Tuesday, May 4, 2010

9mm interview: Rob Kitchin

Welcome to the latest instalment in Crime Watch's ongoing series of quickfire author interviews; 9mm - 9 MurderMystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors.

For the ninth in this regular series of quickfire author interviews, I put the 9mm questions to Rob Kitchin, a director of a National University research institute, and debutant crime writer, from Ireland. Kitchin is also the author or editor of 17 academic books, and edits an academic journal, two book series and has edited a 12 volume encyclopaedia. He blogs on reading and writing at The View from the Blue House.

The blurb for Kitchin's debut thriller, THE RULE BOOK, which has received several great reviews, states: "April in the Wicklow mountains and a young woman is found dead, seemingly sacrificed. Accompanying her body is Chapter One of The Rule Book – a self-help guide for prospective serial killers. The case is assigned to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and headed up by Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy. Since the recent death of his wife, McEvoy is a shadow of his former self – two stones lighter with a wardrobe of ill fitting suits, struggling to quit the cigarettes that killed his wife, and still getting used to being a single parent. Less than twenty four hours later a second murder is committed. Self-claiming the title ‘The Raven’, the killer starts to taunt the police and the media. When the third body is discovered it is clear that The Raven intends to slaughter one victim each day until The Rule Book is published in full. With the pressure from his superiors, the press, and politicians rising, McEvoy stumbles after a killer that is seemingly several steps ahead."

You can read Dorte Jakobsen's review of THE RULE BOOK here. I have a copy of THE RULE BOOK, and am very much looking forward to reading it very soon.

But for now, I'll leave you with Rob Kitchin himself.

Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Hmmmm. I have soft spots for Bernie Gunther (Philip Kerr), Jack Irish (Peter Temple), Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly), Omar Yussef (Matt Benyon Rees), De Luca (Carlo Lucarelli), Hap Collins and Leonard Pine (Joe Lansdale) and John Rebus (Ian Rankin).

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Oh God, this is tricky. I've no idea what this book was! I got hooked on fiction in my early teens. I remember I went through a spy thriller phase working my way through Ted Allbeury, Len Deighton and John Le Carre. The Cold War was still live at the time and I was taken by the cloak and dagger plots, the underlying politics, and the intertextuality vis-à-vis real events and people.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I'd had quite a bit of academic writing published in journals and edited books, and I'd had 17 academic books published. Writing is something that improves with practice, and although it's a very different kind of writing, there's no doubt that my fiction writing has benefited from my academic work.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?Read. Mostly crime fiction, but also some history, travel writing and popular science. Writing fiction is actually a big part of my leisure time - I have a full-time job that my writing has to be fitted around.

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?
If hometown is where I presently live, then it's a small, Dublin commuter town that has half-a-dozen pubs, a couple of restaurants, a GAA club, and not much else. You could take a walk along the canal.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
If my life were a movie, the audience would be asleep in the first five minutes.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
My favourite is 'Saving Siobhan', a comic crime caper set in Ireland, which is unpublished and has been rejected a fair few times by agents and publishers as either being (a) too quirky and niche to gain sufficient sales, or (b) too mainstream that it'll disappear in the pack. What's frustrating about the letters is that they all start with, 'I really enjoyed this, but ...'
The fact that they really enjoyed it, and perhaps other people would enjoy it, seems to somehow disappear from their decision making. I think increasingly publishers want guaranteed mega-sales for no risk, and small town Ireland is seen as too parochial to capture attention and sales and is therefore a potential investment risk. Oh well. I like the characters, I'm happy with the plot, and it rattles along at a good pace. The few people who've read it agree that it's my best piece to date. I'm not really sure what to do with it right now. I'll probably have another go at getting it out there once THE WHITE GALLOWS is published in a couple of weeks time.

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?
The first thing I had published was an article in an academic journal.
The initial feedback consisted of three reviews - one basically saying to accept the paper as it was, another that it needed major revisions but would be okay after those, and the final one saying it was hopeless and it should be rejected. It was a very sweet and sour moment.
Interestingly, it is by far my most cited paper, which suggests everything has been downhill since then! Receiving my first book, and seeing it in a bookshop, was a bit of anti-climax to be honest. The exciting bit, I think, was getting the proofs and the realisation that it was definitely going to see the light of day. I did get a kick seeing a pile of THE RULE BOOK in a bookshop in Dublin Airport. That was a 'perhaps there might be a future in this' moment.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Since I've only done a couple of signings and I've not yet been to a book fair or literary festival, I've not had much in the way of unusual experiences. When we launched the encyclopedia for which I was co-editor in chief, one of the panelists we'd invited to push it off into the world gave it a good thrashing in front of the 200 or so people who attended. That was quite sobering, especially after it had taken five years to put together and involved 840 writers from over 40 countries! The lesson is to be careful when picking someone to launch a book.

Thank you Rob Kitchin. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.

So what do you think of Rob Kitchin's answers? Have you read THE RULE BOOK? If so, what did you think? Do you like the sound of his debut thriller? Feedback, thoughts, and comments greatly appreciated.


  1. I read THE RULE BOOK and loved it, it turned out to be something quite different from what I expected it to be based on the beginning. It's one of the best depictions I've read of the total frustration and despair that police must feel when awful things are happening and they don't have enough evidence or resources or sheer luck to stop it.

    I wish more people would recognise the truth of Rob's answer to the 'if my life were a movie" question with respect to their own lives but I see his answer to your first question as a challenge. We have to find Rob a favourite female character :)

  2. Craig - Thanks for this wonderful interview! I second Bernadette's enthusiasm for The Rule Book, too. I heartily recommend it as a police procedural and a strong mystery plot. Like you, Rob, I have an academic background, and I truly admire what you've contributed to academia, too.

  3. A great interview!

    Thank you for linking to my review, Craig - I hope it says that Rob´s crime debut is fantastic!

  4. Thanks, Craig. A correction - Harry Bosch is, of course, a Michael Connelly creation! And thanks to Bernadette, Margot and Dorte for the positive comments. Favourite female character. Hmmm. Lula and Grandma Mazur are occasional detectives in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, and I think they're great creations. Casey Jones (Katy Munger). Siobhan Clarke (Ian Rankin).

  5. I recently read The White Gallows and I think Mr K is going to be big. Deserved too. Cracking book.,