Tuesday, February 28, 2012

9mm interview with William Deverell

Welcome to Crime Watch's 1000th post. It's weird to think that I've written 1000 blog posts about crime fiction in the past two and a half years, in addition to all the reviews and features I've written elsewhere. Amazing how quickly things can add up.

To mark the occasion, I'm very pleased to bring you my recent 9mm interview with doyen of Canadian crime writing William Deverell. While Canadian crime writers such as Linwood Barclay, Rick Mofina, Chevy Stevens, Alan Bradley and Louise Penny may have garnered broader attention internationally in recent times, Deverell is a living legend of Canadian literature. After working as a journalist, Deverell mixed careers as a trial attorney and novelist, publishing his debut novel, NEEDLES, in 1979. A literary page-turner that took the reader into the seedy underground of crooked cops, drug lords, and a super-charged courtroom scene, Deverell's debut won the Seal Prize, the Book of the Year Award, and sold more than 250,000 copies.

In the thirty-plus years since, Deverell worked as a criminal lawyer, activist, and novelist - publishing more than a dozen more novels, a true crime book, and also writing for television (including the pilot for CBC's Street Legal). He has won the Arthur Ellis Award twice, received the Best Canadian Crime Writer Award, and won the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing.

I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Deverell at a Crime Writers Canada event in Vancouver in April 2008, and chatting to him a little after the event. Like his writing, he's a very interesting, engaging and articulate man. I remember asking him a question about the importance of good writing in crime writing, not just exciting plots. In a way it was that event, and meeting the likes of Deverell, that sparked then set me on my path to reviewing crime fiction, starting this blog, interviewing and establishing the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel after I returned to New Zealand later that year. So, in a roundabout way it's a nice coincidence that my 1000th post ends up being an interview with Deverell.

You can read more about William Deverell at his website here, and my Crime Fiction Alphabet post here. But for now, he faces down the barrel of 9mm, as the 59th instalment in a series that probably wouldn't even be around if it wasn't for a discussion with him almost four years ago.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Sherlock Holmes, whose author, btw, has recently recurred in Arthur and George, by Julian Barnes.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Probably the Wizard of Oz, possibly one of the Lone Ranger or Tarzan series. As I entered my teen years: The Grapes of Wrath (masterful prose, a powerful social-political drama that appealed to a young lefty radical).

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Fiction? A couple of short stories that went nowhere, but I'd been a reporter/editor/columnist for six years while working my way through law school.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise
Delete the latter two categories from my like-list. Reading, hiking, biking, laughing, getting high.

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?
I have two home towns. Pender Island BC. The unaware tourists miss out on the secret trails to the hidden beaches and to the mesas and bluffs with their breathtaking views. Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. The unaware tourists miss out on the secret trails to secret trails to the hidden beaches and to the mesas and bluffs with their breathtaking view.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Paul Newman.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
I'll See You in My Dreams. Because it's the deepest, and with the strongest social message.

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?
I won the $50,000 Seal First Novel Award with Needles, so I'll leave you to guess my reaction.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Too many, not enough space, so I'll content myself with the TV interviewer who mixed me up (live) with the author still waiting in the Green Room, a veterinarian, and who asked me to describe my most interesting encounters with sick dogs.

Thank you William Deverell, we appreciate you taking the time to talk to Crime Watch.


Have you read any of William Deverell's Arthur Beauchamp tales, or his books? Watched Street Legal? What do you think of his mix of courtroom drama, social environmental issues, and literary stylings?

1 comment:

  1. Craig: Thanks for an interesting interview. It was ironic I posted a review about I'll See You in My Dreams at the same time you were posting this interview.

    Congratulations on 1,000 posts. It is an accomplishment well worth noting.