PDB: Can you pitch your latest publication/project in 25 words or less?
Frank’s Wild Years is a story of betrayal and last chances at the fading edges of the south London underworld.PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?
Book: Eoin McNamee’s Orchid Blue. McNamee brings an immediacy and a unique use of language to dark novels of conspiracy and crime – mainly fictionalised versions of real events. Orchid Blue tells the story of the murder of 19 year-old Pearl Gamble in Newry in 1961 and the following investigation. Gritty as hell.
Film: I’ve just bought an old favourite, Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law on DVD, a slow burning black comedy about three loser guys – a small time pimp, an unemployed radio DJ and a crazy Italian tourist – thrown in a New Orleans jail. Jarmusch described it as a ‘neo-beat-noir-comedy’, which just about sums it up. Oh, and Tom Waits is in it.
TV: BBC4 recently ran a documentary about the history of apartheid and sport in South Africa. Stories of unbelievable courage in the face of prejudice, and the spread of the anti-apartheid movement across the world. What made it all the more powerful as a TV documentary was the lack of false jeopardy, lazy convention. Just let people tell their stories and raise a glass to the BBC!PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?
If you mean an objective reader of other people’s books, I don’t think so. Maybe poetry? I don’t know, you bring your own context and experience to your reading and a fundamental part of that context for any writer is surely the fact that this is your craft. Switching off isn’t an option.
PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?
Short answer, yes. I co-wrote a short film script with Loz Harvey back in 2009. The film Ted’s Return Home, directed by Hull playwright Dave Windass, imagined a meeting between British noir author, Ted Lewis, and Jack Carter – the character with whom Lewis is most closely associated. The script was tight, but there were issues on the production and the end result suffered as a result.
Frank’s Wild Years has script potential – Frank’s got that cult anti-hero thing going on. I learned a lot from studying script (MA Writing at Sheffield Hallam) and that certainly feeds into my fiction.
PDB: How much research goes into each book?
That depends which book. The Paradise Man – the novel I wrote for the MA – took a great deal of research. There were ideas and subtexts around surveillance society, covert police work and political hacktivism. These are issues that move so quickly it’s almost impossible to keep up without research. If you get them wrong, or the world you create is inconsistent, you risk breaking that unwritten contract with your reader. Frank was slightly different in that it depended a lot more on personal memory and experience, so the research was generally about making sure things were as I remembered them. Visiting places to pick up trace elements of atmosphere and observation. That and a smidge of Greek translation.PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?
Facebook and Twitter are important in enabling a dialogue with people I would never otherwise meet or connect with. I write a blog Electric Lullaby and some of the reaction to that has been hugely rewarding personally. But I’m conscious of the fact that I could be speaking to the same 50 people each time I write something. In a broader sense as a writer, social media is a way of creating a profile and that’s important. As for whether it helps to sell books, we’ll see.
PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?
I’ve had incredibly positive feedback for Frank’sWild Years and I’m determined to do justice to the work that went into writing it, so I’ll be hitting the road for readings, signings, events and festivals from 19 March onwards. I’m writing the long overdue biography of Ted Lewis, which I’d hope to have finished by the end of the year as well as completing a re-draft of The Paradise Man.
Frank’s Wild Years is published by Caffeine Nights on 19 March.