Wednesday, September 9, 2015

9mm interview: MJ Arlidge

What would it be like to see your debut crime novel roundly praised by some of the best in the business, rocket up the bestseller list, and get published in 25 countries?

That's what happened to Matt Arlidge in May last year. After working for 15 years in television production, his very first attempt at writing a novel, EENY MEENY, became a smash hit, introducing Southampton police detective Helen Grace, described by Jeffrey Deaver as "one of the greatest heroes to come along in years".

In EENY MEENY, Grace has to hunt a villain who's abducting couples, and forcing them into a situation where one must kill the other to survive. It makes met think of Saw meets Mo Hayder, to coin a screen-style comparison. Not one to rest on his laurels, Arlidge has since published two more books in the Helen Grace series, POP GOES THE WEASEL (2014) and THE DOLL'S HOUSE (2015). Tomorrow, his fourth novel, LIAR LIAR, is released.

Four published novels in 17 months? Wowsers, that's Patterson-esque - although the myriad great reviews show that Arlidge is managing to combine high quality and high productivity. In LIAR LIAR a reluctant Grace becomes involved in the hunt for a pyromaniac killer. I'm looking forward to the read.

But for now, MJ Arlidge stares down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I’m a big fan of James Patterson’s Alex Cross. It’s partly that I love the character – so determined, so tough, so smart – but also that the stories he inhabits are so BIG. But if I had to pick one, it would be Lisbeth Salander. I only wish she had appeared in more books.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I loved (and love) all Roald Dahl books. I think he has a unique and special imagination. JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH was one of the very first books I remember reading. It could only have been written by Dahl – the premise, the wacky characters and the notion that parents can be trampled to death by an escaped rhino!

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
My background as a TV drama producer pushed me towards writing screenplays. I had never attempted prose before my debut novel.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love sports particularly tennis and football, but my real passion is travel. It’s my ambition to visit every country in the world and I’m making a decent fist of it. That said, I’ve never been to New Zealand (hint, hint).

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?
They could visit an unusual crime scene. The house where someone was killed…with a tea spoon. Unique I believe.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I’d like to say Matt Damon, but I’m probably not ripped enough, and they’d end up casting Woody Allen.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
I love LIAR LIAR (my latest) as it is so epic in scale, but I’m also very fond of EENY MEENY. Your first time is always special!

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 was over the moon. It was a great moment when I got to tell my Mum that I was being published by Penguin.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
My favourite moment was when a young performing arts student said she’d used EENY MEENY for her graduation piece, writing a stage adaptation of the book that was due to be performed shortly. She asked me to sign a display board which showcased her set design for the play. I was bowled over by her creativity and enthusiasm for all things Helen Grace!

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


Have you read any of the Helen Grace novels? Do you like your British crime of a darker hue? 

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