Chris Brookmyre is a Scottish novelist whose books mix comedy, politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. He has been referred to as a Tartan Noir author.
His debut novel was Quite Ugly One Morning and subsequent works have included One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, and All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye. His latest book is Places in the Darkness.
1. Who were your literary influences as you were growing up?
My first love was the Asterix books by Goscinny and Uderzo, which informed the mischievous humour and anarchic tone of my writing later in life (as well as forever skewing my perspective upon ancient history).
In my teen years, I did not enjoy the amazing wealth of YA fiction that older kids get to dip into now, and most of the books we were offered at that age were horribly anachronistic. Consequently I went straight to Douglas Adams and Ian Fleming from the age of 11, which is why I ended up writing books with outlandish plots and a constant sense of the absurd.
2. How did Jack Parlabane come about and what is it about his character that has made you revisit him on several occasions?
I needed a character who could ask questions the police could not, as official investigations are necessarily dictated by evidence. An investigative journalist can take a bit of a flyer and follow up all sorts of dodgy leads.
I had worked in newspapers for six years by the time I came up with him, so he was a more comfortable fit than creating a police officer as my protagonist. He wasn’t based on anybody I worked with though – the principle inspiration for Parlabane came from Ford Prefect.
3. Your latest book is Places in the Darkness. How would you describe it to someone reading this interview and thinking they would like to read it?
It is a thriller in the tradition of the great Shane Black movies like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, about two mismatched investigators forced to work together, but with two major differences.
One is that the buddy cop duo are both women, and the second is that the whole thing takes place aboard the Ciudad de Cielo (City in the Sky), a space station where 300,000 people live and work developing what would be the Earth’s first interstellar craft. It is a place where ambitious scientists and engineers go to work on cutting edge technology, but also where many people go to escape the things that went wrong in their lives back on Earth.
The city’s private police force boasts that there has never been a murder aboard (though they do have a liberal interpretation of what constitutes an accidental death), but that changes when a dismembered body is found floating in zero-gravity.
4. Is there anything you can share about your latest work in progress?
I have just finished co-writing a historical crime novel with my wife, a medical thriller set in Edinburgh in 1847. It is titled The Way of All Flesh and will be published under the pseudonym Ambrose Parry.
5. What is on your ‘to be read’ list at the moment?
I am just about to start the new Mick Herron novel, London Rules, the fifth in the Jackson Lamb series. Mick’s is the most exciting crime fiction I have discovered in years.
After that I intend to move on to Robert Webb’s How Not To Be A Boy.
6. Do you have a message for your readers in Suffolk Libraries?
Yes. If Black Widow was your introduction to my work and you want to read more, maybe try its predecessor Dead Girl Walking, or the Jasmine Sharp trilogy, rather than going right to the beginning. My first novel, Quite Ugly One Morning, has a rather different tone to my later work, to say the least…
7. St Mirren to win the league or you to win a huge literary prize?
Well, I won the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2017 and the McIlvanney Prize in 2016, so I shouldn’t be greedy. That said, St Mirren are top of the league at time of writing.
8. Can you tell us one thing that your readers may not know about you?
I am a member of the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers band. Our motto is “Murdering songs for fun” and we play after hours at book festivals. The band also comprises Mark Billingham, Doug Johnstone, Val McDermid, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste.