Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham is the author of seven police procedurals featuring Inspector Tom Thorne and his team of inner-city cops. His latest book is the stand-alone thriller, In the Dark.

Ali Karim interviewed Billingham for January Magazine. Part of the Q & A:

AK: In the Dark is very topical, with its theme of inner-city gangs and street crime and its subtle social commentary. Has that criminal world ever crept into your own?

MB: Firstly, I’m glad you use the word “subtle.” I never set out to write anything that’s issue-led. I think that’s the kiss of death. The story always comes first. In previous books I’ve written about violence that was meticulously planned, but I’ve become obsessed with random acts of violence and how they affect people. The nature of the violent act that precipitates this story meant that I was dealing with some of the themes you mention, and inevitably some social commentary creeps in there. I mean, I do have an opinion.

The world you talk about is not one I move through on a daily basis, but I live in the same city and I’m deeply fucked off by some of the things that are happening and by the reactions to them. Kids are killing kids every week and the best our politicians can come up with is the suggestion that parents ask their children if they are carrying a knife before they go out for the evening. Right, that’ll work! They’ve started a stop-and-search campaign with the determination to lock up anyone found carrying a knife, which is knee-jerk and frankly ridiculous when only a tiny percentage of those young men have any intention of using one.

AK: In the Dark reminded me stylistically of George Pelecanos’ work. He writes about the problems of Washington, D.C., while you write about the problems facing your hometown of London. Would you say that’s a fair comment?

MB: If I was stylistically a fraction as good as George Pelecanos, I’d be a very happy man. One strand of the story takes it into the same sort of areas -- geographical as well as thematic -- that he writes about, but right now I feel almost compelled...[read on]

Read the complete interview.

Visit Mark Billingham's website.

--Marshal Zeringue