Sunday, February 15, 2015

9mm interview with Michael Ridpath

This week for 9mm I'm bringing you my recent interview with another great author I had the pleasure of meeting in-person for the first time at Iceland Noir last year: Michael Ridpath. It was rather fitting, in a way, that I ended up sitting across from Michael at the final dinner, as back when I was reviewing crime fiction in New Zealand, the first-ever Icelandic crime novel I was ever sent for review wasn't penned by Arnaldur Indridason or Yrsa Sigurdardottir, but Ridpath, a Devon-born, Yorkshire-raised, Oxford-educated British author who'd decided to set a crime series in Iceland (the Fire & Ice series).

A former banker, Ridpath used his extensive expertise in a series of financial thrillers that he told The Bookseller in 2010 he enjoyed writing, "but the problem was as a genre it wasn't selling very well". Contemplating a new series, Ridpath wanted to focus on a series about a detective in a distinctive place, and (after initial thoughts of a Saudi-set series) he created Iceland-born Boston cop Magnus Ragnusson, who would travel back to Iceland and get involved in cases there, and have a fascinating blend of being both a local and a foreigner, and all the grey areas and no-man's-lands such a situation entails. There are now four novels and a short story in the 'Fire & Ice' series.

Most recently Ridpath has written a spy novel set in Berlin just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, TRAITOR'S GATE. But for now, he becomes the 102nd author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

Michael Ridpath
9MM: An interview with Michael Ridpath

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
I liked Eddie Shoestring.  He was the eponymous private eye in a TV series set in Bristol in the early eighties. He was young and cool and clever and wore shortish hair and a thin tie and didn’t look like all the badly dressed American detectives from those seventies shows.  He was played by Trevor Eve, who decided to go on to do better things after two series.
2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
The Mountain of Adventure by Enid Blyton.  It was very scary, and I didn’t quite understand what was going on (I was very young), but I loved the idea of children taking control and outwitting the adults.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
I had written no fiction at all.  I was afraid to write fiction.  I was always the analytical one at university: I had lots of creative and literary friends.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
I enjoy investing money.  I know that sounds really dull, but I love the inexact psychology of the market, the tendency for people to buy when prices are high and to sell when prices are low.  In some ways it is like writing.  It is impossible to write the perfect crime novel and it is impossible to beat the market every time. But you can just get a little bit better.

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? 
My hometown is London, and my answer is simple: people should always walk from A to B and never in a straight line. That way you discover interesting places.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Colin Firth, although he would have to lose a bit of hair.

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why?
Very hard to say.  I think TRAITOR'S GATE, which is a spy novel set in 1938.  The reason is that it was inspired by big ideas of war and peace that I had had as a student - and it was fun rediscovering them.

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?
Disbelief.  I wandered around in a daze, thinking that now I knew an author and his name was Michael Ridpath. I couldn’t quite believe that I was me.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
I went on a Polish book tour once.  I never really understood what was going on.  They drove me to a hotel in Warsaw and I met a photographer who insisted that I go up to the roof - it was one of the tallest hotels in Warsaw.  He then spent an hour and a half taking photographs of me.  Odd photographs.  It was only towards the end of the session that he told me I was going to appear in Polish Playboy.  I eventually received the issue when it was published.  Polish Playboy is quite raunchy.  Only one other subject in the issue was fully clothed and that was Michael Moore.  Odd.  Very odd.

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


You can read more about Michael Ridpath and his crime novels here:


Have you read the Fire & Ice series? What do you think of authors setting their crime novels in places that are new-to-them as well as the reader? Of a hero who is both local and foreign?

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