Friday, August 28, 2015
9mm interview: Craig Robertson
On my arrival in the UK last year, Robertson was then a new-to-me author, but I really loved THE LAST REFUGE, his fifth novel, a standalone set on the Faroe Islands which I bought at Bloody Scotland and read on the train journey home.
After a long and distinguished career in journalism (twenty years with a Sunday newspaper, including interviewing Prime Ministers, outscooping Oprah, writing major stories on 9/11, Dunblane, Omagh, and the Madeleine McCann tragedies, and being one of the first to interview Susan Boyle), Robertson burst onto the crime writing scene in 2010 with RANDOM, the first of his Tony Winter books.
RANDOM became a Sunday Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the New Blood Dagger. This was followed by three more highly acclaimed books in Robertson's series about a Glaswegian police photographer: SNAPSHOT, COLD GRAVE, and WITNESS THE DEAD. I've listened to Robertson speak at events and festivals, about his own books and chairing others, and he's an articulate and insightful raconteur as well as a heck of an author. But for now, he's the latest to stare down the barrel of 9mm.
9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH CRAIG ROBERTSON
I think I’m going to go for a detective that isn’t a hero. LAPD’s Dudley Smith as so brilliantly drawn by James Ellroy in his LA Quartet. Smith is corrupt, murderous, ruthless and utterly compelling. Bad guys should be properly bad and the bold Dudley certainly is. I’d also like to make honourable mentions of Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr and Ian Rankin’s John Rebus.
2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
There were almost certainly plenty of books I loved before this one but the book that comes to mind is Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. It was just such a fabulous adventure story and I was completely lost in it. The fact that it was largely set in Scotland didn’t hurt either. David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart remain two of my favourite characters.
3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Well I was a journalist for 20 years so that was where virtually all my writing was done. Features and news stories but also some more creative stuff (no, it wasn’t ALL made up, stop laughing at the back there). That apart, I think I’d written one short story about 25 years ago and a novelisation of a true story that was nearly taken on by an agent but wasn’t. So it was pretty much first time lucky.
4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
The writing and touring takes up a lot of my time but that’s fine because I love doing both. I travel a fair bit and it’s great when someone else pays for it so that I can talk about books.
I also have a bit of a mad interest in black pudding and have travelled across Europe – France, Ireland, Belgium, Austria, Germany – to eat it and meet the people who make it. I know it’s odd. Maybe it’s the blood. Apart from that, I love sport and beer and movies.
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?
Stirling is a tourist destination so most of the historic stuff – the best castle in Scotland, the Wallace Monument, Argyll Lodgings etc – is all well covered. So… somewhere I often take visitors is the old town cemetery. It’s spread over the valley between the castle and the Church of the Holy Rude and has fascinating monuments and stones, plus breath-taking views across the carse of Forth. Take a seat at the Ladies Rock and on a rare good day you can see for 50 miles.
6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
It would be a close run thing between Johnny Depp and Klaus Kinski. I’d go for Johnny if he was prepared to shave his head, get a bit of work done to be better looking and promised not to use a ridiculous accent.
The next one. Always the next one. The next book is always a thing of beauty, a great idea and a consuming passion. At least until you actually have to start writing it and the work begins. Even then, it is the only book that matters – apart from the next one which is already queuing in your head and demanding to be heard then released. Books are impatient bastards. If I had to choose a book then it would probably be my debut Random. Just because.
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?
My initial thought was that it was some kind of trick. This wasn’t helped by publication being set for April 1st. Even when I sneaked into Waterstones in Sauchiehall Street to check Random was actually in there, I still thought someone was winding me up. It was and in many way remains, a pretty surreal thing. The day you stop getting a kick out of seeing your books for sale in a shop then it’s time to stop. As for celebration, if I remember rightly, it was a black pudding supper and a bottle of champagne.
9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
There’s been a few but Left Coast Crime 2013 will take a bit of beating. I was there to do a couple of panels and also promoting Bloody Scotland. I wandered into another event, a workshop run by the award-winning American author Alexandra Sokoloff. I got some really good ideas for the book I was working on and went up at the end to tell her I owed her a drink. Three weeks later, she moved to Scotland and we’ve lived together ever since.
Thank you for taking the time to chat to Crime Watch Craig, we appreciate it.
Have you read any of Robertson's Tony Winter series, or his standalone THE LAST REFUGE? What do you think of Tartan Noir? Have you been to Bloody Scotland? Comments welcome.