Thursday, October 1, 2009

Interview with Stuart MacBride

As I said last month, one of the very cool magazines I write for is Good Reading, the Australian-based "magazine for book lovers". Even if you don't live where the print copies of Good Reading are distributed, you can access the magazine (including archived issues featuring more than 200 great feature interviews with top international and local authors) by becoming an online subscriber.

As well as reviewing several crime and thriller fiction titles for Good Reading each month, I also regularly write feature articles on crime/thriller authors, or topics. The October issue of Good Reading, which has just hit the shelves, includes my 2-page feature article "Bloody Minded" - an interview with award-winning Scottish crime writer Stuart MacBride (COLD GRANITE, FLESH HOUSE, HALFHEAD etc).

Interviewing MacBride (in person, when he was in NZ earlier this year) was a lot of fun - our chat was full of laughter, piss-taking, and humour alternating between subversive and self-deprecating. Good Reading subscribers can read the feature article HERE.

Like most interviews, we talked about a number of things that didn't make it into the eventual article (in full, or at all). Here are a few snippets from our conversation:

On how he ended up writing several futuristic thriller manuscripts, before he broke through with the 'straight serial killer' novel COLD GRANITE:
"I’d finished the first manuscript, and sent it off to all the publishers, and got loads and loads of photocopied PFOs, and I thought, well, I’ll try a new one. I’d just won a short story competition… there’s this shop I walked past every day and one day in the window there was a poster saying ‘science fiction short story competition; top prize 100 quid’, and I thought, if I go home tonight and write a story, and hand it in first thing tomorrow, I can say I was first – not that I won, but that I got it in first. And then I won first prize and thought, right, I must be a science fiction writer. I’d always loved writers like Philip K. Dick… not so much literary science fiction but the story based science fiction..."

On how his admiration for a favourite crime writer influenced him (and helped MacBride get published):
"Well, there’s a lot of, I think there’s an aspirational character, in that I absolutely loved the work of RD Wingfield [creator of DI Jack Frost of A TOUCH OF FROST fame], and he’s actually the reason I’m a published crime writer, because when I had written HALFHEAD, I’d just gotten rid of my first agent, who’d represented my second book and never got anywhere, and I was looking for new agents and saw that Marjacq Scripts worked for RD Wingfield, and I thought ‘ooh, I really like his books’, so I sent them some manuscripts and they took me on… and it was Mark Hayward who took me on and said look, why don’t you just try a straight crime [book], and so if it wasn’t for Mr Wingfield, I never would have been published...

... And I’d always loved his work, because he was the first crime writer I’d ever read where the main character doesn’t just have the one big case to deal with, you know Frost has all the stuff measuring from the big cases to the little fiddly little things, and it was just like a revelation to me – this must be much more like what being a real police officer is like."

On naming his pet cat:
"I have a cat called Grendel. I had a lot of resistance from my wife for that one… she wanted to call it Willow or something cuddly (chuckling). But no, I had to name it after a monster."

Have you read Stuart MacBride? What do you think of his books? Do you enjoy a mix of piss-taking humour and brutally dark deeds in your crime novels? What do you think of HALFHEAD (MacBride's futuristic crime thriller) in comparison to the Aberdeen-set DS Logan McRae series? Thoughts and comments welcome...


  1. I love MacBride's books. I try not to read them too quickly so there's not a long wait for the next one. I'm currently reading Flesh House, and need to get my hands on Halfhead and Blind Eye.

    The combination of humor and darkness works a treat with me. Something tells me that I could watch an autopsy and crack jokes with the best of 'em, although I'm in no hurry to put this idea to the test.

  2. I read his first two books. I really like his writing and the black humour but I just can't take the gore so I haven't been brave enough to read any more. BUT I read his blog, which is a riot. He doesn't blog very often, but when he does it's very entertaining.