own private island. The helicopter won't be back for seventy-two hours. They are alone. They think. As well as Jen, there's the pop diva and the estranged ex-bandmate, the tennis pro and the fashion guru, the embittered ex-sister-in-law and the mouthy future sister-in-law. It's a combustible cocktail, one that takes little time to ignite, and in the midst of the drunken chaos, one of them disappears. Then a message tells them that unless someone confesses her terrible secret to the others, their missing friend will be killed. Problem is, everybody has a secret. And nobody wants to tell.

Information about 2023 St Hilda's College Crime Fiction Weekend and how to book tickets can be found here.

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