Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nazi protests and police stoppages: Howard Linskey

Crime fiction is the most popular storytelling genre in the world, and we are blessed with an amazing array of crime fiction storytellers nowadays, ranging across time and place, styles and substance. I read a heck of a lot of crime fiction, as broadly as I can, but I am still continually coming across fantastic new-to-me authors. One of those recent 'finds' for me is Howard Linskey, from the northeast of England, who I first met at Bloody Scotland late last year, and then again recently at the Penguin Crime Drinks in Soho, London.

Linskey first broke into crime fiction with a trilogy centred on white-collar gangster David Blake and set in and around Newcastle, a place Linskey - a lifelong Newcastle United fan who grew up in County Durham - believes provides an atmospheric and oddly overlooked backdrop for crime and thriller stories. His first three books were published by No Exit Press, then picked up by HarperCollins for US publication, with first in the trilogy, THE DROP, optioned for television adaptation by the producer of the Harry Potter films. Mark Billingham has called Linskey one of the best new crime writers around, and the New York Journal of Books said Linskey does for Newcastle what Ian Rankin has done for Edinburgh. High praise.

Linskey's latest crime novel is NO NAME LANE, published by Penguin. It's a break away from his David Blake series, but still set in his beloved North East. Here's the blurb:
Young girls are being abducted and murdered in the North-East. Out of favour Detective Constable Ian Bradshaw struggles to find any leads - and fears that the only thing this investigation will unravel is himself. 
Journalist Tom Carney is suspended by his London tabloid and returns to his home village in County Durham. Helen Norton is the reporter who replaced Tom on the local newspaper. Together, they are drawn into a case that will change their lives forever. 
When a body is found, it's not the latest victim but a decades-old corpse. Secrets buried for years are waiting to be found, while in the present-day an unstoppable killer continues to evade justice...

For now though, Howard Linskey becomes the latest crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

9MM: An interview with Howard Linskey

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
If I had to pick just one it would be Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. He’s a tough, cynical, world-weary Private Eye but the clincher is his dialogue. Who doesn’t appreciate a line like, “She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
It was a book called ‘The Terrier’s Football Club’ that was published way back in 1961 and is long out of print though I have just seen a copy on Ebay. I’d have been about eight years old when I read it several times but oddly I cannot remember much about it, except that it was a world away from the Enid Blyton stuff that seemed to dominate the shelves of our school library. I can also remember being gripped by ‘Treasure Island’ because young Jim Hawkins seemed to have placed himself in a level of jeopardy I couldn’t begin to comprehend. The book contains such vivid characters too, like Long John Silver and Blind Pew, who terrified me, and it’s a real boys adventure story that continues to captivate new generations of children.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Loads of stuff. I started writing for football fanzines then became a journalist for local newspapers. I also wrote screenplays that were rejected but turned down nicely, as the people doing the rejecting usually told me they were good and that I could actually write, which was enough encouragement to keep going through those lean years. I then wrote my first book, which wasn’t published but was good enough to get me a literary agent and that was a major step. I wrote another book that wasn’t published either but was then commissioned to write two books under a pseudonym before the four crime novels I’ve since had published under my own name. This means I am now on book number seven or nine if you count the unpublished ones.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I like football. I prefer playing the 5-a-side version but watching the Premier League, though I don’t know why I bother because my team, Newcastle United, are possibly the worst run club in the country. I like going out for a decent meal with family or a few beers with friends and I’m a film fan, so a good movie is always appreciated.

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 home town, Ferryhill, is pretty small so it doesn’t have a brochure. Newcastle is our local metropolis though and I don’t think the tourist board ever put my favourite pub in any of their brochures. They should do though because it is a shrine to my football team, with signed, framed photographs of Newcastle legends on its walls. Since the team is utterly useless these days it’s a nice place to sit in and get nostalgic. I like the place so much I’m having my book launch party there.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I remember when I was about eighteen years old and somewhat lacking in self-confidence, a girl I fancied told me ‘You look like that film star’ and I said, ‘Great, which one?’ and she replied ‘Dustin Hoffman, he’s short with a big nose too’. I didn’t ask her out after that. So I guess it would have to be Dustin-old-shorty-big-nose-Hoffman then. He’s a great actor though so that’s not a bad choice but I’d need the 1980s version of him, as he’s around thirty years older than me.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
I usually get pretty attached to the one I’ve just completed. My latest is ‘No Name Lane’ and I think it’s my best yet. I’m not just saying that, as my agent and editor both said the same thing, though I don’t yet know if readers of the David Blake books will agree with them. We’ll have to wait and see. I do have a soft spot for ‘The Drop’ as it was the first book I ever had published under my own name, which was a bloody big deal after many years of rejections.

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 bookseller’s shelf?
Ion Mills, the owner of No Exit took me to lunch and told me he wanted to publish ‘The Drop’. I managed to say ‘Thank you very much. That’s great news,’ quite calmly when what I really wanted to do was jump to my feet and start running round the restaurant shooting “WooooooHOOOO!” and “Get in!!!” but I thought innocent bystanders might be a tiny bit perturbed by that behaviour. After the lunch I phoned a few people, bought my daughter an expensive cuddly toy and took my wife to a very nice restaurant for dinner to celebrate. Seeing your completed, published book on the shelf in a bookshop for the first time is a particularly strange but lovely experience. You kind of want to tell everybody in the shop that you wrote it but then you realise how weird that might actually sound to someone who’s just come in for a quiet browse. That’s if they actually believed you of course, which they probably wouldn’t. So instead you keep your head down and walk quietly out of the shop but not before you move your book so that its cover faces outwards.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I was on my way to sign books at Waterstones in Newcastle but unfortunately a Nazi group had chosen that day to march through the city and there was a counter demonstration by a lot of people who wanted to get at them and teach them the error of their ways.Subsequently, the whole city was full of police trying to prevent trouble. As I drew near to the book store this Police officer politely stopped me in the street. I thought it was because I had a small rucksack that he was suspicious of. Then he asked me if I was Howard Linskey, which stunned me,as I am not used to being recognised, and immediately triggered my inner guilty conscience, even though I hadn’t done anything. I managed to mumble ‘yes’ rather sheepishly and he said ‘I really like your David Blake books’. It was a lovely moment, even if he and his mate were dressed in full riot gear with helmets and carrying big sticks. I had a nice chat with them both then left hoping they would end their shift that day unscathed.

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


You can read more about Howard Linskey and his crime writing here:


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