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March 2021

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The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung
3rd March 2021 - Maxine Mei-Fung Chung

A fascinating essay from Maxine Mei-Fung Chung,
author of The Eighth Girl

 

The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung

 

With her debut novel The Eighth Girl, Maxine Mei-Fung Chung has deftly created an intelligent contemporary thriller, woven with a multilayered and compelling exploration of Dissociative Identity Disorder. Recently optioned for development for Netflix, this is destined to become one of the most talked about thrillers of 2021.

Especially for Foyles Maxine has written a fascinating essay where she shares her process in writing the novel while working as a practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapist, and how it really is time that Dissociative Identity Disorder is presented empathetically across the media. 

 


 

An Unquiet Mind: The Power of Fiction for Exploring Mental illness
 

        The stigma had to go. A weary shorthand for human distress and hurting, it was far too denouncing, so Alexa Wú made herself known to me demanding that I listen up, take note and make her multiple shapes on the page. On weekends, fresh mornings and any free time between patients she insisted on my complete attention and invited herself to occupy my thoughts and imagination. I had sat, for too many years, with patients who believed their diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder—previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder—was misrepresented in the culture, or worse, disbelieved. Patients shared how unseen they felt, how misunderstood and pathologized they still were. I took my character by the hand and made a commitment to sit with her while I attempted to find words that would do her, and my patients, justice. 


        When asked about the inspiration behind The Eighth Girl, more questions have followed: Had I always wanted to be an author, to write a suspense novel, a thriller? Was character more important, or plot? Did I know the ending before I’d finished writing the novel? What research did I undertake to write with authenticity? 


        The truth is it took me at least four years to finally admit to myself that I was writing a novel. As a psychotherapist, my role has been to listen to stories, not to tell them. Yet in witnessing and listening to the crimes committed against my patients, I cannot help but feel that whilst there is breath in my body I will write and advocate for people who are living with mental illness. I haven’t always wanted to be an author, but I can’t help but write. Plot scares me but I love character development. I didn’t know the ending before I finished my novel, but my character did. And my research was far reaching, and heartbreaking. 


        And so I gathered my notes. Boiled the coffee. And set sail the story of a woman whom crimes had been committed against. That was all I had. I didn’t set out to riff with thriller beats, or to architect suspenseful end of chapter hooks. Twists to short-circuit a brain. I encouraged Alexa Wú, my protagonist, to lead the way. 


        Previously, people living with a diagnosis of DID have been portrayed as serial killers, or psychopaths. But the simple truth is those living with DID are more likely to be the victims of crime, not the ones who commit them. I was also aware of how, in patriarchal terms, language and representation is restricted to writing about women and not for them. I attempted to lean into this void and set out to create a protagonist who was not only living with mental illness but was also a heroine. Alexa Wú, I decided, would not be dehumanised, or kill anyone. Her capacity to love, and to be loved, was also integral to the story.  


        As I managed a dicey balance between my work as a psychotherapist and my desire to research and write The Eighth Girl, I experienced my days as too short frequently telling myself I simply needed more hours in the day. More time to think. And quickly turned this frustration and restlessness into fuel. I also sought out more stories that covered mental illness, specifically DID, and Asian heroines, re-discovering classics like Jekyll and Hyde, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Bell Jar, Sybil, When rabbit howls, though not many others. There were even fewer Asian protagonists.


        As a child I read Enid Blyton and Judy Blume. Later; Steinbeck, Golding, Hardy, Orwell, Le Guin and Lee. Then came the Brontë’s, Du Maurier, Austen and Woolf. However, as I hit my stride in my narrow adolescence I began to realise I wasn’t connecting to the majority of white protagonists I was reading. I needed to expand my experience and went in search to find writers of colour. Within a year I was clutching the mighty words of James Baldwin, Yang Jiang, Ann Petry, Audre Lorde, Maxine Hong Kingston, Zora Neale Hurston and belle hooks. Their voices had me sat up straight—mind alert, heart swelling. With their words on my shelves I plucked any thread of want and belonging and weaved a whole new world. My body felt relief for having books that offered diverse voices and storytelling to which I could relate.

 
        The power of fiction, I believe, has offered me the freedom to write about and examine a life with mental illness, and the acute trauma of existing in a misogynist world. Alexa Wú’s story asks questions about identity and stigma with an underlying call to arms for the prioritisation of mental health in our currently overwhelmed National Health Service. Because fiction is truth. It comforts the troubled and troubles those who have gotten too comfortable. Never get too comfortable. It's a curse.


        As I prepare for publication of The Eighth Girl, I have been asked if I have a sense of how timely my debut novel is considering world events, the pandemic, and the rapid rise of suicide due to mental illness and the hate crimes against Asian people. The heartbreaking and infuriating reality is that stigma around mental illness and structural racism have always lain beneath the veneer—and sometimes not so much—of our living, and they are erupting now. So whilst I do believe The Eighth Girl is timely, I’d say these issues are timeless. They continue to exist with only moments of protest and upheaval in a seemingly never-ending cycle. 


        DID themes can be found right across the entertainment landscape. Perhaps if we are to better understand the condition we need to cease portraying those living with the disorder as psychopaths or wall-crawling lunatics. Only then will people living with dissociated personalities step forward and share with us their experience, and what it’s really like living with an unquiet mind. Greater understanding of the condition is needed for sure, so rather than fetishising these behaviours let’s listen and be guided by those who know best. And rather than speaking about people with mental illness, let’s speak for people with mental illness. Let’s ditch the serial killer trope, and spend a little more time creating our next hero or heroine and their many, many misunderstood selves.

 



Maxine Mei-Fung Chung
 

Maxine Mei-Fung Chung is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, clinical supervisor and training psychotherapist. She lectures on trauma, gender and sexuality, clinical dissociation and attachment theory at the Bowlby Centre and was awarded the Jafar Kareem Bursary for her work supporting people from ethnic minorities experiencing isolation and mental health problems. Originally trained in the arts, she previously worked as a creative director for ten years at Conde Nast, The Sunday Times and The Times. Maxine completed the Faber Academy advanced novel-writing course and currently works in private practice, where she has a particular interest in the creative feminine, advocating for women and girls finding a voice. She lives in London with her son.

 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
2nd March 2021

Read the first chapter of
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

 

When Yaa Gyasi published her debut novel Homegoing in 2017 it instantly became a solid favourite with Foyles booksellers and customers alike. Transcendent Kingdom, her second novel, is published this week, with signed copies available to order, and is already gathering huge praise. A searing story story of love, loss and redemption, and the myriad ways we try to rebuild our lives from the rubble of our collective pasts, Transcendent Kingdom is destined to read the same level of adoration as Homegoing.

Here you can exclusively read the first chapter from this astounding new novel. 

 


1


Whenever I think of my mother, I picture a queen-sized bed with her lying in it, a practiced stillness filling the room. For months on end, she colonized that bed like a virus, the first time when I was child and then again when I was a graduate student. The first time, I was sent to Ghana to wait her out. While there, I was walking through Kejetia Market with my aunt when she grabbed my arm and pointed. “Look, a crazy person,” she said in Twi. “Do you see? A crazy person.”

        I was mortified. My aunt was speaking so loudly, and the man, tall with dust caked into his dreadlocks, was within earshot. “I see. I see,” I answered in a low hiss. The man continued past us, mumbling to himself as he waved his hands about in gestures that only he could understand. My aunt nodded, satisfied, and we kept walking past the hordes of people gathered in that agoraphobia-inducing market until we reached the stall where we would spend the rest of the morning attempting to sell knockoff handbags. In my three months there, we sold only four bags.

        Even now, I don’t completely understand why my aunt singled the man out to me. Maybe she thought there were no crazy people in America, that I had never seen one before. Or maybe she was thinking about my mother, about the real reason I was stuck in Ghana that summer, sweating in a stall with an aunt I hardly knew while my mother healed at home in Alabama. I was eleven, and I could see that my mother wasn’t sick, not in the ways that I was used to. I didn’t understand what my mother needed healing from. I didn’t understand, but I did. And my embarrassment at my aunt’s loud gesture had as much to do with my understanding as it did with the man who had passed us by. My aunt was saying, “That. That is what crazy looks like.” But instead what I heard was my mother’s name. What I saw was my mother’s face, still as lake water, the pastor’s hand resting gently on her forehead, his prayer a light hum that made the room buzz. I’m not sure I know what crazy looks like, but even today when I hear the word I picture a split screen, the dreadlocked man in Kejetia on one side, my mother lying in bed on the other. I think about how no one at all reacted to that man in the market, not in fear or disgust, nothing, save my aunt, who wanted me to look. He was, it seemed to me, at perfect peace, even as he gesticulated wildly, even as he mumbled.

        But my mother, in her bed, infinitely still, was wild inside.

 



Yaa Gyasi
 

Yaa Gyasi was born in Mampong, Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. Her first novel, Homegoing, was a Sunday Times bestseller, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best First Novel and was shortlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. In 2017 Yaa Gyasi was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists and in 2019 the BBC selected her debut as one of the 100 Novels that Shaped Our World.

 

I Am Not Your Baby Mother - Candice Brathwaite
1st March 2021

 

It's about time we made motherhood more diverse
I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite
 

I Am Not Yourt Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite

 

Author Candice Braithwaite first started blogging about motherhood in 2016 after making the simple but powerful observation that the way motherhood is portrayed in the British media is wholly unrepresentative of our society. Her debut book I Am Not Your Baby Mother is  out now in paperback and is a thought-provoking, urgent and inspirational guide to life as a black mother.  It exposes what it's like to deal with the usual range of pregnancy and younger childcare issues, while facing hurdles such as white privilege, racial micro-aggression and unconscious bias at every point.

Here you can read an exclusive extract.

 



‘Children from Black and minority ethnic groups
are more likely to be in poverty: 45 per cent
are now in poverty, compared with 26 per cent
of children in White British families.’
(Child Poverty Action Group, 2019)

 

The idea of a nursery made me happy even if the thought of buying the necessary things like, you know, a cot and nappies, filled me with dread. But the plan was that I would breastfeed exclusively, which would save money. When people smiled and said, ‘Yes, that’s wonderful. So much better for the baby,’ I just grinned and nodded. Truth be told, I could think of few things worse than having a mini-me permanently attached to my tit, but formula was a tenner a tin and I was worried that if the baby’s appetite was anything like its father’s, we would quickly be in the red. Food is a necessity, of course, but if there was a way to keep the overheads of a human being low, we were going to try and utilise it.
 

Despite the need to budget carefully and wisely, there was one item that I absolutely didn’t want to be seen without. It was the mark du jour that supposedly represents the kind of mother you are before you’ve even introduced yourself; the item that acts as a megaphone, announcing what tribe of motherhood you belonged to.
 

The pushchair.
 

Now I’m not talking about any pushchair; this particular  brand was like the Lamborghini of baby vehicles. Its reputation was renowned, and its finish was spectacular.
 

The pushchair in question?
 

A Bugaboo, of course.
 

Before I had fallen pregnant, the only Bugaboo I knew was the hit song by Destiny’s Child. Of course, I knew that babies required some kind of construction to be carted around in. I’d helped a few struggling mothers when they were stranded at one of the many train stations not equipped with lifts. But I’d never had any good reason to research pushchairs in depth.
 

Once again, the Internet wasted no time in reminding me that I was ill-equipped for the task of motherhood. Pages and pages of online forums remarked that the Bugaboo was not only the most stylish pushchair, but also the safest.
 

‘I know they’re expensive,’ one online commentator began, ‘but I couldn’t imagine going for one of these knockoffs. Imagine if something were to happen to the baby? I would never forgive myself.’
 

 Upon reflection, I now see how crazy this all was, but I’m also aware of how deeply rooted my anxiety to get it right was. When black people arrived in the Britain they were told was Great, all they had was the willingness to work and the clothes on their backs, clothes which were always well pressed and well cared for. And looking presentable had been drummed into me from an early age. ‘If you don’t have a pound in your pocket, your attire shouldn’t show it!’  my grandad would recite each morning whilst fussing with the particulars of my school uniform. And of course my nan was slicker than butter on heat. Even though I had long outgrown wanting to wear matching dresses with her, she took her sartorial choices very seriously.
 

We were taught to be proud about how we looked, because the way we presented ourselves impacted on how we were treated by society. We didn’t – and in many ways, still don’t – have the luxury of not thinking about our outfits, because we instinctively know that we have to go the extra mile. So, when young black people are chastised for seeking designer garments before saving their money, I often want to stand up for them, as those who judge these choices don’t seek to understand that there is more to it than wanting to be seen as ‘cool’ or ‘on trend’. Being well dressed and in possession of the latest items was quite literally how black people were able to gain access to spaces that were usually closed off to them, not only for being black but also poor. And appearing to be financially solvent was quicker and cheaper than actually being so.
 

So, I admit that that is exactly what I was doing when trying to get my hands on a Bugaboo. I was trying to present myself to the world as having it all together. I was trying to say that no matter what people thought of me, I wasn’t that. Look, look at my cute baby and thousand-pound pram. I don’t care what you think about any other young black woman with a baby. If you took one look at me, your stereotypes would be shot to shit. 
 

It wouldn’t matter that we were renting our home.


Or that we often skipped lunch or dinner to keep foodcosts down.


Or that we piled on jumpers in the winter because the gas meter took every extra penny.


Or that date nights were spending fifteen pounds in Ikea.


Or that we purchased our mattress from a man with a van for seventy pounds.


None of that would matter as that’s not what the world would see.


I knew that the ‘mother’ version of me would be judged before I even had the chance to introduce myself, so if being able to give myself and my baby a head-start meant getting my hands on a pushchair that made people believe that not only did I know what I was doing, but I also had the wherewithal to get it done.

 



Candice Braithwaite credit Zoe Timmers
 

Candice Brathwaite is the hugely popular influencer and founder of Make Motherhood Diverse - an online initiative that aims to encourage a more accurately representative and diverse depiction of motherhood in the media. She has worked with brands such as Pampers, Ella's Kitchen and Specsavers, and has appeared on countless panels to discuss modern motherhood. Her writing has appeared in Stylist, the Metro and the Huffington Post. I Am Not Your Baby Mother is her first book.

 

Losing Eden by Lucy Jones
25th February 2021

Now more than ever, our minds need the wild - 
Losing Eden by Lucy Jones

 

Losing Eden by Lucy Jones
 

These days too many of us live indoor lives, disconnected from the natural world as never before. In Losing Eden journalist Lucy Jones asks what happens as we lose our bond with the natural world - might we also be losing part of ourselves? Delicately observed and rigorously researched, Jones takes us to the cutting edge of human biology, neuroscience and psychology, and discovers new ways of understanding our increasingly dysfunctional relationship with the earth​. 
Here you can read an exclusive extract 

 



There is a bench on my favourite local walk along an abandoned canal. It is set back from the path and flanked by spindle trees. In winter, on the ground around it, there are snowdrops; in early spring, the ramsons appear, filling the air with the smell of wild garlic. The view changes throughout the year, but one cold, grey wintry day I sat there and stared in a calm daze for a while. Robins sang; the breeze gently moved the catkins. Across the way, a small deer nosed through the undergrowth. Ducks swam quietly. I felt tranquil and serene and, afterwards, rested.
 

We are starting to understand how this type of activity can directly affect the nervous system and thus the way we feel. When we walk in the woods, or by a lake, or spend time in a garden or park, evidence suggests that our parasympathetic nervous system is more likely to be activated. After exposure to nature, our stress recovery response is faster and more complete when compared with exposure to built environments. This has important consequences for our health at a time when stress-related diseases are on the increase.
 

How, exactly, does it work? The parasympathetic nervous system slows the heart, dilates blood vessels, increases digestive juices, relaxes the sphincter and helps you feel calm. It is the ‘rest and digest’ processes at work inside your body, associated with feelings of contentment, sleep and safety. Periods resting the parasympathetic nervous system have been found to have many benefits to our health, from emotional regulation to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. The sympathetic nervous system’s main function is to stimulate the body’s reaction to stress (‘flight or fight’ mode) and is associated with vitality, appetite, excitement and drive. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, the body ignores any non-essential business, such as immune function.
 

Ideally, then, we want a balanced nervous system. An unbalanced system – when the stress response system is activated too much, or left on for too long – leads to physical and mental health problems. One of the mechanisms by which nature makes us mentally well is its effect on our parasympathetic nervous system. It
suggests that if we, as a society, are allowing trees to be cut down, or natural spaces in urban areas to be paved over, we are acting in a way that is damaging to public health. We really need nature in order to recover from the stresses of life.
 

A meta-analysis and systematic review conducted by Miles Richardson and Kirsten McEwan of the University of Derby’s Nature Connectedness Research Group, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science, found that when people were in a natural setting compared with an urban area, they had greater parasympathetic nerve activity and lower sympathetic nerve activity. They were more likely to feel soothed, content or calm. There are many studies that link nature sounds – and particularly a diversity and richness of bird sounds – to decreased stress and a quicker recovery of a balanced nervous system. Even people under anaesthetic have been found to produce fewer chemical biomarkers associated with stress – such as amylase in saliva – when played a recording of soft wind or birdsong. 
 

But the opportunities to hear the sounds of the non-human world are reducing. Bernie Krause, an American musician and soundscape ecologist, who has recorded the natural world since the 1960s, said that in 1968 it would take him ten hours of recording to gather one perfect hour of nature’s sounds without any human
noise that was good enough for an album or film soundtrack. By 2001, it took him up to 1,000 hours or more of recording. ‘Fully 50 per cent of my archive comes from habitats so radically altered that they’re either altogether silent or can no longer be heard in any of their original form.’ Other studies investigate the impact of the scents of nature on the nervous system. A Japanese study found that smelling cedar wood was associated with parasympathetic nervous activity, decreased heart rate and thus a state of physiological relaxation.

 



Lucy Jones

 

Lucy Jones is a writer and journalist based in Hampshire, England. She previously worked at NME and the Daily Telegraph, and her writing on culture, science and nature has been published in BBC Earth, BBC Wildlife, The Sunday Times, the Guardian and the New Statesman. Her first book, Foxes Unearthed, was celebrated for its 'brave, bold and honest' (Chris Packham) account of our relationship with the fox, winning the Society of Authors' Roger Deakin Award 2015.

 

Apeirogon by Colum McCann
23rd February 2021

A Q&A with Colum McCann as his novel
Apeirogon is published in paperback


Aperigon by Colum McCann
 

Crossing centuries and continents, stitching time, art, history, nature and politics into a tapestry of friendship, love, loss and belonging, Colum McCann's Apeirogon is an outstanding work of literary fiction and is now published in paperback. McCann tok part in a Q&A with Foyles and his answers will give you more context to the novel and his approach to writing it, and then click the button below to buy your copy.

 



Firstly, what is an Apeirogon and why did you choose this title?
 

An apeirogon is a shape with a countably infinite number of sides.  It's a risky title, I know, and a mysterious one, but then again the book is risky and mysterious too I hope.   I wanted to say that the whole world is apparent in Israel and Palestine, the meeting of four continents and at least three major religions.  But the whole world is also embedded in the story of two fathers who have lost their daughters.  We are all compelled by this story, no matter where in the world we happen to be.  And we are all complicit too.  We are all part of the connected shape.  All the grief, all the joy, all the beauty.  
 

Apeirogon tells a very special story, what inspired you to write about characters in Israel and Palestine?
 

I went on a trip with a very special organisation called Telos.  It's an organisation designed to equip peacemakers and peace-seekers with the ability to heal intractable conflicts, or supposedly intractable conflicts.  It is pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace.  I went there with my own non-profit, Narrative 4, a global story exchange organisation.  And I met Rami and Bassam, these two very special men.  And I hesitate to say this, but they pulled my tired-out mind and made me see the world differently.  Their stories were unbelievable and brave.  And I knew they were part of a vast continuum.  For me, they were at the centre of the shape of the world.  And I wanted to write about them.
 

What kind of research did you carry out during the writing process?
 

I went to Israel and Palestine several times.  I interviewed Rami and Bassam almost endlessly.  I walked, I drove, I shared bread with them.  And I read and read and read.  And I delved into the abyss in certain ways.   It took me a long time to write and there was almost endless research, but I think that is a joyous thing too.  I am curious about the world.  And I want to live my life out loud.  It's such a wondrous and heart-breaking place, this spinning planet of ours. 
 

The novel has a unique form, what effect does this have on the reading experience and how does it reflect the subject?
 

Yes, it's unusual.  It's split into 1001 different sections.  It builds up to section 500 and then it moves in a downward direction to number one, so that it is possible to read it backwards (though preferable to read it forwards).  It is shaped like a mountain and at the apex of the mountain we -- the readers -- become the narrators.  We speak from the mountain.   It also is (at least initially) quite disorienting.  I did this on purpose because I wanted readers to surrender themselves to the confusion.  I wanted them to be a little knocked off balance.   I didn't want my readers to get mired in trying to understand anything but the emotional heart of the story, which is a story about two fathers who have lost their daughters and use the weapon of their grief to try to heal the world. 
 

What would you like readers to take away from your novels?
 

I would like them to become the creators.  In other words, they own the novel.   And I would like for them to be slightly changed . And for them to bring that change to others, in whatever guise that takes.  I want nothing less from my readers than that they change the reality on the ground.   And so often they do.  It's not about me anymore, it's about them.  They begin to read it, the book is theirs. 

 



Colum McCann

 

Colum McCann is the author of six novels and three collections of stories. His most recent novel, TransAtlantic, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013, and his previous novel, Let the Great World Spin, won the National Book Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was a New York Times bestseller. His work has been published in forty languages and has received many international honours, including a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, election to the Irish arts academy and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China and an Oscar nomination. He is the co-founder of the non-profit global story exchange organisation, Narrative 4, and he teaches at the MFA program in Hunter College. He was born in Dublin and lives in New York. colummccann.com

 

Cry Baby by Mark Billingham
20th February 2021 - Mark Billingham

 Mark Billingham reflects on the twenty years of crime writing as his new novel Cry Baby is published in paperback
 

Cry Baby by Mark Billingham

 

Cry Baby by Mark Billingham is his seventeenth novel featuring his signature character Tom Thorne, one of the most-loved detectives in UK crime fiction. Exclusively for Foyles Billigham has written about the progression of his detective over the last twenty years, and how times have changed for us all, and why now was the time to go back, waaaaaay back.

 


   

With my twentieth novel – Cry Baby – about to come out, I still find it amazing to think that it’s the best part of two decades since this journey began; since I wrote a novel called Sleepyhead and created a copper called Tom Thorne, never thinking for a moment that I’d still be writing about him twenty years down the road.

    A lot has changed in those twenty years…

    The publishing landscape is certainly very different to the one I first encountered back in 2001. This is largely due, of course, to the rise of E-books and self-publishing. As a reader I have remained loyal to physical books, but as a writer, the differing ways that books are now delivered and enjoyed is something we have all had to embrace. I have no issue at all with books being downloaded to be read on tablets and phones, as long as the writer of those books is fairly rewarded for their efforts. No writer enjoys seeing a book it took them a year to write being sold for less than a pound or, even worse, copied illegally by pirates and given away for nothing. Right now, we have more reason than ever to be grateful for the resilience of bookshops and it is hugely uplifting to see them open again after a lockdown that saw so many people turning to books to help them through a difficult time. I can only hope that libraries are able to recover, too. 

    I am not the same man I was twenty years ago (like Thorne, I’m a little more knackered and a lot greyer) and I’m not the same writer. I certainly hope I’m a better writer. It took me ages to understand why most writers find each book a little harder to write than the previous one until it finally dawned on me that it was because they’re trying to write a better book. You can’t always manage it, of course, but that has to be the ambition. So, yes…there is a little more pressure each time, but it’s good pressure and – until Elvis Costello calls to ask if I fancy writing a few songs with him – telling stories for a living remains the best job in the world.

    My detective has changed more radically over the last twenty years than I have, and he will continue to change, because he must. He is a character who deals daily with death and grief and violence. He cannot be the same person at the end of one book, let alone seventeen, so Tom Thorne is a very different character in Cry Baby to the one I came up with for Sleepyhead.

    For this twentieth book, I have sent him back in time to 1996, but don’t worry, it’s a prequel to that debut novel and not a time-travel adventure. I wanted to write about Thorne as a younger and less cynical character; as a husband and son. I was keen to see what had made him the copper he was in that first outing, plus it was hugely enjoyable to write about a time before mobile phones and Twitter and CCTV. A time when you used an A-Z to find your way around and got your photos developed at the chemist’s. The mid-nineties feels like five minutes ago, and yet I often felt as though I was writing a historical novel, albeit one that features George Michael and smoking in pubs as opposed to Hansom cabs or Roman vases.

    And what was I doing in the summer of 1996?

    Well, like Thorne I was getting excited about Euro ‘96 (I was at Wembley when we thumped Holland 4-1) but I was also just starting to think about turning my passion for crime fiction into something else; about biting the bullet and finally trying to write that novel. I was interviewing other writers, reviewing books and standing about awkwardly at festivals and conventions. I was hanging around on the fringes of the crime fiction community trying to look keen, while never daring to imagine that one day it would be a community I was proud to be part of.

 


 

Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham has twice won the Theakston's Old Peculier Award for Crime Novel of the Year, and has also won a Sherlock Award for the Best Detective created by a British writer. 
Each of the novels featuring Detective Inspector Tom Thorne has been a SundayTimes bestseller. Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat were made into a hit TV series on Sky 1 starring David Morrissey as Thorne, and a series based on the novels In the Dark and Time of Death was broadcast on BBC1. Mark lives in north London with his wife and two children.

 

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