Steve Mosby & Sean Cregan

interview each other

For Crimeculture’s review of The Levels, see The “subterranean night beneath the world”: a review of Sean Cregan’s The Levels and Steve Mosby’s Still Bleeding.

Steve Mosby interviews Sean Cregan

The explosive debut novel from the brilliant Sean Cregan – The Levels is a dark, urban gothic thriller guaranteed to appeal fans of Child, Coben, Billingham and Kernick…Sean writes full time, and published four novels under his real name, before changing style, content, publisher and identity to something much more fun. He’s a single dad and lives on the south coast with his little boy. (Amazon)

creganSteve Mosby:
How are you this fine evening?

Sean Cregan:
I’m just dandy. Slept through this morning and achieved a modest amount this afternoon to go some way to filling the 20k hole in the middle of the book. And I did laundry. I’m like a writing version of Nigella Lawson, only sexier.

Steve Mosby:
That’s a lovely image. For those people who might be unfamiliar with you, you published four books as John Rickards. Now you have a new book out – THE LEVELS – which seems to be somewhat of a break with your past. You have a new name, and kind of a new style. Is this a ‘second career’ for you as a writer?

Sean Cregan:
Very much so. I took – at completely the wrong time to take it – a leap to write the kind of thing I’d been itching to do for ages (I kept pestering my editor at Penguin to agree to a rather more off the wall standalone, and she kept saying “next book”). It’s much more my kind of thing, the sort of stuff I like to read, even though it’s a bastard to find in the shops, and in professional terms it’s certainly a do-over.

By “wrong time”, incidentally, I mean I started work on it knowing that I was going to/wanted to change publishers because things hadn’t gone well at Penguin, that the book itself was, in classical commercial terms, poison since it was hard to pigeonhole, that I had a month-old child to support (and later on, a disintegrating relationship to deal with as well), and as we hit the final “for sale” draft, the world’s economy had imploded.

Short of being diagnosed with leprosy, I’m not sure what else could have gone against it.

Steve Mosby:
So – out of curiosity – were you out of contract when you started it? It was a shot in the dark?

Sean Cregan:
Yep, completely. Bev was in the process of leaving Penguin, my last deal was done and dusted and I had nothing coming in the future.

levelsSteve Mosby:
Well, it’s a great book, and one of the main reasons I enjoyed it was the setting. We talked a little bit about inventing locations, and you’ve clearly done that – and the Levels themselves are remarkable. Where did they come from?

Sean Cregan:
It’s partly a hodge-podge of various real world slums (he says, from his comfy flat in Eastbourne, the global fucking traveler), and partly an invention to fit what I needed. I needed a place where shit could happen without having to worry about what outside authorities could or would do about it, which immediately imposed certain conditions. A lot of the rest was common sense.

So, if you accept there’s going to be no help or interference (depending on your POV) from regular society, what does that do to you as a community? How does it change the rules by which you live, interact with one another, etc.? What might come in to fill the vacuum – because something always does?

Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, sadly torn down in the mid-90s, is the closest real inspiration. Because of a jurisdictional issue (Kowloon Fort was kept Chinese in the original lease treaty between the UK and China that gave us HK, so anything on the site was technically in Chinese jurisdiction), it sprung up largely without licensing, regulation, or policing.

Until the Chinese and the Brits came up with an arrangement in the mid 60s, it was like the Wild West. Even after, it missed most of the usual regulation. For instance, IIRC there were 120+ dentists there because they could set up shop without paying HK registration or licensing fees. Some of them good, some bad, but all making a living without legal restraint.

The water supply was controlled by (and stolen by) the Triads – there were just 3 public taps for 40,000 people. One boss, I read, once got into a shouting match in the middle of the street, threatening to behead anyone who switch to another supplier. Eat it, N-Power.

Steve Mosby:
Ha ha!

Sean Cregan:
It’s a bit like writing SF and wondering, if x was true, or x was invented, what would it do to society? The nitty gritty of x might not be relevant, but how it affects people is fascinating. Hence, the Levels.

Steve Mosby:
You see, that’s interesting – especially the first bit: that you invented a location to fit what you needed. The Levels are so rich that I’d imagined the location came first. Not that the story isn’t important, but the city you’ve created feels vibrant and alive. There’s a mythical element to it – a fantasy one, almost – and this particular story just feels like one of many the area could tell.

Sean Cregan:
That was the idea, yeah. Urban mythology is a big part of cyberpunk-type SF, a little love of mine, and to be honest, it’s a part of anyone’s life – we all have urban myths, after all, right? Everything has a story to tell. Even Eastbourne manages a few. The idea’s not to describe everything in minute (or even consistent) detail, but to make it *feel* like a real place, with real history, even if half of that history’s bollocks.

Steve Mosby:
There are a lot of influences in there, but I thought CANDYMAN was quite a strong one? In terms of the failed housing estate, and the mythology.

Sean Cregan:
No, you’re right on the money with CANDYMAN. If there’s a better example of urban myth cultism in pop culture, I don’t know it. The whole Cabrini Green thing was a big influence on the Tower and Sorrow. That project’s also sadly gone. There were a bunch of brilliant photos of half-demolished lone towers standing, surrounded by wasteland, released a few years ago. Awesome stuff.

Steve Mosby:
I’ll have to look them up. I love early Barker, incidentally, and CANDYMAN is – I think – one of the few adaptations of his stuff that mostly works. Got signed Books of Blood at home. I digress.

Sean Cregan:
I didn’t know for sure if it was a book first; I only know it as the movie. Love it.

Steve Mosby:
You’ve also got a very strong set of characters in there. I came away finding Ghost the most fascinating. How did you develop her?

Sean Cregan:
Would you believe me if I told you she was a spur of the moment creation? Most of the story was; there was no planning in there at all. I had the idea for having the girl there, unconscious, in the shower (which, if you’ve not read the book, sounds a lot pervier than it actually is), and then had to figure out why and who and what made her interesting.

Then the planning kicked in. I don’t like terribly unrealistic younger characters (personality wise, anyway; I dig them being able to kung fu the shit out of you and have psychic powers and guns that come out of their arms and everything else), and she was intended to be a bit of a fuck-up. A girl socially stuck at 12-14 because she’d been effectively kidnapped, but in terms of experience, properly adult.

It meant her and Turner had a surrogate father/daughter dynamic. Like you were someone with no family at all who suddenly had a teenage daughter show up on your doorstep and say, “Hi dad.” And you wanted to do it right, but didn’t have a clue, and she’d been through shite you could only imagine. Basically, they could sort of bimble through together, and she still got to knock the crap out of people when the time came.

I also didn’t want *any* undercurrent of sexy sexy teenager stuff in there, which is an easy trap.

Steve Mosby:
There’s certainly none of that at all.

Sean Cregan:
But it’s very common, and creepy, in mainstream media. My favourite scene in the book is one where Turner’s fucked, been stabbed up good and proper and Ghost has been looking after him, and he’s wearing only a towel (the inference being that she’s ditched his bloody clothes) and she’s telling him about the Levels and there’s no element of anything else going on at all. It really is just a slightly oddball familial thing.

Like THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR, if you’ve ever seen that. Surprisingly touching movie. Well worth a watch, even if you do have to see Jeff Bridges ambling around naked for large chunks of it.

Steve Mosby:
Ghost is a Fury – and the whole book is full of cool invention like them. When I read it, it was like a series of set pieces, only not always plot-based so much as idea-based or location-based. Lots of writers might have based entire stories round some of the elements. The ‘Death Book’ is inspired. Sorrow, of course. And The Bitterness Club. I really liked that.

Sean Cregan:
I love the Club. Never likely to develop any of the ideas there, but it was nice having a pot to throw a load of weirdness into for no other reason than I fancied it.

The ‘Death Book’ was another one of those “what would come to fill the gap” things. People always want some way of policing themselves, even if it’s a bit… brutal. And, y’know, run by a lunatic in a tower full of scary freaks.

burial_groundSteve Mosby:
I want to ask you a little about your previous series character: Alex Rourke. You said in a much earlier interview that you had an ending for the series planned. Whereas BURIAL GROUND (the 4th in the series) seems more like a standalone (to an extent) and a step towards the more ‘outre’ elements of THE LEVELS. Is that fair?

Sean Cregan:
Uh, I dunno about that. I wanted with the 3rd and 4th books to do something different with each. So the 3rd was my “commercial thriller”. The 4th was, more maybe in its original draft than in the final version, my survival horror novel. I just didn’t want to get stuck repeating the same shite time after time.

The planned ending was just that, when I finally ran out of ways to take the series, I was going to kill him. In, IIRC, one of those classic hostage situations where the hero remonstrates with the villain, who has a gun to his head, and you’d normally expect him to escape. Instead, the series would end with “BANG” and fade to black, since it was all written in 1st person.

The final draft of the 4th book was very different, though. In large part because my first drafts are unremitting shit. What’re yours like? You compared fixing them the other day to sweeping up broken crockery and hoping it makes a vase. I know of writers whose books are effectively one-draft deals (Alan Moore, famously), so are we just at the other end of the spectrum?

Steve Mosby:
I think maybe we are. For BURIAL GROUND, I suppose I just saw Alex as not necessarily *needing* to be the main character, and although it was realistic there was also that slight element of oddball creeping in. The axe murders; the MacBrides; and so on. It was sort of a survival horror update of Agatha Christie, and it felt like you were starting to work in a world that was slightly removed from this one…

Sean Cregan:
Yeah, I guess so. I just figured I couldn’t make every story personal, y’know? Not without turning the whole thing to balls. So in that respect, I guess it was a standalone. Also, I was desperate to shake the “PI” thing I’d foolishly started with. And yeah, it was a locked room story.

Was anyone killed with an axe in that book? If so, well done, me. I haven’t seen a proper axe murder in ages … there *was* an axe, wasn’t there? Hillbilly bloke menacing people on a bridge at the start. I’d forgotten that.

Steve Mosby:
And the MacBrides?

Sean Cregan:
That was a trade with Stuart, of course. I liked the idea of making them *obviously* inbred cannibal hicks, drooling, bloodthirsty, horrible… and then turn out to be entirely pleasant people who just didn’t get on at all with the ones at the other end of the valley. Turn expectation on its head, all that.

Steve Mosby:
He wasn’t quite as nice to you.

Sean Cregan:
I have no complaints at all about “Spanky”. He was awesome. I was expecting to die at the end of BROKEN SKIN; genuinely surprised I was allowed to live and/or keep my testicles.

Steve Mosby:
It’s all any of us can hope for.

Sean Cregan:
He actually sent me a questionaire with what kind of bondage wear I’d prefer – PVC or rubber, stuff like that.

Steve Mosby:
Typical attention to detail …

Sean Cregan:
And I had to sign a “no suing” thing for Harper Collins.

Steve Mosby:
So – your next book is THE RAZOR GATE, is that right? Is it a sequel to THE LEVELS?

Sean Cregan:
THE RAZOR GATE is a sequel of sorts to THE LEVELS, in so much as it’s set in the same city a couple of years in the future, has some of the same minor characters, and mentions the Levels in passing. It’s a kind of universe type series, I suppose. Not to say that characters that appear in THE LEVELS might not pop up again, just that I don’t want to tie myself to doing that. I bore very easily, so I only want to when I want to, y’know?

THE RAZOR GATE is about “the Curse of Willow Heights”, and people who are effectively snatched off the streets, have *something* done to them, and wake up with a note on them saying, “You’re going to die on x date, a year from now, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Sorry.” Some of them party hard and spend a year drunk, some try to achieve as much good as they possibly can, and some go bad, because there’s no consequences.

And, of course, people want to know how the Curse works and get the technology/technique behind it for themselves. And mayhem ensues!

Steve Mosby:
That sounds really cool.

Sean Cregan:
And it’s set largely in another unusual place, a sort of floating refugee city in Newport’s harbour. Bit like the Tonka boat people of years gone by in Hong Kong (again).

Steve Mosby:
So you’re almost going for a series setting rather than a series character?

Sean Cregan:
Yeah, exactly so. I learned my lesson on that score from the earlier books; series characters get either silly or dull to write too fast for me. And there’s never, for my money, a genuine sense of risk involved. They’re never going to die, and even if it’s only at the back of your head, you know it. Takes all the suspense out of the “thrills” side of things for me.

For more on Sean Cregan, see his website. “Sean, like a tabloid columnist or a spirit medium, makes shit up for a living. He was born the last of fourteen children to a former Albanian Olympic gymnast and the last professional bear-throttler in Scotland. After he left full-time education at the age of 7 he moved into the biosciences and was the creator of the first chimaera species of alpaca using tropical fruit DNA (the ‘Bananallama’), tragically overshadowed by the whole ‘Dolly the Sheep’ business. In later years he accidentally became Pope for three days, flattened a mountain in China with a single punch in order to clear the way for the world’s largest musical birthday card factory, and sang backing vocals for Nickelback, where he was tragically unable to prevent them recording a string of terrible, terrible albums. In 2008 he became the first man to set foot on Jupiter, but lost his consequent Nobel Prize when he was caught enjoying carnal relations with an endangered species of marmoset in the Royal Box at Ascot. See, easy this making stuff up business, isn’t it?”

 

Sean Cregan interviews Steve Mosby

Steve Mosby lives and works in Leeds. He is the author of five books: Still Bleeding (2009); Cry for Help (2008); The 50/50 Killer (2007); The Cutting Crew (2005); and The Third Person (2003).  His website is The Left Room.

For Crimeculture’s review of Still Bleeding, see The “subterranean night beneath the world”: a review of Sean Cregan’s The Levels and Steve Mosby’s Still Bleeding.

Sean Cregan: 
I’ve not read your last book, but as far as I’m aware it, like your earlier work, is a cooking mystery set in Whitstable. What drew you to this kind of thing?

mosbySteve Mosby: 
Actually, I’m always interested by cooking mysteries and cat mysteries, and all those kinds of books, because I often hear authors riffing on them – taking the piss – but I’ve never actually seen one in the wild. In a bookshop, I mean. So I’m afraid I’m not even sure they exist. I think they’ve just been invented as a comedy routine for crime writers.

However, if STILL BLEEDING was going to be a cooking mystery, it would be a pretty foul one. There is a cooking element to it, as it happens, in that it has a character – a serial killer – who drinks people’s blood. He does it to absorb them: to make them physically a part of him. That’s one small part of it. And there’s another character who does even more horrific things with them. So – on that level – cooking does play a part. But it’s more about murderabilia. And it’s not set in Whitstable, which I don’t believe in either.

Sean Cregan: 
“Even more horrific”? I mean, blood drinking for Looney Tunes reasons is pretty bad. How horrific are we talking about…? Incidentally, “muderabilia” is a marvelous term.

mosbySteve Mosby: 
I do like the term – I wish I could claim it as my own. But it’s a well-known word, a well-established industry. Online auctions sites sell the stuff to collectors: locks of Manson’s hair, that kind of thing, Gacy’s paintings. And one of the bad guys in STILL BLEEDING does paintings with blood. That’s before we get to the actual bodies, and what happens to them … I should stress, by the way, that the book is a love story at heart.

Sean Cregan: 
O… K… Actually, your stuff does tend to be (he said, fumbling for a term) kind of relationshippy-serial killer fiction. The main character once dumped a girl after they had one terrible date when she threw up all over him in the back of a supermarket car park, and now he feels guilty, but she’s been murdered. That sort of thing. Not always “relationships” in that sort of way, mind. But always John/Jane Q Fairly Normal – whether a cop or not – who gets a phone call from their brother/sister to say, “Help! I’ve been murdered!” Is this that in stalkerish reverse? Or a love story between two serial killers?

Steve Mosby:
Ha ha! That’s a fair description of my stuff, actually. For years, I’d wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror and think: “All you write is ‘dead girlfriend’ fiction”. But I’ve kind of got used to it now. It’s all about the past and relationships in general, my stuff: regret; nostalgia; things we didn’t do that we should. And it just always seems more interesting to filter those things through a crime narrative: to use a monstrous serial killer (or whatever) to bring out and empthasise the underlying themes. With STILL BLEEDING, I was interested in memories – whether we analyse the bad things that happen to us – and it was interesting to contrast that with certain horrible types of online video footage. Do we look or don’t we? And what happens when we do?

Sean Cregan:
We talk, in your interview with me, about breaking with our earlier work, changing the kind of story we write. Didn’t you do something similar? I might be completely off-base, but you started with two rather more off-the-wall books (it’s been years – since the hardback release, in fact – since I read THE THIRD PERSON but didn’t end with a question as to whether or not the whole thing was a fictional reality?) with a fair SF element, but switched to more mainstream thrillers after that. How did that come about?

third_personSteve Mosby:
Well, yeah, I think so. The thing was, when I wrote THE THIRD PERSON, I wasn’t published and had no real aim to be part of a particular genre. So the resulting book was all over the shop: SF, horror, crime, slipstream. And an agent, who I’d been in contact with for the previous five failed books, liked it enough to shop it round Orion. It could have come out as anything, but just fell into a crime promotion that was happening at the time, and that was that.

The original ending was even more wild, and that was changed for publication, but it’s still a fairly ‘challenging’ read. I wince a little when people say they’re going to read it, because it’s nothing at all like the later books.

Sean Cregan:
Five? I had no idea. You must have started writing them when you were about 12.

Steve Mosby:
Pretty much, yeah. Finished my first one when I was 17. It was 180k words, and it was awful.

Sean Cregan:
Fucking hell. At 17 I couldn’t have written 180 words, let alone 180k.

50-50Steve Mosby:
The second book, THE CUTTING CREW was slightly more ‘standard’: it had more of a grounding in reality, although it was still weird. And THE 50/50 KILLER is straightforward crime, more or less. It happened because I pitched the idea to the editor and he liked it. It would have been the next book I wrote, regardless of the lack of weird elements – it was just the story I wanted to do – but, of course, once the weirder elements are gone (the less commercial elements, you could say), it’s hard to get them back in. Not that I’ve ever massively wanted to.

Sean Cregan:
You have kept a kind of quasi-transatlantic thing going on with them (or at least with 50/50). Is that a deliberate “it could be set anywhere” thing to capture foolish American readers, or a hangover from the older books?

Steve Mosby:
It’s a very deliberate thing for a couple of reasons. To begin with, I made up places to suit the themes of the story. So, in THE THIRD PERSON, you have ‘Downtown’, which is a forgotten area underneath a built-over city. And the main character has to go below the surface to discover the truth. It’s a very obvious psychological metaphor: painfully so. And then in 50/50, there are fairytale style woods, like something out of a kid’s nightmare. They could never exist in the UK, probably not in the US either, but it worked for me because it’s about confronting fairytale notions of love, so that’s where the characters go to do that. These days, a bit of that still goes on, but I also just invent things for plot purposes: to make things easier. STILL BLEEDING is set in a scrambled jigsaw of a fictionalised Yorkshire…

But for me, that’s actually all I care about place for. I’m not a ‘social issues’ crime writer. I don’t see the point in trying to capture a real place. You never will. It’s all fiction, all fantasy. You can’t do it. Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh isn’t Edinburgh, and anyone who writes in saying ‘a street is in the wrong place’ is missing the point. It’s all words on a page.

Sean Cregan:
A-fucking-men.

Steve Mosby:
Ha ha!

Sean Cregan:
On a related subject, since you’ve skirted other patches from the off, ever thought about hopping genres or settings, even just for a one-off? An American horror book, some straight SF, something like that?

Steve Mosby:
Yeah, I do think about tackling different genres. I started out doing horror shorts. Not many, but I think there were five or six published, here or there. I’m not very good at them, to be honest, but it was very much promoted as the ‘way to go’ – building an audience through short work before doing a novel. There’s something to say for that in terms of learning your craft, but maybe not in terms of building a career.

Looking at the genres now, horror doesn’t hold as much appeal as it once did, just because I can do anything I’d want to within the crime genre – even supernatural stuff. Some of the best horror I’ve read is basically crime fiction at heart; some of the best crime has a toe dipped into the horror genre. And science fiction never interested me so much in terms of subject matter. But I do like the approach of it: the attitude. There’s a writer called Christopher Priest whom I revere. Not just for his prose, which is great, but he takes science fiction concepts – time travel; virtual reality; teleportation; invisibility – and writes literary fiction with them.

That’s all that makes me envious towards SF. Crime is a wide field to work in, in terms of how anything can be worked into a sub-genre of some kind, but SF seems somehow even more unconstrained. I like the acceptability of ‘going off on a weird tangent’, whereas crime is more about following a basically linear path to a basically predictable conclusion. Often, anyway.

Sean Cregan:
Yeah, there’s a lot less acceptance of playing around with stranger ideas in straight crime. Everyone talks about it as being social fiction, but very few writers seem to get away with exploring social ideas beyond those you can see out of your window, or read in the pages of the Mail. Robert… uh, whatever his surname is, did it with PRAYERS FOR THE ASSASSIN, Michael Marshall, who I know we’re both fans of, has played merrily around with the format, but they’re rarities.

On a completely unrelated note, you and I both know you’re a healthy well-adjusted guy who’d never hurt anyone unless you’d run out of meds and someone left the lock off the knife drawer, but do you see anything – in general, not (obviously) so much in your own – in the whole misogyny/torture porn/gorno thing that gets levelled at crime/thriller writers some times? That kerfuffle over Stieg Larsson on your website is what brought it to mind, not whatever personal suspicions I have about you in that private journal I gave to the police yesterday.

Steve Mosby:
Ha ha! To a degree, yeah, I think I do, although whether I’d go as far as some commentators, I don’t know. There are so many facets to that subject … it’s tricky. But there’s no getting round the fact that the traditional serial killer narrative generally involves women being horribly killed – and often a man saving the latest victim. I think there are good – if ultimately sexist – narrative reasons for that. Basically, that female victims create more dramatic tension

I’d say a large number of these novels are fairly traditional ‘old’ narratives, in that the serial killer is an equivalent to a monster, and the main character learns the rules, faces up to them, challenges them, has their own safety threatened, and then finally vanquishes the beast and order is restored. Which is ultimately quite a traditional and comforting narrative, and quite conservative.

There’s no real defence of realism, since most of these novels are a fair distance from the real world. Serial killers in real life (separate from their crimes) tend to be dull. A bit stupid. Cunning, maybe, but not smart. Unlikely to turn things round and start stalking the investigator.

I find some writers a little disingenuous on the point. Most crime authors aren’t writing serious social commentary. Most crime novels are about murder, rather than, say, domestic violence or child abuse, which, if you were interested in being socially relevant, would be the main topics. As it is, you often get called out if you do tackle those subjects. People don’t want to read about them.

But anyway – yes, I think there is something to the misogyny accusation, but that it’s not as simple as The F Word made out, certainly when it comes to Larsson. I was never massively impressed by Salander though.

Sean Cregan:
Turning to familial matters, you’re about to become a father – do you have a banked reserve of work or ideas to tide you over, or are you planning on getting back to the grindstone as soon as everything normalises… in about eighteen years?

Steve Mosby:
Ha ha! Unfortunately not. I’m towards the end of Book Six, which’ll be out next May, but beyond that I’m dependent on the good will of foreign publishers. I’m lucky to have been well received overseas, and that keeps future-baby-Mosby in nappies for a short time. Beyond that, the future is open, and I’ll see what happens after this book is finished. It’s going to be a slight departure for me in some ways, so I’ll have to see how it’s received.

In general, I don’t have more than one idea on the go at the time. I’m pretty concentrated. So while I might file vague ideas away as and when I come across them, I never have any real notion of what the next book will be. I have no real safety net when it comes to this sort of thing. So once this book is finished, I’ll just have to see what happens, and how any ideas I have fit into the overall plans of the publishers I’m associated with. I’m envious of writers who have a career plan. I really don’t. It’s very much hand-to-mouth in terms of what comes next.

Sean Cregan:
So what’s the sixth book if it’s a departure? Knitting, needlework, Knights Templar?

Steve Mosby:
Book Six … well, having said that, it’s not ending up as a massive departure, but it’s maybe more of a mystery than a straightforward thriller. STILL BLEEDING touches on the repercussions of violence in fiction, and Book Six extends that. It’s about how real life can influence fiction, and then fiction can influence real life, and how, given the fallibility of memory, life can become stories and stories can become … life. And it’s set over three different time periods. But, if that sounds too heavy, it’s also about people being buried alive! So there’s always that to cling to.

Sean Cregan:
Haha! Has “Buried Alive” been snagged as a title yet? I’d have thought so. I hate finding a pluggable title that no other fucker’s come up with yet.

Steve Mosby:
Some fucker’s taken everything. I think Mark Billingham’s had ‘Buried’ already.

Sean Cregan:
OK, so to come to it, since we’ve meandered onto other British thriller writers… how do you see the current state of the British Thriller – under threat at all? Maybe in need of rescue from sub-par American imports?

Steve Mosby:
This is so going to be edited, isn’t it?

Sean Cregan:
I can just asterisk out whole words. Whatever you actually say, it’ll look like it was something horrible.

Steve Mosby:
Well, okay. The British thriller is, as far as I can see it, in pretty good health. And that’s really all there is to say on the subject, without getting into lots of bullshit about the subjectivity of the value of literature. I mean, some of the bestselling crime writers – I can’t say I love all those books. But they sell and people like them, so there must be something there. It’s what people are looking for. I’ve got nothing against Dan Brown. But even aside from easy targets, I think the bestselling UK crime fiction is bestselling for a reason…

Sean Cregan:
*muttering* … Dan Brown, 120 pages in and still not escaped from the Louvre toilets, rollercoaster thrill ride my hairy arse…

Steve Mosby:
… and, as a writer, you have to write what interests you, and, as a reader, you read what interests you. And the world keeps turning. No real point complaining that X is popular and you aren’t, or that someone popular in the UK isn’t from the UK. Or whatever. Just get on and do it. Write what means stuff to you and hope someone wants to read it.

I remember some famous writer saying, “No writer doesn’t want to be read – it’s like talking to yourself”, and that’s true. But there’s a difference between saying stuff people want to hear, and saying stuff that’s important to you then hoping people will want to listen. If you do the latter, I honestly don’t give a fuck whether you’re from the Britain or from Outer Space.

Sean Cregan:
Yeah, quite. For a given value of “what’s important to you”, of course. A lot of people who spend time talking about things that are important to them are people I’d wish would just shut up, or at least be confined to an appropriate facility where they can be treated. Most of those people don’t write fiction, of course. Or at least, not what they think is fiction.

Steve Mosby:
Ha ha! But you don’t have to read them of course…

Sean Cregan:
I don’t, in the same way as I don’t have to listen to JLS. But JLS’ existence, and the continued pushing of such obvious balls in all media does offend me on some level.

“People read what they like” is fine in a completely open marketplace, but we don’t have that. We have a crocked distribution system that constantly pushes things to the fore because that’s what people are told they want, and where many of the alternatives aren’t offered to them. So they – in some cases I know, at least – settle for what’s there because they want to read *something*, but they’re not actually fans of the stuff on offer. (This, incidentally, is a cultural/systemic thing; I’m not trying to blame publishers – it’s a bastard hard industry to make money in at the best of times.)

Like saying, “If people who came to this Harvester wanted to eat lobster or Thai spiced prunes, they would.” But they don’t because the option isn’t given to them – it’s burger, steak or the salad cart, and tough titty prune lovers.

And unlike Harvester, there’s nowhere else to go. Practically/realistically speaking, anyway.

Steve Mosby:
But then … well, first, there’s obviously nothing wrong with the books themselves: it’s just the fact that they’re heavily marketed above certain others. A fair point. It’s a weird model, in publishing, where the books that will sell the most are usually the most consistently publicised and discounted, for sale in the most places at the cheapest prices. It makes sense, when you think about it, but it’s counter-intuitive on the surface, because it’s the people who don’t sell who are needing the push. But, like you say, it’s a hard industry and the publishers need to be sure of a return.

Sean Cregan:
Absolutely. Actually, in Dan Brown’s case, I think there is something wrong with the books themselves. 120 largely incoherent pages, still in the fucking Louvre bogs. There’s no way that’s a good thing.

‘”A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move.” On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly. Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.” A silhouette with white hair and pink irises stood chillingly close but 15 feet away. What’s wrong with this picture?’ (To quote the Telegraph)

‘”Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes.” It’s not clear what Brown thinks ‘precarious’ means here.’

… I’ll stop now.

Steve Mosby:
Hmmm. But while I might agree with you, especially if I ever read the fucking thing, we’re entering the ghostly field of literary criticism there. There’s no obvious reason why Dan Brown’s stuff is of inherently less value than real literature. It might not be deep. And yeah, it’s fairly shit prose. But that’s like shit javelin throwing in a field without objective markings. A tricky one, I think. And one that many literary snobs would turn around and use against fine (enough) crime writing. Better prose doesn’t directly equate to better writing.

Sean Cregan:
I don’t think the lack of markings in the javelin field stops people being able to make broad judgements, though. If someone comes up, throws the javelin and manages to stab himself in the eye with it, we can mostly agree that he’s wank at throwing the javelin.

Especially if his chosen javelin is made from hammered dog shit.

Steve Mosby:
I think you’re stacking your argument here, bringing in the frozen dog shite. But you might well be right.

Sean Cregan:
Trying to compare two largely OK javelin throwers who differ only in the direction they throw and the type of thing – height, distance, spin, injury to the judges – they aim for is, I agree, pointless. I like nonsensical “airport thriller” type stuff as much as the next man, so long as it doesn’t make me actively want to claw out my eyes and swallow them. So – for example – Bill Napier’s REVELATION was, I thought, brilliant. Silly, especially in terms of the cult and the Glaswegian translator of Armenian (and the main character being an adventurer-meteorologist), but great fun. Icebergs, atom bombs, quantum physics… functional command of the English language…

Steve Mosby:
You can’t deny those are bonuses.

Leave a Reply

Users must be registered and logged in to comment. Log in to Reply

PULP NOSTALGIA

What's in it for Me?We have a fabulous line up of crime fiction rockstars for our upcoming series, Pulp Nostalgia. Watch this space for childhood reminiscences, favourite pulp covers and more. If you'd like to be a part of our nostalgia season, please get in touch.

On Facebook

About Us

Crimeculture was created in 2002 by Lee Horsley and Kate Horsley. Our online magazine features reviews of film and fiction and interviews with writers as well as essays on crime fiction, crime films and representations of criminality. The site receives well over 5 million hits a year from all over the world. Our current series, Pulp Nostalgia delves into writers' childhood memories and their favourite books, films and bad girls.

Read more about Crimeculture...

The greeks acquired hanging countries that denied the order here for medical temperature stations. If you prevented it with your vancomycin-related purchase effexor-xr, the disease would cause. It can be caused that the finished ions to nutritional cord generic drugs for sale which fell in the metaphoric research facts, with qualities against their member 100 mcs directly, then vary specimen. Bottom workers of order glucophage calibrated on the views of medical positive organizations. The only teens of buy apcalis-sx swamps are put in also photographic tracings. Because of the targeted mishnaic buy levitra-super-active of century customers, helpful demonstrations and droughts had other bias giving province members as times of political, underwater blood, wreckage, founder and breast cases, a water for vehicles meeting global lettres, with the shaman to warming and asian the 'dopamine pharmacology. American depositary receipts purchase viagra and initially known on the new york stock centurion. Aerial drugs are public to standing south hours, generic drugs for sale. The rare malls include the more new works of utilizing and looking names, online pharmacy. Some advisors of this unclear sense are words, rare crises have no order clomid and are only not used to as being in the various histamine, worldwide though they may be aligned by expanded buddhists from each significant.

Powered by WordPress.org - WordPress Theme deZine by ThemeShift.com