Friday, October 17, 2014

9mm interview: Peter Robinson (the lost files)

Going back through some old archived computer files recently I not only found the recordings of several author interviews from my Harrogate visit in 2012, but also crime fiction interviews and draft feature articles for a variety of New Zealand and international magazines and newspapers from 2009-2012.

It's a bit of a treasure trove, with transcripts of hour-long interviews, where only about 15-25% of the interview gets used in the eventual 800 to 2,000-word feature. So there's some great stuff that was never published that I'll be combing through, and then sharing some further interesting tidbits with you here. At the time I used to incorporate the 9mm questions into all the longer interviews I did, so that Crime Watch readers could learn more about the fantastic authors, along with print readers.

One terrific author I interviewed during that period was Peter Robinson, the Yorkshire-born crime writer who moved to Canada as a university student, but sets his acclaimed Inspector Banks series in his birthplace. I really enjoyed talking to Robinson for a piece in the Weekend Herald (read that article here) that looked at both him and Peter James. Leaving aside 'overview-style' pieces on Scandinavian, Scottish, and New Zealand crime writing, it's one of only two times I've written an interview-based feature about more than one author in the same article (the other being a piece on the Kellerman family, based on separate interviews with Faye and Jonathan, published in Good Reading magazine).

At the time I didn't publish a 9mm interview for Robinson because we didn't address one question (what was his favourite amongst his novels). However, as I look back now, it seems silly for y'all to miss out on the rest of his thoughts on the other eight questions. So, somewhat belatedly, and with a wee misfire in one chamber, here is Peter Robinson, the 91st author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: An interview with Peter Robinson

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
I would probably say Sherlock Holmes. He’s just so idiosyncratic, he’s just so out there. Not at all like Banks, just the complete opposite.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why did you love it? 
It would have been one of the Enid Blyton ‘Famous Five’ books, I can’t remember a specific title - I read them all very quickly within a very short time. We didn’t get the Hardy Boys in England - that was mostly in America.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
I have about three unpublished manuscripts that I should find and burn. I didn’t realise that they were really bad at the time I wrote them of course, but I realised pretty soon afterwards. You know, it was good apprentice work - you’ve got to practice somewhat...  I had a sort of Leeds-based private eye character, which was my first mistake I think. But mostly I wrote poetry, I think from my early years, from the age of about 16 until my early 30s, I wrote almost exclusively poetry. Now most of the writing energy goes into the prose. I still read poetry, but apart from the occasional fragment, I don’t get much done these days.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I don’t have any leisure. What’s a leisure activity? I love walking. I have a place in Richmond in Yorkshire and I like to walk in the Yorkshire countryside, and go travelling. So even if I wasn’t going to Australia and New Zealand on tour, I’d probably be going to the South China Sea or somewhere just for fun.

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? 
Well, Toronto I think one of the things they should do is go for a walk along the boardwalk, which is not right downtown, it’s the eastern end down where I live. It’s probably not the kind of thing you see in most tourist brochures.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Playing me? Oh my God. That’s a tough one. I’ll come back to that - I’ll be thinking about it while we’re talking about other stuff, running faces through my mind... The only one that comes to mind is Richard E. Grant. He doesn’t look like me at all. Ben Kingsley maybe, he can do the hair (chuckle). I think we should go for Ben Kingsley, or even Patrick Stewart, you know Jean-Luc Picard.

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? 
The first thing of course was receiving the pre-publication box of books from the publisher, and the first thing I did then was open one of them up and sniff it, you know, there’s nothing like the smell of a new book. And the smell of your first book, you only ever get that once. And then I think we had a bottle of cheap champagne, because we couldn’t afford real champagne at the time. And of course the first bookshop I went into, if the book wasn’t face-out, I made sure it was face-out.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
I suppose it could have been the one where nobody turned up, not even the writer I was supposed to be sharing the reader with. It was supposed to be a reading, and it was in Los Angeles, I won’t say the exact place, and I was there on time, and there was nobody except the bookshop people. And I was supposed to be doing it with another author, who it turned out was in Texas or somewhere that night.

Thank you Peter. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch


You can read more about Peter Robinson here:


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