Tuesday, December 23, 2014

9mm interview with Quentin Bates

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending Iceland Noir, a terrific crime fiction festival held in Reykjavik. I had met three of the organisers, Icelandic crime writers Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Quentin Bates, and Ragnar Jonasson. at Bloody Scotland in Stirling in late September, and they'd arm-twisted me to hop a flight to Iceland in late November to join the fun. It was a terrific festival, with many fascinating discussions about crime writing and a great audience.

And for those of you wondering, yes, Quentin Bates isn't a very Icelandic name (in fact the letter Q doesn't even appear in the language or alphabet). But Bates, who grew up in southern England, has strong ties to Iceland after a gap year during the Thatcher years turned into a decade spent in the country, including getting married and starting a family. When he turned to novel writing in recent years after many years in journalism and other jobs, Bates decided to set his crime novels in Iceland, which he still visits a couple of times a year. And now he even has an Icelandic nickname, thanks to his grandmother-in-law: "Graskeggur" (which means 'greybeard').

Bates introduced Icelandic policewoman Gunnhildur Gísladóttir in his debut, FROZEN OUT (aka FROZEN ASSETS), an intriguing crime tale that wove environmental concerns, anonymous scandal blogging, and the financial crisis into a murder mystery in small-town Iceland. He has gone on to write a further three novels and a novella. But for now, Quentin Bates becomes the 96th author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: An interview with Quentin Bates

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
That's something that tends to change regularly, but the current favourite at the moment is Parker, Donald Westlake's (Richard Stark's) series about a ruthless and cold-blooded criminal. Magnificent stuff, stripped back and straight-to-the-point writing that takes no prisoners.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
I'd really like to come up with something properly cool here and tell the world I was reading James Joyce when I was five, but the reality is that it was probably Biggles. I haven't picked one up for decades, but it was probably the action stuff, with square-jawed chaps biffing stereotypical baddies on the chin, that was so gripping.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
I've been writing for a long time now as I have a day job for a nautical trade magazine, a fantastic job for anyone with a liking for obscure harbours and industrial estates. Apart all from the fishy stuff, there's the mandatory unpublished (probably unpublishable) novel in a drawer somewhere, as well as a few unpublished/unpublishable short stories.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I gave up martial arts a couple of years ago – too many injuries and too old now to be sparring with lightning-fast teenagers. These days I just like to be outside in the fresh air and away from the phone and the screen.

5. 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? 
Go and look around Palmerston's Folly. In the 19th century Portsmouth was surrounded by a ring of defensive forts, some of them islands, that were the nuclear deterrent of their day. They were built at colossal expense to defend us against the French, but by the time they were finished, the French had gone from being enemies to allies. Today some of the forts are museums, but there are bits and pieces of this bizarre brick-built military history everywhere in odd corners.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
If you can sort out the time-travel part of the deal, could I be played by Stan Laurel, please?

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why? 
The next one, the thing that's rattling around in the back of my mind and which is starting to take shape. Apart from that, I'm hugely fond of a book called Bowline by my friend Gudlaugur Arason that I translated into English and finally published as an e-book. It took more than twenty years from start to finish. It's a wonderful slice of the Iceland of the past and there's fish in there as well.

8. 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 online or physical bookseller’s shelf? 
Amazement and disbelief. I told my wife and then my Mum, who said something along the lines of 'about bloody time.'

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
There's not a lot that springs to mind. The festivals were a pleasant surprise as I hadn't realised that crime writers were such an amiable and fun-loving bunch. I met one of my heroes at CrimeFest in Bristol this year, French writer Dominique Manotti. I was surprised at how quickly I turned into a starstruck and tongue-tied fan. Read her books. They're brilliant and should be better known.

Thank you Quentin. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch 


You can read more about Quentin Bates and his Iceland-set crime novels here: 


No comments:

Post a Comment