Friday, October 29, 2010

9mm interview: Simon Kernick

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

Today, for the 41st instalment in the series, I have another fantastic international author for you; British thriller writer Simon Kernick, who I was fortunate enough to meet when he visited Auckland last month (see photo above).

Kernick is a former computer programmer in his early 40s who has been described as "Britain's most exciting new thriller writer". He debuted with THE BUSINESS OF DYING in 2002, and his ninth thriller, THE LAST 10 SECONDS, was published here in New Zealand in August. In 2007, his book RELENTLESS, after being selected by Richard and Judy for their recommended summer reads promotion, went on to become the bestselling thriller in the UK for that year.

Kernick is touted as having talked, during the research for his novels, "both on and off the record to members of Special Branch, the Anti-Terrorist Branch and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, so he gets to hear first hand what actually happens in the dark and murky underbelly of UK crime." You can read my NZLawyer review of THE LAST 10 SECONDS here.

You can read more about Simon Kernick and his books here.

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

The Crime Watch 9mm Author Interview: Simon Kernick
Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?I really like Peter James’s Roy Grace. He’s flawed but he’s still a really nice bloke, and his flaws are I think more believable than some detectives out there. I always enjoy reading about him, and he has this ongoing mystery of his wife’s disappearance, and there always seems to be development in each book, but it never seems to be the development that I assume it would be, and it adds to the story, and it makes you want to read for more than one reason. I love the plots in the books, and I think it’s good to see a new British crime series coming through, and it’s also about a town I know very, very well - I went to college in Brighton - so I love them.

I love Hercule Poirot as well. I’ve read some good Marple ones, but the Poirot ones are probably the best. He was a great recurring detective. Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder, I’ve always loved. Some of them are just absolutely superb - some can be slightly hit and miss but in general they’re a very, very good series. And what I like about them is that he ages through the books, you read the ‘70s ones and he’s about 30, and you read the latest ones and he’s about heading off for retirement, and I love that. You find out so much more about them, and you find out so much more about the author as well.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
THE MURDER ON THE LINKS by Agatha Christie; I read it when I was about nine, and it was my first murder mystery book, and I guessed who did it and I got it right, and I loved it. To be honest, I very rarely got it right after that... it just sticks with me, it must have been about 1975 when I read it, and it was one of the old 1960s covers with a group of gendarmes standing around a body on a golf course. I can still picture it absolutely perfectly now - I haven’t thought about it for a long time, but it’s something that sticks in my mind.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I had unfortunately (I say unfortunately because it was hard work) written two crime novels that weren’t published, including the second one FINE NIGHT FOR A KILLING, a gang story in very small font that turned out to be about 950 pages, just ridiculously long. And one or two very rough fantasy books that I’d written, but I’d never had anything published at all, other than maybe in school magazines when I was about 15. So there was this sort of range of books I’d written, but they did get better as they went along. Just, you know, not that much better. So none of them will ever see the light of day, no doubt about that.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?I’m a bit of an outdoorsy person, which means I should be living in New Zealand really, because every time I’ve been talking to Rebecca my [NZ] publicist about what she gets up to, she kind of does the things I love doing. Which is hiking - I love walking, I mean often on a weekend where I don’t have my children I’ll do a 25-mile, a 40km walk, which is very tiring but great fun. Kayaking, I’m a big kayaker - river kayaking, I live on the river with a good stretch of water, and I’m planning on doing some longer trips on a bigger river, with some white-water. I love SCUBA diving.

What else do I do? I love cooking, and I do love to go to the pub and see my mates. It’s a two or three nights a week thing. I have a full life, I very rarely get bored.

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?I would hire a kayak and go kayaking down the river, a little bit out of town and there’s some great little nooks and crannies. I live in Henley on Thames, about an hour outside of London. Outdoor activities; kayaking, walking - it’s beautiful, they film Midsomer Murders around there, and they filmed Miss Marple around there... take a walk through there, it’s gorgeous.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Blimey, that’s a good ‘un. Brad Pitt to capture my good looks, obviously. Oh God, that’s a question I’ve never been asked. Ah... you always imagine you’d go to actors you like now, and I’m thinking who I really like. Bloody hell, you’ve really caught me off guard here. I love the actor Clive Owen, yeah, Clive Owen - he was always going to be the Dennis Milne, my detective character, in my mind. Yeah Clive Owen, he’s a good actor, and there’s something solid about him.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Not necessarily the best, but the one that’s my favourite is the second book that I wrote, THE MURDER EXCHANGE, and the reason is I really enjoyed writing it, because parts of it are quite funny, and I enjoyed the comedic element, the gallows humour, and I really enjoyed it when I got a few good one-liners in there. And I don’t usually write with that level of humour much these days. The thing about it was that when I first wrote the first draft, it was bloody awful, and then I went on a trip to Australia and New Zealand and had a bit of time away from it, came back, and then it all just came together, and that’s what I loved about it as well. It just worked on the second draft. I was really worried about it, it was the classic second book, the classic ‘sophomore slump’, and then it just worked, and it was funny, and I think it’s quite a good plot - two thirds of the way through it, I came up with a final plot twist for the end, which I never normally do, and I thought oh yeah I’m glad I did that.

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?
When I first walked into a bookstore and saw a book with my name on it on a shelf, I just stood there for about ten minutes looking at it, I remember. I was just so, so happy. Then I just celebrated to myself really, I went for a walk afterwards and just thought about it, and thought it’s been a brutal path in terms of rejections and thinking I’m never going to make it, and real ups and downs - a lot more downs than ups - and then I’ve done it. It was just an ecstatic feeling, a real ecstatic feeling.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Well I can think of one that was hugely bizarre. A woman was convinced that we were all being watched by aliens, and actually came up to me and said “do you know they’re watching?” She was an older woman dressed in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, Daffy Duck or something; a very old lady in her 70s... and then the conversation went on from there. It was in a library, and the staff were trying to move her away from me, probably thinking it might be liable to turn into something more dramatic, they kept trying to shift her away, and she’d look back over her shoulder and say “they’re watching you, they know about you, I know you’re not one of them, but they’re everywhere, they’re everywhere”. And it’s like, ‘My God’, and she even had me convinced near the end, so I was scared [laughing].

Thank you Simon Kernick. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.


So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Have you read THE LAST 10 SECONDS, THE MURDER EXCHANGE, or any of Kernick's other fast-paced thrillers? Have you met Kernick at any author events? What do you think? I'd love to read your comments. Please share your thoughts.


  1. Craig - Thanks for this great interview. I wish I could say that I've had the chance to meet Kernick, but not yet. I love the fact he's a fellow Poirot fan :-)

  2. Great interview. He certainly got a kook for the book signing question!

  3. Great interview - nice to hear 'new' stuff about/from Mr Kernick! I love his books as they're ostly set in my old 'stomping' ground. (and I like the fact he's a fan of Peter James, too!)

  4. Thanks for sharing the excellent interview. Really enjoyable.

  5. Great interview, I'm so jeallous you got to meet him! I love Kernick's books, looking forward to the next one