Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Marvel comics and motorbikes: an interview with Lloyd Otis

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 19th instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 191st overall edition of our long-running author interview series!

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had a lot of fun talking to some amazing crime writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. What a line-up. Thanks everyone.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been part of the 9mm series, please do let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. We've got several further interviews with cool writers 'already in the can' that will be published soon, so lots to look forward to over the coming weeks and months.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome exciting new crime writer Lloyd Otis to Crime Watch. Lloyd did a reading from his debut crime novel DEAD LANDS before a session I chaired at Bloody Scotland last year, and it sounded intriguing and wonderfully written. Set in 1970s London, DEAD LANDS centres on a man accused of murder who escapes from custody, and the two cops who are trying to find him amidst right-wing marches and racial tensions. Lloyd has got a lot of big raps already, and looks like a writer to watch, bringing something different to the British crime scene. Craig Russell, winner of the CWA Dagger in the Library and the McIlvanney Prize, called him "a big new talent".

Lloyd is a Londoner with a background in media, finance, and technology. He's had short stories published and was a student of the Curtis Brown Creative Writing Course. He shapes as a really exciting prospect in the British crime writing world, and hopefully we'll see a second crime novel from him soon. But for now, he becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
This is a difficult one, but for me it has to be a detective that has something extra special. A person with a real doggedness to their approach and a steely determination that bypasses the red herrings and the untruths. Holmes, Marlowe, and Bosch, are often mentioned and with good reason, but I think I’ll have to go with  Columbo, an astute TV character that puts the ‘D’ into detective, rumoured to be based on Porfiry Petrovich, Dostoevsky’s investigator in Crime & Punishment.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Quite a few of the Marvel comic books resonated with me and they were stories that I really loved as a youngster, because of the artwork and the snappy ‘superhero’ dialogues. Later, Chandler’s short story collection, The Simple Art of Murder. Some of the raw essence of that crime writing still floats around today.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I had two (non-crime) stories selected for an anthology that was part of a Cultural Olympiad project. I also blogged for The Huffington Post, The Bookseller, and had my own fiction/non-fiction book review column for a monthly lifestyle magazine.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I’m undergoing a slight hiatus from the two-wheel biker lifestyle, I’d love to get back on a motorcycle, but I’ve been really too busy to start back up again. Other than that it’s time spent with the family, reading, and going to the gym because I don’t want to get that thing they call ‘writer’s bum.’ Oh, and practising the chords and notes on my guitars. I’m not quite ready to play at the O2 yet, but I can string together the theme from The Godfather, one of the best crime films ever made.

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?
Take a stroll through Dulwich Park on a sunny day, it’s a big park with a pretty landscape and it also has a boating lake. If you feel like exercising the dog, it has a dog walking area situated at the north end. Also, if you have time, visit the The Ship & Shovell, a pub that’s uniquely split into two parts, so that it sits on both sides of a street down at London’s Charing Cross.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Well, Idris Elba is the man of the moment, so it’ll have to be him. He was great in The Wire and strangely menacing as a brooding lone gun-slinging hero in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Dark Tower.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
A piece I wrote at school before I realised I could be a writer was particularly special. A very insightful teacher gave me a high mark for the potential he saw, but a fellow pupil protested about it. The tutor obviously saw something in the writing though and refused to back down, but it made me think and gave me belief.

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?
When I got the call from my publisher, I didn’t believe it at first because a considerable amount of time had passed since the submission. After we had a conversation, it slowly began to sink in and it became surreal. We had to rush out a few copies for Bloody Scotland where I appeared on ‘Crime in the Spotlight’, then when I saw it there on the Waterstones’ shelf, alongside books from seasoned writers like Craig Russell, Craig Robertson and Georges Simenon, I felt very proud. I celebrated that night by spending a very long time at a local bar.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?

Arriving at an author event and being mistaken for a member of a church choir that were using one of the rooms nearby, with some guy hammering away on a piano and a woman singing at full pelt.  After informing the male receptionist that he had sent me to the wrong room, he looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up. However, he attempted to make up for it the next night by feeling the need to ‘discreetly’ let me know that the additional rolls of toilet paper I had requested earlier in the day (for my hotel room) had arrived.

Thank you Lloyd, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch

You can learn more about Lloyd Otis and his writing at his website, and follow him on Twitter.

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