Before becoming a crime writer, William Shaw was an award-winning music journalist and the author of several non-fiction books.
In 2013 his first book in the Breen and Tozer series A Song from Dead Lips was published. Three other bestselling books followed in the series.
In 2018 Salt Lane, the first in a series featuring DS Alexandra Cupidi was published.
In May 2021 The Trawlerman, the latest in the series is due to be published. You can find William's books on the library catalogue and in our eBook collections.
- Who were your literary heroes as you were growing up and when did you first realise that you wanted to write?
My first literary hero was Hergé. I used to love the TinTin books. There was so much in each frame of story. I can remember reading Stig of the Dump several times, but I think the first time I was ever reading a story thinking in terms of really thinking of the writer as a hero was reading Spike Milligan’s Puckoon out loud to my brother; he was crying with laughter. I can remember thinking how powerful it was to be able to make someone do something like that.
- During your life before becoming a novelist you worked for Smash Hits magazine and The Face. How was that experience?
Smash Hits was a hoot. We were severely underpaid and overworked at the height of pop music’s big money phase, jetting around the globe after A-ha or Phil Collins or Def Leppard yet we had this huge constituency of readers at our back, and thanks to the brilliance of a few of my colleagues who had set the tone for the magazine, we were in a position of great power to face these stars kind of as equals on behalf of their fans.
We were able to swoon when swooning was necessary, but to also take the mickey out of them when they started behaving pompously in any way. I then went on to work for magazines here and in the US, and for Sunday Papers. Journalism was great training because you never have an excuse not to produce words. You have deadlines; you have to keep them.
- What is your writing routine? Do you have a favourite desk and a view? Do you keep particular hours?
I’m not a fan of perfect writing places. I think you should be able to write at a kitchen table while kids are arguing in the background. (Though right now I sympathise with any writer who is locked down with their family because my kids are grown up now and I can’t imagine how hard it must be to find time for yourself to write if they are standing right next to you.)
The best view is a brick wall, not an inspiring landscape. All the work goes on inside your head, so don’t wait for the perfect desk, the right desk lamp and a view over rolling hills. I’m usually at the desk by nine and I work till six, but not all of that is writing.
- You have a new Alexandra Cupidi investigation out in May, The Trawlerman. Can you give Suffolk readers a flavour of that?
Alex Cupidi is off work. Anyone who’s read the first three books will know why. She’s been through a lot. When strange, sinister things start to happen around her, she’s not sure if it’s her PTSD that is triggering her, or there really is something wrong.
It’s based on a true story I came across in Brighton. I met a fishmonger whose husband had been lost at sea – but when he died she was already in love with another man. Because her husband’s body was never found, she had to wait seven years before she could marry her lover. I thought, there’s a story in there...
- Is there anything you can share with us about your latest project?
I’ve just finished a totally different book set on board a luxury yacht. It’s totally different from anything I’ve written before. It’s more like an old fashioned action thriller.
- The covers of your books are instantly recognisable. Was this a conscious choice?
I can claim no credit. It’s all due to my publisher and a very good designer who understood that the Cupidi series were all about landscape and managed to find a way of getting that across very powerfully.
- What was your best book read/best music/best TV of 2020?
Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl Woman Other was a thrilling thing to read. I May Destroy You was like nothing else I’ve seen and very inventive, (though you could probably say the same of watching Dominic Cummings broadcasting from No 10’s garden). My taste in music is horribly obscure. The Elliot Galvin Trio.
- When we finally get through this lockdown what are you looking forward to doing most?
Ordinary randomness. Life with limited contact becomes quite limiting. I promise no longer to mind when a drunk person starts a conversation with me in a pub. Also I play in a ceilidh band and it would be lovely to see a room full of people arm in arm again. But I think we’ll have to wait a while for that.
- Can you tell us one thing about yourself that your readers may not know?
I wrote a book about hip hop called Westsiders, spending over a year researching it in South Central Los Angeles.