Today I'm delighted to welcome
to share his BEST OF CRIME ...
Ross Macdonald. I discovered his novels at the age of 15 while perusing the twirling metal paperback rack at our local grocery store. This was usually where I found the latest Rex Stout/Nero Wolfe novel, or an Agatha Christie reprint. I picked up Macdonald’s The Goodbye Look, by Ross Macdonald, because of the blurb at the top from William Goldman: “The finest series of detective novels ever written by an American.” That was good enough for me. Macdonald was the author who showed me the potential of the detective novel, how you could take the conventions of a mystery and use them to make a statement.
My two favourite films just also happen to be Alfred Hitchcock’s two finest works: Rear Window and Vertigo. I go back and forth on which is number one and which is number two. They’re both brilliant, and for me, influential. The last five minutes of Vertigo are the best last five minutes of any movie ever made.
... TV DRAMAS
Wow, so many to choose from. Whatever the last series I binge-watched is usually the one I think is the best I’ve ever seen. But there are standouts. Happy Valley, The Night Manager, Ozark, Homeland, The Americans. What do they all have in common? Intriguing characters. Plot is important, but character is always the grabber.
... FICTIONAL KILLERS
The Joker, especially as portrayed by Heath Ledger. No one else even comes close in terms of pure evil.
... FICTIONAL DETECTIVES
Columbo, hands down. The raincoat, the cigar, the “Oh, just one more question.” Best TV detective ever. In novels, Lew Archer, the private eye created by Ross Macdonald. He’s not quirky. There are no gimmicks. He asks questions, pursues leads, driven by an underlying sense of justice and a belief that exposing buried secrets to sunlight has a purifying effect.
... MURDER WEAPONS
Speaking of Hitchcock, wasn’t there an episode of his old TV show where a woman killed her husband with a frozen cut of beef, then cooked it up and served it to the investigating officers? The cops ATE the murder weapon. Beat that.
... DEATH SCENES
When the truck goes over the cliff at the end of Steven Spielberg’s Duel.
Has there ever been a day when I did not go on IMDB, the Internet Movie Database? Every evening when we sit down to watch TV, we see something that prompts any number of the following questions: “What did we see her in before?” “Where do I know him from?” “What was that other movie with, you know, the guy? The one with the hair?” “Is this the season finale, or is there one more?” “Which episode was it where Diane first meets Frasier?” “Is the music for this movie done by the same guy who did the music for that other movie, because it sure sounds similar?” There’s nothing IMDB does not know.
... WRITING TIPS
Read. Also, read. And finally, read. Anyone who thinks they can write a novel without having read A LOT probably thinks someone can perform open heart surgery without having gone to medical school. If you’ve passed that hurdle, then write. Also, write. And finally, write. Be writing, even if the only person who is going to read this work is yourself. I’d written three or four novels by the time I was 25. My first was published when I was 49. Persist.
About LINWOOD BARCLAY
Linwood Barclay is one of the most successful thriller writers of the 21st Century. His debut, NO TIME FOR GOODBYE, was a critically acclaimed No 1 bestseller and his novels have sold millions of copies around the world. He is the author of, amongst others, NO SAFE HOUSE, A TAP ON THE WINDOW, TRUST YOUR EYES, BROKEN PROMISE and FAR FROM TRUE. He lives near Toronto with his wife.
About A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS
Paul Davies, a small-town college professor, has narrowly avoided death when he accidently disturbed a murder scene. The killer, his colleague and friend, hit him over the head with a shovel and only a passing police car saved him from joining the other victims.
Eight months later, Paul’s colleague is in jail and Paul is attempting to rebuild his life. He has not yet returned to work, he suffers flashbacks and memory loss and he is in therapy. He decides to write the story of his experiences to make some sense of how the killer, a friend who took Paul under his wing when he first arrived at the college, could have carried out such cruel murders. As a gift, his wife buys him an old-fashioned typewriter.
That night, as his wife and son lie asleep, Paul wakes to a noise downstairs: the clear, sharp tap of the typewriter keys. But the house is empty, the door and windows locked.
Is Paul losing his grip on reality? Is the trauma of the attempt on his life too great to endure? Or is someone trying to make him think that he is going mad?
A Noise Downstairs is published by Orion Fiction on 12 July 2018.
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