Thursday, August 13, 2009

FEAR THE WORST by Linwood Barclay

Here is a link to a review I wrote of Canadian thriller writer Linwood Barclay's latest, FEAR THE WORST, that was published in yesterday's issue of the Nelson Mail newspaper:

Barclay (who had the #1 overall bestselling adult fiction title in the UK in 2008 with NO TIME FOR GOODBYE) was recently in New Zealand promoting this new book, including appearances on both the 'Breakfast' and the 'Good Morning' shows on TVONE, an interview with Radio New Zealand, and public appearances in Auckland, Palmerston North, and Masterton.

I had interviewed him by phone before his trip for a couple of feature articles (one in Australia, one in New Zealand), and then saw him at his appearance at the Takapuna library. The Takapuna library (thanks to the staff there and Vanessa from Paper Plus and her team) has deservedly become something of a hotspot for top visiting authors. This month they're hosting Tom Rob Smith (see sidebar) of CHILD 44 fame.

Barclay is a very interesting, funny, and humble man. If you're a print or online subscriber to Good Reading magazine (highly recommended), you can read a little more about him in my feature from the July issue:

I thought I'd share a couple of other interesting things he had to say during our interview and his time in New Zealand, that I couldn't fit into either of my features (or were drastically paraphrased):

On his writing routine:

"And so you know, my routine is I start in the morning about 8:30 or 9 and I maybe go ‘til about 4 … when I get stuck I’ll go down and play 9 holes of Wii Golf or Wii Tennis, or go for a walk. But I’m pretty disciplined, and I find that once I start a book I just keep going because I want to finish it. And at least that first draft is… well, the comparison I make is that here in Toronto we have this massive tall building called the CN Tower, and ... one of the reasons it’s so strong is that concrete was poured continuously for the whole construction process, so there’s no seams, it’s just one continuous piece of concrete.

And ... that’s what I am when I’m doing a book, the first draft. I don’t want any interruptions; I just want to keep pouring that concrete. And if I stop or take a break, when I come back to it I’ll have lost that kind of rhythm or flow. So I just try to do a book in a period where I know I’m not going to go anywhere or do anything. So yeah I work fairly steadily once I have one underway."

On his use of 'ordinary heroes' and domestic situations:

"My column when I wrote my humour column, was very much about things that happen to all of us. And not that the things that happened in NO TIME FOR GOODBYE happen to all of us, but I like writing from the point of view of ordinary people, rather than a police officer, a spy, or something like that. I think, what do I know about international intrigue or what do I know about forensic science, or anything like that?

But what I know about is having a family, and having kids, and having those kinds of anxieties, and having worries about work, and having the sort of same anxieties about the world around us that everyone else has. And so those are the kind of things I like to draw on when writing from that point of view, and my hope is that people reading the story will think it’s written from the point of view of a person that’s ‘not very different from me’ – you know they have the same hassles with work and kids and stuff like that.

And so I guess you could say it’s a conscious decision. I guess you could also turn it around and say I’m really a total bozo about everything else – I don’t know anything about forensic science, I don’t know anything about international politics – so I’m reduced to writing about this."

What do you think of Linwood Barclay's books and writing practices? Feel free to also comment on my review or articles - comments, suggestions, queries and criticisms all welcome.


  1. I haven't read any of his books yet, but as you're aware, I was amazed at how quickly he could write a draft. But it sounds like he just hides himself away and goes at it hell for leather, and I can certainly see the benefits of pouring it all out in one go.

    As I said in my blog, I could only manage that kind of output if I had me a wife!

  2. I'm just in the process of finishing my feature on Stuart MacBride (HALFHEAD and the DS Logan McRae series) for Good Reading magazine (Oct issue), and you'll be pleased to know Vanda, that he's more of a 4 1/2 months of solid writing guy...

  3. I liked No Time for Goodbye, and have just read his second (title something like No Place Like Home). I was a bit disappointed in it, but it was a very easy read and perfect for a holiday. The one you review here is not yet out in the UK but I am pretty sure I'll be reading it when it is. All best, Maxine (my blog Petrona is at - mostly but not all about crime fiction).