Monday, January 19, 2015

9mm interview with Michael J Malone

Last year, timing was on my side when I landed in London a few days before my postgraduate journalism course started. My first weekend here in the UK coincided with the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival (and my birthday). So I took the train up to Stirling, and had a wonderful birthday weekend hanging out with some fantastic crime writers, editors, publishers, and keen readers in a town packed with history. I caught up with some great people I'd met in New Zealand or at Harrogate in 2012, and met plenty of cool new people too. They even put on an England vs Scotland crime writers' football game for my birthday (final score was 13-1 to the northerners, I believe).

One of those new-to-me crime writers I met that weekend was Michael J Malone. Although relatively new to the crime writing game (his debut, BLOOD TEARS, was published in 2012), Malone has long been well-known in Scotland as a writer of poetry. He has had over 200 poems published in literary magazines and anthologies, founded Makar Press Poets, and has performed around his country, as well as working as a creative writing teacher and in publishing.

Following BLOOD TEARS, Malone published a second novel starring DI Ray McBain, as well as a book on successful Scots, and THE GUILLOTINE'S CHOICE, a searing dramatisation of the life of an Algerian Berber who spent 18 years in Devil's Island for a crime he didn't commit (and the French authorities knew he didn't commit). I understand that book has played a part in growing calls for a posthumous pardon for the Algerian, Kaci Mohand Saoudi. Malone's next crime novel, BEYOND THE RAGE, is released next month.

But for now, Michael J Malone stares down the barrel of 9mm

9MM: An interview with Michael J Malone

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/ detective? 
There are a number of series that I will drop everything to read, but if I was to narrow it down to three I’d go with James Lee Burke’s  Dave Robicheax, John Connolly’s Charlie Parker and Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
Treasure Island by RL Stevenson. I can’t remember what age I was, probably six or seven, but the idea of that black spot scared the crap out of me. And the figure of Long John Silver loomed over my dreams for some time after. I guess it was the first time I realised how books could transport you.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
My debut novel, BLOOD TEARS was actually my third completed novel. I see the other two as my apprenticeship, if you will. A notion, had you suggested it when I finished them, I would have dismissed as lunacy. However, my publishing career began with poetry. Becoming a novelist was always my primary driver in becoming a writer, but I “had a go” at poetry, found I had a capacity for it and actually had about 200 published in literary anthologies, magazines and small press before BLOOD TEARS hit an unsuspecting public in 2012.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
Reading is still my number one pastime and I do like to veg out in front of the TV watching a good movie. I also try to go to my local gym about 4/5 times a week. Got to try and keep the effects of this middle-age spread and frighteningly sweet tooth at bay somehow.

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 live in Ayr, which is all about Robert Burns and the mile-long sandy beach. Not much else going on really.

Which reminds me of an article some time ago in a consumer magazine, where the reporter visited a handful of seaside resorts throughout the UK. He had this to say about Ayr – “standing on the sea wall and staring out to sea, is what amounts to the height of excitement in this town.” He wasn’t far wrong, but really, what’s so wrong with that? It’s very nice.

 If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
Oh jeez, I haven’t a clue. Some bald guy with a goatee. We all look alike after all.

Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why? 
I’ve got to say that I’m incredibly proud have The Guillotine Choice, which was published in 2014. It’s based on the true story of an innocent young Algerian who was sentenced to 20 years hard labour in Devil’s Island (French Guaina) in 1930. He kept his mouth shut, accepted the sentence and saved his cousin from the guillotine. He was in the penal colony at the same time as Henri Charriere of Papillon fame.

He was an incredible man and his story is one that has a resonance now, demonstrating the evils of colonialism and perhaps giving context to some of the troubles we find in the world today.

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 an online or physical bookseller’s shelf? 
Disbelief, primarily. I had coveted this achievement of published novelist for SO long and had SO many near misses that I couldn’t believe it until I held the actual book in my hand. I remember having a wee wobble at my first book launch. All of the people in the room – mostly family and friends to be fair – were all there to hear me speak and to support my efforts. And I was so grateful and humbled to have them on site that I almost had to go and sit in a dark room to control myself first.

How did I celebrate? A cheeky wee whisky.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 

After an event with Craig Robertson, Alex Gray and myself, a lady approached the signing table. Said she only had enough cash to buy one of our books and could we help her decide which one to buy? Her question was: do you have any swearing in your books, cos I can handle the violence but the swearing upsets me. Craig and I looked at each other, smiled, said nothing, and then looked pointedly at Alex Gray.

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


You can read more about Michael J Malone and his writings here: 


Comments welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment