Thursday, March 22, 2012

9mm interview with Scott Bainbridge

Today, Crime Watch's popular 9mm author interview series marks a milestone; the 60th instalment. No longer a teenager or youthful series, we're heading towards senior citizen status! Over the almost two years the series has been running, on and off through a couple of hiatuses, a terrific line-up of crime fiction authors have given their answers to the same nine questions. It's been a lot of fun to see what books authors loved as kids, what detectives are their favourites, and more.

Since it's a special occasion, we're doing things a little differently today, with the first true crime author to be involved in the 9mm series, Scott Bainbridge, who is one of New Zealand's foremost investigative and true crime authors. His first two books; WITHOUT TRACE and STILL MISSING focused on missing persons, led to several cold-cases being re-opened, and inspired an acclaimed television series, "The Missing". In his third book; SHOT IN THE DARK, Bainbridge accessed old murder files to examine unsolved NZ murders of the 1920s and 30s, dispelling decades-old myths and uncovering hidden truths.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bainbridge in Hamilton earlier this year - he was part of a highly enjoyable crime writing panel (with Paul Cleave, Ben Sanders, and Vanda Symon) that I was privileged to chair. You can read more about that day (and have a laugh at yours truly) at Vanda Symon's blog, Overkill, here.

But for now, Bainbridge stares down the barrel of 9mm.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I haven’t read many books where there are recurring characters, but I really love James Ellroy’s LA Quartet series. Turner “Buzz” Meeks is a tough smart streetwise old cop who takes incredible risks and shortcuts in his work and does not hide the fact of his connections with the gangster Mickey Cohen. His two loyalties collide in the The Big Nowhere, and he features briefly in the follow-up, LA Confidential.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
FEATHER MEN by Sir Ranulph Fiennes is an amazing book. Debate continues today as to whether it is a true story. The tension is consistent throughout as the ‘Feather Men’ try and thwart the killer “Clinic.” However the ending is an anti-climax and frustrating as it raises questions. I re-read this book every so often and, despite knowing how it ends, I can’t help imagining how I would like it to finish.

Before your debut true crime book, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Originally wanted to be NZs John le Carre, and started a spy novel set in NZ during 1961. Then started planning sequels in my head before I even started writing the first. Needless to say the enthusiasm for the first one dwindled. I have three rough (very rough) chapters, but then became side-lined with writing several freelance articles for Truth about crime. Plan was to write freelance articles for the Waikato Times about unsolved murders in the region, but the articles far exceeded the word-limit, and it was at that stage I considered turning the articles into chapters for a non-fiction crime book.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I spend a lot of time in Raglan where I love surfing and the laid-back lifestyle. It’s a very inspirational place, and the Surf Shack does the best coffee. Also spending time with the family, listening to Brazilian Jazz and drinking wine.

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?
Take advantage of walking the length of the Waikato River (within the city environs); some beautiful houses, diverse suburbs, great parks and picnic areas and fantastic river views. Definitely a hidden gem and often you forget you are in Hamilton.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
John Malkovich

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Always the book I’m currently working on.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut effort in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
Disbelief at first as I had a phone message from Sam Hill from Reed, who was interested in my proposal. I thought it was a wind-up until I rang back and found there was a real guy called Sam Hill. I can’t remember celebrating, only feeling an initial panic as I realized I still had ¾ of a book (including finding 6 extra cases) to write within a period of months. The first time I saw WITHOUT TRACE on the shelf was on the eve of my publicity tour. I travelled to Auckland the night before and wandered into ‘Borders’ and saw someone flipping through my book- it was Sam Hill.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Apart from seeing Craig Sisterson dive into a dirty Hamilton Lake to retrieve a Frisbee? Nothing unusual stands out, but recently I was accused by many of endorsing a political party after the last New Zealand election. A successful candidate was photographed by the Dominion Post at home relaxing reading his favorite book (see above right). It provided some unexpected publicity.

Thank you Scott Bainbridge. We appreciate you taking the time to talk to Crime Watch.


Comments welcome.


  1. Great interview, Scott - nice to find out a bit more about you. Craig will never live down that Frisbee swim! Hope to see you at other book events soon.

  2. Good review. Scott is a really nice bloke!


  3. Great interview. Best of luck to Scott!
    Pat Browning (from DorothyL)