Question: Can you sum up Deadfolk in no more than 25 words? Charlie Williams: A small-town bouncer’s courage is questioned, undermining his self-image as a local big-shot. Taking some bad advice, he sets about trying to prove himself. Things don't work out.
Q: Can you sum up your "hero" Royston Blake in a couple of sentences?
CW: A violent, ignorant thug with delusions of grandeur. But can we blame him, considering his environment?
Q: What was your motivation for writing your Royston Blake series?
CW: I had tried writing several novels set in the world I lived in, but none of those really caught fire. Then I started writing something new, and the main character’s voice came out stronger and more clearly than anything I had written. He seemed to be inspired by a few guys I used to know as a teenager, whose whole view of life revolved around a misplaced concept of what it is to be a man. Along with his voice came the setting--a hellish exaggeration of my home town (Worcester, U.K.) which insisted on being called Mangel. When the story started taking shape, I wanted it to be the British equivalent of one of those small town American noir novels by guys like Jim Thompson. Whether or not it turned out like that, who cares? It got the damn thing done.
Q: There is a lot of "bad" language in Deadfolk and the other books in the series. Do you think this limits the readership?
CW: I hope not. Royston Blake swears a lot, as do many people around him. But he is not really aware of it--he uses swear words like punctuation, to fill gaps and give rhythm to his sentences. This is just the way his voice came to me, and I didn't want to tinker with it. We all think these words, Royston Blake just says them aloud. For him, there is very little divide between his thoughts and his speech. And his actions.
Q: You write crime fiction from the criminal perspective. What is it about this that interests you?
CW: I have tried having a policeman or some sort of investigator as the hero, but those characters always turn bad on me and reveal themselves as worse than the guys they are chasing. I'm not sure if I can explain this obsession with "differently moralled" protagonists. Maybe it's because I can always see both sides of an argument, and it tends to be the accused/perpetrator/transgressor who has the more flexible outlook on things. Cops and other seekers of justice are always dogmatic. I guess I like dogmatic characters too, but only so I can show how absurd they are.
Q: What do you think is the key is to getting humour right in crime fiction?
CW: I don't try to make things funny. I never look for a joke and never think "three pages without a laugh--I'm losing it!" But these moments just suggest themselves as I am writing, and I grab them and shine them up. I think a lot of writers shut themselves off from that side. Many crime writers seem to think their work has to be grim and 100% serious--"we are dealing with REAL HUMAN TRAGEDIES here, folks. It's NOT FUNNY." I say it is funny. Remember at school, when the teacher was talking about something of the utmost gravity, and you caught that look from your classmate? You have to laugh, don't you? You know you shouldn't--that it's the most inappropriate thing to do--but that only makes it funnier. It makes it the funniest thing in the world.