Friday, October 10, 2014

9mm interview with Tom Wood (the lost tapes)

As I mentioned back in July, two years ago I had the pleasure of attending the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England. It was a terrific few days, filled with great seminars, events, and social occasions. I caught up with several authors I knew or had interviewed, and met many more.

This year I rediscovered some interviews with some of those authors, that were recorded at the time but never published, for a variety of reasons and mishaps. So I now have some 'lost tapes' editions of 9mm spread over the past couple of months. It's really cool to be able to finally share these with you.

Today, for the 89th edition of 9mm (and fifth of the lost tapes subseries, which began with Liza Marklund in August), I'm sharing my Harrogate interview with British crime writer Tom Wood.

"Burst onto the scene" can be a bit of overused parlance, but Wood certainly did that when his debut thriller, THE HUNTER, was released in 2011. The book introduced Vincent, a mysterious assassin on the run after being betrayed by his secretive employer. Vivid, violent, fast-paced, and thrilling, the book was a hit, getting rave reviews and being picked up for publication in several countries and translations. Wood has gone on to write a further three thrillers, and is fast establishing himself on more and more readers' must-read lists.

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


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I’d probably say by default Jack Reacher, because it’s the only series I read religiously. I don’t know if it’s as much about the character, as that I really like the stories. They’re always interesting and very suspenseful. I think if Lee Child didn’t write about the character, the books would still be very good, if they changed each time. But my character uses a lot of logic and deduction to outsmart his enemies, and Reacher does the same thing, so I like that kind of edge of it. He’s bigger and stronger than everyone else, and I don’t like that, I want him to have a challenge on the case, but the way the story unfolds and he works things out, I like that.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
It would be The Lord of the Rings, because really it was the first book that I read and stuck with and liked. Before that I didn’t really, I had no interest in books. I remember we’d read the Hobbit in class, I skimmed most of it, and was told bits, then The Lord of the Rings. I think because I live in the real world, I was not interested in reading about it, and this was a completely separate world, and endlessly fascinating. And of course when you’re young, it’s even more impressive, and it’s fucking long, so it takes you a long time to read it.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I tried to write a detective story, which was very dark. I was about 22 at the time and was writing about 40 year old characters with mid-life crises, and surprise I didn’t really know what I was talking about, and I think that probably showed. I gave up in the end, then wrote my first book and my second book. I’d written both of them before I was published, and so went back and rewrote the first one. I always loved the story, but I was just too dumb to write it.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I’m a big boxing fan, as a fan. I go to the gym a bit. I used to do martial arts when I was younger, and it was always my intention to get back into it. I want to do those type of things, I’m just not at the moment.

[Ed Note: It’s my understanding that since our interview Tom has taken up Krav Maga classes in London] 

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?
Where I live in southeast London, walk around the market and try to count how many languages there are. You will be absolutely mind boggled. Obviously there is so much stuff to do in London. Wander the streets and take it all in. I think the London of old is very different to modern London, and I think it’s fascinating just how sort of an international city it is.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Oh wow, that is a question! Well, I think it would have to be a dashingly handsome Hollywood actor with real hidden depth, personality and charm. Oh, fucking hell... um, an actor? I would say Christian Bale, because of The Machinist, how he can change himself and become that person. And I think that if there is any actor you want to represent you, he would do an absolutely faithful job of it.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Um... I’m going to say my first published book, but not for the reasons you’ll think. THE HUNTER, which was called The Killer originally, because it’s about a hitman and he just kills loads of people. And when I first wrote it, that’s all it was about, because I was 26 at the time, and I was like ‘all these books I’m reading are boring, I just want a book [with more action]’, and not a character who cries or has to be nice to his neighbour or things like that. This guy is just an absolute villain, and any problem he comes across he just kills the person, then moves onto the next one. And I think it was so outrageous when I first wrote it, before I edited it, tweaked it, and grew up – it was just, okay he’s killed 10 people in the first two chapters, a little bit of a breather, he kills the next lot of people. And that was it, for 80,000 words. My first agent was like ‘you’re a great writer, but you need to take out some of that carnage, and put in a bit more plot’.

--- Little bit less Rambo III, little bit more first Rambo?
Yeah, basically. I think definitely I was a child of the action movie era, ‘you don’t need story’, but actually that was the most important part of all the classics, Die Hard and Rambo, was the story. But you remember it for the carnage; though it had character and story.

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?
Do you know what, I never actually celebrated, because I was first published in America, so by the time I saw it in a shop, it had already been out internationally for a year at that time. Getting published was a very long process, I had an agent for two years and nothing happened, I got a deal with a new agent, and then it was two years before the book came out in America, then another year, so all my celebration and excitement was filtered through those various incidents. New authors are like ‘oh yeah, go wild’, but it didn’t happen with me, it was stretched out... but you know, I certainly got leathered, the usual.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Well you know the story of the man in his pants, so I’m not going to tell that one again. Um, well actually – I was having a chat with Simon Kernick – bit of a namedrop there, because I’m so in with the in-crowd – standing outside in the freezing cold and a man ran past in his pants. No idea why. We were speculating for quite a while after that. I hope to see him another time, wearing his pants.

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


You can read more about Tom Wood and his thrillers here:


Comments welcome. 

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