Friday, July 8, 2011

9mm: An interview with David McGill

For the 54th instalment in the 9mm series, today I'm sharing my recent interview with Kiwi author David McGill, a prolific and wide-ranging writer, with a penchant for “Kiwi social history, sometimes fictional”.

McGill has written 45 books, including several that fall within the thriller category. Recently I highlighted IN XTREMIS as part of the Crime Fiction Alphabet series. He has also written WHAKAARI, THE MONSTRANCE, and FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS, and SHAKING 1960, in terms of thriller or crime-centric novels. George Moore in the Sunday Star-Times in 1996 called WHAKAARI “a real ripper” of a thriller, and McGill himself told me recently that WHAKAARI was his "first and best" thriller novel.

McGill's diverse book subjects include ghost towns in New Zealand, the country’s first bushranger, local and national heritage buildings, Kiwi prisoners of war, the history of the NZ Customs Department, a biography of a criminal lawyer, a personal history of rock music, a rail journey around the country, historical and comic novels, his thrillers, and six collections of Kiwi slang. You can read more about McGill and his books at his website here, in a recent Dominion Post interview here, and at the Book Council website here.

But for now, David McGill faces down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM AUTHOR INTERVIEW: DAVID MCGILL

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?

Sherlock Holmes (just nudges Van Der Valk, with honorary mention of the the Benjamin Gill guy and Dave Robicheaux, Billy Bob Holland, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike -- I could go on).

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
TREASURE ISLAND, so exciting residing with Jim in the apple barrel, and oh, Blind Pew, still No I villain of all time.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
About 30 books in over a decade of full-time writing of New Zealand social history, which really extended feature writing profession, ending in flames as editor of a magazine that closed after 9 issues. Only thing to do, turn articles into books. But first I did in 1984 all-time favourite non-fiction activity, asking and getting free pass to travel from NZ Rail on trains around all of NZ, several months of bliss mostly with guards in book called THE G'DAY COUNTRY – only months before all 2000 guards sacked by guy who launched the book, Minister of Railways Richard Prebble, who said he loved train travel! Recently revisited THE G'DAY COUNTRY REDUX.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Read thrillers, mostly American authors, drink Merlot (doing so now!), go to art house cinema and garden with my partner, each day walk the beach and tramp the treadmill listening to 180 minutes of my lifetime of pop music on cassettes (lot of Van Morrison) – got a book from it, THE TREADMILL TAPES.

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?
Visit the Kakariki Bookshop in the railway station, and enjoy craic with my collaborator on THE G'DAY COUNTRY REDUX, the poet and publisher and pop music afficionado Dr Michael O’Leary.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Sam Neill

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
GOLD IN THE CREEK, a farcical fictional recreation of my blissful childhood village in Bay of Plenty, my father the main character in fictional form. Writing as I type its sequel GEYSER IN THE CREEK.

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?
CITYSCAPES, the first collection of historic Wellington house vignettes illustrated by Grant Tilly, running 1976 to 1983 in Evening Post newspaper, was published in 1977 in 6 months, a record at time, by Ann Mallinson of the Hairy McClary series fame. Grant and I launched the book at Whitcoulls in Lambton Quay and signed all morning, outdoing the previous record of Robert Muldoon. I travelled in a car to Auckland the next day with brother and wife and girlfriend to see Fleetwood Mac and raved with adrenaline all trip. How tiresome for them.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Launching THE PIONEERS OF PORT NICHOLSON in Ahradsens Bookshop under Darth Vader’s Dunny, the black BNZ in Central Wellington, sitting for several hours on the BNZ boardroom chair made from the remains of the wreck Inconstant beached there circa 1849. One person asked me to sign a book, a comedown from the 1000 Cityscapes. I’m not sure who was keener to slit wrists, me or John. Yet books are thicker than blood -- only last year John asked me if I was reprinting CITYSCAPES. I said Why not? Soon we will have the complete 346 Cityscapes articles and illustrations in print. Bless you, John. Where would writers and publishers be without booksellers, eh?


Thank you David McGill. We appreciate you taking the time to chat with Crime Watch.

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