Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dinosaurs, bonsai, and devilish violins: Oscar de Muriel

A locked room mystery involving a cursed violin set in an atmospheric evocation of nineteenth century Edinburgh? Mexican author Oscar de Muriel certainly penned something quite unique with his debut crime novel.

I had the pleasure of meeting Oscar at the Penguin Crime Drinks in Soho, London, before I headed back to New Zealand for a couple of months. I'd heard a little about his debut novel, which mixes crime, history, music and the occult, and it was great to meet him in person and have a chat.

Oscar grew up in Mexico and knew he wanted to be a writer from a young age. He credits Michael Crichton's novel JURASSIC PARK for scaring him so profoundly that it opened his eyes up to the possibility of how thrilling stories could be, and made him want to be a writer. He initially moved to the UK to complete his doctorate in Chemistry, and while writing academic papers the idea of "a spooky whodunnit" started forming for him.

A violin player himself, Oscar was intrigued by the idea of incorporating "The Devil's Sonata" into a story, and was further inspired by Edinburgh as a crime setting after visiting the Scottish city. The Lancashire-based author's debut novel draws on all these things, and marks another step in his writer's journey that started back when a story about resurrected dinosaurs scared the bejesus out of a 10-year-old Mexican kid. But for now, Oscar de Muriel becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.

Oscar de Muriel with Crime Watch's
Craig Sisterson in London, March 2015

1.Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Besides the obvious Sherlock Holmes, I love the adventures of David Starr, by Isaac Asimov. It’s basically Sherlock in the 30th century and in each book there is a murder mystery in a different planet. The last book, THE RINGS OF SATURN, has the best and cleverest twist ever.

2.What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Very, very first was a collection of myths and legends from around the world. It had abridged versions of the Odyssey, the Arabian Nights, the Arthurian tales, and so on. However, the book that made me want to become a writer was JURASSIC PARK. It was far scarier than the movie; I read it when I was 10 or 11, and until then I didn’t know a book could have such a thrilling effect.

3.Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I’ve written a couple of historical novels set in 19th century Mexico, and a novella in an even earlier period. I’d really like to revisit them. One of them is particularly dear to me.

4.Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I am a former violin player and still do a bit of fiddling from time to time. This inspired the core case for THE STRINGS OF MURDER, as I’m still passionate about instrumental music. I’ve now become a bit of a bonsai aficionado, which is a good break from the key punching.

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?
I grew up in Mexico City and I always recommend people to go to Casa de los Azulejos. It’s a colonial building completely covered in hand-made tiles, right in the town centre. It is now a very nice shop and restaurant, particularly good for brunch, as it has a great selection of egg dishes, including huevos rancheros and my favourite “drowned eggs” – that’s eggs poached in a super tasty sauce.

6.If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Daniel Radcliffe… if he can do the accent, that is!

7.Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
As above, I have a soft spot for this novel I wrote in 2007, which has not managed to see the light yet. Having said that, I’m really proud of THE STRINGS OF MURDER. I happened to blend all these seemingly random aspects of my personal experience (Scotland, violins, history, chemistry) and they happened to fit together surprisingly well. It all really started from a single phrase, and then naturally snowballed into this really nice story, which I hope people like as much as I do.

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?
I remember quite vividly when my agent’s right hand called me with the news. The first thing that came out of my lips was “hang on, give me a second to pick up my pants”. Coincidentally, I had a bottle of champagne I’d won on a Christmas raffle and it went straight into the fridge. It was a Friday evening so I indulged!

9.What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
It was unusual but in a good way. I went to sign books at this lovely shop in Harrogate, where they had a fantastic window display: an old violin and loads of sheet music loaned by Harrogate’s Music Society. I didn’t know they had put so much effort into it, so it was a heavenly surprise.

Thanks Oscar. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch. 


You can read more about Oscar de Muriel and his writing here: 


Do you like crime mixed with the occult? How do you feel about incorporating the supernatural into tales of murder and mayhem? Would you like to read THE STRINGS OF MURDER? Comments welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment