Friday, April 9, 2010

9mm: An interview with Paul Cleave

As I noted recently, I have now launched a new series feature for the Crime Watch blog - 9mm: quickfire interview will consist of the same nine questions (9 MurderMystery questions) put to an ongoing series of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors.

The series so far has seen some pretty interesting answers already, from international bestseller Lee Child, New Zealand #1 bestseller Paddy Richardson, and most recently, Jack Kerley – author of the acclaimed Alabama-set Carson Ryder series.

For the fourth in this regular series of quickfire author interviews, I put the 9mm questions to the ‘Dark Prince of Christchurch’ – internationally bestselling crime writer Paul Cleave, whose dark and subtly humorous crime thrillers have been a massive hit in Germany, and are soon to be launched in the US (his acclaimed fourth novel BLOOD MEN will become his first novel to be published in the US, on 20 July 2010 – and the first three novels will be released in due course).

As an aside, having spoken to Cleave a couple of times, I would point out that he, like his books, often talks with some dry or subtle humour - so you have to be a little careful not to 'read' his answers too literally... Enjoy.

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Okay, that's a hard one to pick. Part of me wants to say Harry Bosch, another part say Jack Reacher, but ultimately I'll go with Charlie Parker - John Connolly's character. The books could be about Charlie Parker flipping burgers and I'd still be fascinated.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
MR FUNNY by Roger Hargreaves. It had everything I needed back then to get through a book - great characters, humour, illustrations, and not many pages. I love books that make me laugh - but books that aren't comedies. It's the subtle humour that's the best.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Lots of stuff. Maybe a dozen novels. Mostly all horror stuff. In fact, THE KILLING HOUR was originally a horror novel. Then I started on crime, wrote THE CLEANER, and went back and took all the vampires out of THE KILLING HOUR because vampires never sell... or so I thought. I couldn't write a short story to save myself.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Golf. I like to frustrate myself on a golf course and see if I can go around without throwing my clubs into the trees or breaking them all in half. I figure if I can use up all my swear words on the golf course, then there won't be any left for my writing. Also I love Frisbee. Frisbee is the coolest thing in the world and we'd all be better off if we made time for it. It bonds people. I've seen it happen. I once played Frisbee in Egypt by a beach with a guy from Slovakia and a guy from Austria and I'd never met them before and for those ten minutes we were all best friends. Imagine how well peace talks would go if Presidents were tossing Frisbee's back and forth - 'Hey good catch, Barack' - 'Hey, cheers, great throw.'

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?
Hmm... okay, the thing they should do is stay away from town at night, unless they want to get mugged - which ought to be in the tourist brochures since it happens all the time.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Ben Stiller did a great job of going 'full-retard' in Tropic Thunder. I'd go with him.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
I think The Cleaner. It's not the best of what I've written, but it's my favourite because I really love that Joe character - he really made me laugh and I want to visit his world again and bring him back.

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?
My initial reaction was doom. I got the email and was so excited but had nobody to tell. I had a physio appointment I was running late for, and I thought this great news would be counter-balanced by me getting hit by a truck. My physio was the first person I told. She was happy for me. I didn't celebrate until a year later when the book came out - a bunch of us all went out for breakfast on the morning it was released. I'd have done something earlier - but I was paranoid it was all going to fall apart at some point.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Nothing strange - just embarrassing. My second festival ever was in Brisbane, and the guy hosting the panel hadn't let me know exactly what the panel was going to be about because he'd been sick. So I got there expecting it to be us talking a little about the book and reading from it, and it turned out we were each talking for about fifteen minutes about writing. I had nothing at all prepared, and had to figure out what I was going to talk about while I was on stage listening to the others read from their notes. I was still very new at this and didn't know what to say and very, very nervous. I had to wing my speech and it lasted about ninety seconds. It'd be no problem if it ever happened again - I've done it enough times now to talk forever on the subject. The other embarrassing thing was at an author event when the person hosting it told me before we went on stage that she didn't like my book.

Thank you Paul Cleave. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.


So what do you think of Cleave's answers? Have you read any of his thrillers? If so, what did you think? Feedback, thoughts, and comments greatly appreciated.


  1. Craig - Thanks for this interview. I see what you mean about Cleave's humor. Some of his answers are really witty if one knows what his style is.

  2. The Ben Stiller comment, regarding the "going full retard", really made me giggle. My favourite character out of Pauls books would also be Joe. Even though he is a sick and twisted individual, his sense of humour and witty comments had me laughing for hours. Keep up the good work.