Monday, August 2, 2010

9mm: An interview with Alix Bosco

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors. It's a bit of a special instalment, as I'm about to bring you an interview with an thriller writer who hasn't really done many, if any, interviews before. At all, ever (well, not in her thriller writing persona, anyway). So I hope you're intrigued.

Before we dive into it, thanks again to all of you Crime Watch readers who took the time to place some feedback about the series as a whole. Feel free to place more comments and give more suggestions - I'm always open to hearing who and what the readers of this website want to read about.

For the 27th instalment in the 9mm series, Crime Watch is featuring Alix Bosco, the Kiwi crime writer with the secret identity. Bosco came to attention last year with the release of her debut crime novel CUT & RUN, which deservedly received many good reviews, and is now available in paperback. A new face on the Kiwi crime fiction map in 2009, 'Alix Bosco' is the thriller writing pseudonym of a 'successful writer in other media' who wishes to keep her crime writing and other life separate. As such up until now she hasn't really done any media about her novels, so this 9mm interview is something special for all of you reading Crime Watch. I'm not sure, but it may in fact be the first interview 'Alix Bosco' has given, which is pretty cool.

From today Bosco's second thriller starring middle-aged former social worker and legal researcher Anna Markunas, SLAUGHTER FALLS, will be available in New Zealand and Australia. The publisher's blurb for Bosco's second novel says, "When Anna Markunas comes to Brisbane to watch a rugby test, two members of her tour party die sudden, violent deaths. Anna tries to track down the elusive family of one man, but each discovery about his past leads her further into the dark world of Queensland's corrupt underbelly. Soon Anna is running for her life – she has discovered the secrets of those who will stop at nothing to silence her."

I read an advance copy in the past couple of days, and enjoyed it. It's another good addition to the burgeoning Kiwi crime fiction canon, and I'm already looking forward to the third in the series, as well as seeing CUT & RUN hit the television screen with Robyn Malcolm in the lead role, hopefully sometime in the not-too-distant future.

But for now, Alix Bosco looks down the barrel of 9mm - which for the first time ever, won't have an author photo...


The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: Alix Bosco

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Until Lisbeth Salander came along, Peter Temple’s Jack Irish was probably my favourite. Jack was warm and funny, cooked, cleaned, and helped the old cabinet maker next door. The Melbourne Jack Irish inhabited was palpable, almost another character, and being so close, was identifiable for me in a way that Janet Evanovich’s New Jersey or Sue Grafton’s Santa Barbara or PD James’ English bureaucracy or even Rankin’s Edinburgh, never was. Both Jack and Lisbeth are also ‘crime’ outsiders in the sense that they are not cops or private eyes or trial lawyers (Jack is a faded, failed lawyer), and the author has to work harder to place them at the centre of the story. When that succeeds, it seems to make their stake in the story more personal.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Wuthering Heights. A brutally passionate love story. Move over Jane Austen – go Charlotte Brontë!

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I’ve been writing since I was old enough to read. I’m always writing something – the only real question is whether, at any given time, I’m being paid for doing it.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Having a pseudonym is one way of avoiding touring and promotional commitments! Which leaves more time to walk the dog and think of the next story for Anna Markunas.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
On a summer evening, take a window seat at Bonitas on Ponsonby Road, sip a glass of something interesting and watch the world go by.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
It would have to be Robyn Malcolm, who is beautiful, sexy and real. Rather than playing me, I’m hoping she’ll get to play Anna Markunas on television next year.


Of your writings, which is your favourite, and why?
The most recent, probably, because it’s the most vulnerable as it staggers out into the world. Each has different attributes: Cut & Run may be as close to the perfect who-dunnit as I can manage, whereas Slaughter Falls is a different, perhaps more ambitious story, more of a political thriller. To be honest, I’m more interested in societal forensics than criminal forensics, and I’m enormously encouraged by the success of someone like Stieg Larsson who seems to have had a similar preoccupation. The good thing about the crime fiction/thriller genre is that there is so much room to move. Not every hero has to be a sardonic cop, ex-cop or military drop-out, with a cryptic turn of phrase, an alcohol problem and a redeeming hobby!

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
When I first saw Cut & Run – at a Paper Plus, featured as one of Kerre Woodham’s Choices - I wanted to shout from the roof-tops that I’d written a book I was proud of…. At which point I realised that such behaviour would tend to defeat the purpose of having a pseudonym. So I picked it up as disinterestedly as I could and… well, quietly fondled it, actually.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I’ll let you know if I ever get to attend any of those events as an author. Cut & Run and Slaughter Falls are such departures from the kind of writing I’m known for, that I feel it’s better that they are free of any expectations created by my other writing. However, I saw recently that novelist Stephanie Merritt has revealed herself as crime writer SJ Parris, and I can understand the pressure to do that – it’s very difficult for the publisher to promote a book without an author to do the promotional and publicity rounds. So thank you so much for your and your readers’ support, Craig.

Thank you Alix Bosco. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.

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So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Have you read Alix Bosco's CUT & RUN? If so, what did you think? Will Robyn Malcolm be a good Anna Markunas? Are you going to read SLAUGHTER FALLS? What do you think of pseudonyms for crime writers? Who do you think Alix Bosco might be? I'd love to read your comments. Please share your thoughts.

23 comments:

  1. Craig - Thanks for this terrific interview. I'm so enjoying learning about the different authors you featured, and Alix Bosco gave a terrific interview. In many ways, it doesn't matter what Alix Bosco's real identity is; that's part of the mystique ; ). I have to say, too, that I also like Jack Irish : ).

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  2. How about a package of interview with the Ngaio Marsh Award shortlistees, to be published in the run-up to the award, one each day, perhaps? This could include rerunning this and the one with Vanda Symon. And "Alix Bosco" is a pretty cool pseudonym.
    ==========================
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  3. I'll be starting Slaughter Falls soon, it's next on my bedside book mountain.

    Great interview, it's good to hear from the mystery Alex. I have no idea who she is. (I assume she's a she, otherwise Robyn Malcolm would have to really prove her versatility!)(But I'm sure she'd be up for it.)

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  4. "The good thing about the crime fiction/thriller genre is that there is so much room to move. Not every hero has to be a sardonic cop, ex-cop or military drop-out, with a cryptic turn of phrase, an alcohol problem and a redeeming hobby!"

    This needs to be engraved in stone.

    Great interview! I'm very much enjoying the 9mm series.

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  5. "Alix Bosco" is playwright-turned-TV writer Greg McGee: writer of Foreskin's Lament, Street Legal, etc. Given that, I suspect the role of Bosco would be a bit of a stretch, even for an actress of Robyn Malcolm's ability.

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  6. That's not the rumour I've heard!

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  7. Maybe not. But McGee's the author nonetheless.

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  8. Alix Bosco is more likely to be Rosie Scott. She’s an established novelist (Feral City, Nights with Grace) who was a social worker in Auckland (she wrote a play about it) and lived for several years in Brisbane (the setting for Bosco’s latest book). Her husband had an Italian-sounding name. She also doesn’t appear to have published anything for a couple of years…

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  9. Interesting thoughts. I've heard the McGee rumour from another source this week too, although that wouldn't seem logical to me - because I can't think of any valid reason McGee would want to use a pseudonym (unlike someone who was perhaps a literary writer, or involved in other media and wanted to keep the personas separate). If anything, McGee's name might have been positive, publicity-wise.

    Rosie Scott would make more sense.

    My gut tells me it's someone closely involved, or who runs in the same circles, with New Zealand television, especially those involved with OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE. The speed at which CUT & RUN was picked up for a TV adaptation, with Robyn Malcolm tabbed as Markunas (which does seem ideal casting by the way), and the fact that Malcolm gave the quote for the first book - meaning she'd read the manuscript or a very advance version (prior to the covers being printed - my advance copy already had her quote on it).... but that's just my thoughts...

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  10. I've just realised that my last comment above would of course bring McGee into play as well... so that's something to mull over, though again, I wouldn't have thought he would have wanted/needed a pseudonym when it came to crime and thriller writing...

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  11. Whoever it is, this is a nice way of building up interest in the run-up to the awards. Hmmm, will Alix Bosco attend? Will he, she or it win?
    ==========================
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  12. My guess is that Maxine Fleming is Alix Bosco. Maxine wrote Being Eve, lots of Shortland Street, and episodes of Outrageous Fortune – and many of her life experiences seem uncannily similar to those of Anna Markunas. Maxine is a wonderful writer and could well have written those books.

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  13. It's not mere speculation that McGee is Bosco, but a fact I know to be true. Besides, his fingerprints are all over it.

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  14. Interesting... still doesn't make sense to me that McGee would want to write thrillers under a pseudonym. Makes more sense for someone like Rosie Scott or Maxine Fleming to separate their writing careers like that. McGee, not so much...

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  15. I heard the Magee rumour too. Guess it's not the best kept secret. I don't really get the need for a pseudonym either. Hasn't he done heaps of crime already?

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  16. Well I've heard it's Peter Calder - who seems to feature thinly disguised in the first novel.

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  17. Why would anyone write a novel under a fake name that features themself thinly disguised?

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  18. Another person in the books world I know and trust has said that they've interviewed Alix Bosco by phone, and that she's definitely a woman. I guess they could always have got someone to 'stand in' for it, but it seems a hell of a lot of trouble to go to.

    Also, it just reads to me like a female author, I don't know why. It's just a gut feeling, the way certain things are described, or violence is looked at from a particular perspective - it reminds me of discussions I've had with some female crime writers, or interviews I've read.

    I was talking to Val McDermid about this at the Women's Bookshop last week. She'd been reading CUT & RUN while she was in NZ, and gave the book a big plug in front of about 80-100 people at her Auckland event. She thinks Bosco is probably a woman too.

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  19. PS I wonder how many Aucklanders picked up on the name of the obnoxious and borderline incompetent Brisbane detective in the second novel... Glucina... now there's a surname people who read the society pages might recognise.

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  20. If your contact spoke to a woman on the phone claiming to be Alix Bosco, then it was indeed a stand-in and, as you say, a hell of a lot of trouble to go to. Going to those lengths would be a very peculiar charade on McGee's part - I'm not sure why he doesn't just "own" the book.

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  21. Interesting. The McGee rumour seems quite strong. But my gut still tells me it's a female writer. I could very well be wrong, but from all the crime fiction I've read, it just reads like a female writer, particularly some of the issues, and ways of looking at violence etc. I've talked to others about this who agree, including Val McDermid, but hey - that doesn't mean we're right.

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  22. Good ploy though; mystery surrounds the identity of a mystery/crime writer.
    Surely it has to be someone who usually works in a completely unrelated field- if you also write for something like Outrageous and Shortland or a magazine where is the conflict of image?

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  23. "Wuthering Heights" is only a book a woman would look fondly back to as a favorite read. Also, "To Kill a Mockingbird."

    However, it could be a serious ruse carried out by a male writer, but the above answers would really take a lot of scheming and pretense.

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