Mark Billingham

(Mark Philip David Billingham)

Mark Billingham
Mark Billingham
  • Born: July 2, 1961
  • Nationality: English
  • Profession: Novelist









Quote Topics Cited
A good agent will sometimes need to be a scrapper, and that's the one you want.
A reader's own imagination is a far more powerful form of CGI than anything any movie can provide because it's unique. In your own imagination, you can enter all sorts of worlds, and they are unique to you because no other reader will interpret a book the same way.
All writers I know are readers first and foremost, and that's why you become a writer.
All you can hope for when you get a book adapted for TV is that you get a good actor and not some muppet off 'EastEnders.' Hope
An actor's life is all about rejection. It's you they don't want; it's you who's too tall or too short or too fat. With stand-up, it doesn't matter what you look like. Life
As a writer, you're making a pact with the reader; you're saying, 'Look, I know and you know that if this book was really a murder investigation, it would be a thousand pages long and would be very dull, and you would be very unhappy with the ending.'
As crime writers, we put these characters, year after year, book after book, through the most horrendous trauma, dealing with grief and death and loss and violence. We can't pretend that these things don't affect these characters; they have to. If they don't, then you're essentially writing cartoons. Death
As I write each new Thorne novel, I'm determined that whatever is happening plot-wise, a new layer of the onion will be peeled away and reveal something about Thorne that is surprising to me as much as anyone else. If I can remain interested in the character, then hopefully the reader will stay interested, too.
Crime fiction has always been what I wanted to read, so when I sat down to write my first book, it was naturally the way that I was going to go.
Crime is the biggest genre in libraries and in bookshops, and it is hugely varied.
Having worked as both comedian and crime writer, the one thing I know is that both involve the delivery of a performance.
I admire writers such as Elmore Leonard who can nail a character in three or four lines of dialogue, so he doesn't need pages of back story or clumsy exposition.
I am trying to give the best performance possible in 400 pages. I want readers to be scared; I want them to be moved. Entertainment doesn't necessarily mean something trivial, but it does mean people wanting to get to the end of a book.
I believe that if writers want their readers to care about a character, they have to care themselves. I have to root for a detective who screws up as much as Thorne does, who shares my birthday, my North London stomping ground, and my love of country music, both alt and cheesy. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Music, Chants & Rapps
I bought an insurance policy covering the inheritance tax my kids will have to pay when we die, which I thought was a good bit of forward thinking. And I always know I'm going to have enough for tax because I make sure I keep it back in my business account. Business, Commerce & Finance
I could never gamble on stocks and shares because I saw my father get hurt that way - he lost quite a lot of money when the stock market collapsed in 2001. Money, Coins & Minting
I discovered reading through libraries. I grew up in a house that wasn't brimming with books.
I do have a touch of OCD, and I used to obsess about research. But I'm better than I was. Gone are the days when I would drive to a set of traffic lights to find out if you could turn left. I finally realised it didn't matter. A book will not stand or fall on whether or not there's a branch of Starbucks in Brixton.
I find traveling anywhere very stressful. If I ever have to go on tour, I tend to find it all a bit too stressful. I am too much of a control freak with traveling, and nothing is ever on time. The one thing I can't stand is being late. Time
I moved from acting to stand-up because castings are just about what you look like. It doesn't matter if you can act or not. In comedy, no one cares what you look like.
I often wonder, with my hand on my heart, if 'The Dying Hours' was made into the biggest movie franchise in history, would I pick up my pen again? Wouldn't I be happier spending the rest of my life travelling around with my wife? Life ;History
I read 'Jaws' and 'The Godfather' back to back one summer when I was 14 and was suddenly aware of how powerful fiction could be.
I started performing as a stand-up comedian on my own in the mid-1990s.
I think it's very easy to disgust the reader with violence on the page - that's incredibly easy - but it's far harder to make a reader care about a character.
I think readers' imaginations are far more powerful than anything you can put on a page and, therefore, can conjure up graphic images for themselves, which I think you just have to nudge them towards.
I think there's as much violence, in a way, as a scene with two women having a cup of coffee in a Ruth Rendell novel - in terms of emotional violence and the violence you can inflict with language - as there is in the most graphic kind of serial killer/slasher novel you can think of. Women
I think women tend to write about how violence feels, whereas men tend to write about what violence looks like. Women
I used to be something of an obsessive when it came to research. When I first began writing the Thorne novels, I would drive to a set of traffic lights in the early hours of the morning to make sure you could turn left. I thought it was important to get even the most trivial details right. Morning
I wanted to write at school - to write funny stories which the teacher might ask me to read out to the class. It's all basically about showing off. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Humor
I was never a fan of cozy mysteries of anything set in the countryside, you know.
I write slowly and get distracted a lot.
Ian Rankin's Rebus is the king of modern British crime fiction. He is dour, determined, and constantly falls foul of his seniors. For all this, we root for him. He is eminently loveable, a quixotic hero moving through the darker half of a Jekyll and Hyde Edinburgh.
I'd read one too many crime novels where the victim was just a name: body number one, dead woman number 12. I understood fear, and I wanted to create characters who made readers say, 'Please, don't hurt this guy.' That's the key to suspense. It's easy to disgust a reader. It's much harder to make them care.
If something is crucial to the plot, then I'd better be sure I've got my facts straight. Readers of crime novels are smart and savvy, and they'll waste no time letting me know if there's a hole in my plot. Time
If the weather is nice, I play tennis, which is pretty much the only exercise that I do. I try to do that as much as I can.
I'm a city boy. I grew up in a big city, in Birmingham, and I want to write about a city. It's much richer tapestry for me than green fields. Fields and wild life make me feel ill. I don't like - I don't want to write about that stuff. Life
I'm completely absorbed by Peter Guralnick's definitive, two-part biography of Elvis Presley: 'Last Train To Memphis' and 'Careless Love.' Meticulously researched, this is a compelling mix of history, myth-busting, and, of course, some timeless music. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Music, Chants & Rapps ;History
In America, they have specialist mystery book stores with whole sections devoted to cat mysteries, golf mysteries, quilting mysteries. It's a hugely broad genre from the darkest noir to tales of a 19th-century vet who solves crimes, thanks to his talking cat.
In the 1970s, there was a trend for all detectives on TV to have some quirk or gimmick, and this was often physical.
It may sound surprising, but a joke and a crime novel work in very much the same way. The comedian/writer leads their audience along the garden path. The audience know what's coming, or at least they think they do until they get hit from a direction they were not expecting. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
It never ceases to amaze me that readers who are willing to suspend their disbelief when it comes to the motivation of a vicious serial killer get high and mighty because I have put a coffee shop where there isn't one. Er... it's a novel. I made one up. I'm allowed to make stuff up. I'd go as far as to suggest that I make stuff up for a living.
It's heretical, I know, but I've never really been able to get on with Agatha Christie. She is, of course, a giant of the genre, but I never feel that she cared a great deal about the characters. Consequently, neither do I.
I've always slightly preferred Spade to Marlowe, probably just because I thought Hammett was cooler than Chandler. He was leftwing, his name shortened to Dash rather than Ray, and he didn't smoke a pipe or like cats.
I've never read an ebook. Print every time. Time
I've often said the reader knows every bit as much about Thorne as I do. When I created him for 'Sleepyhead,' I was determined he should be a character who would develop, book by book, change and grow as we all do, and who - crucially - would be unpredictable.
Like my fictional protagonist Tom Thorne, I love country. My tastes go back a bit further than his do, and I still listen to stuff from the late '70s and early '80s. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
More than 100 years after he first appeared, Holmes remains the template for the fictional detective.
My dad was a terrible father. Dreadful. But he had a very difficult childhood. He was fostered - he never knew who his father was. So he had a very different attitude to family and kids. I don't have any issues. I'm not suffering some secret angst. Families, Children & Parenting
Of course there's pressure, and it's still there with every book. Each one is harder to write than the last, basically because you're always trying to write a better book. You won't always succeed, of course, but that has to be what you're shooting for.
Part of the reason why Scandinavian crime has been so popular is the landscape. It is just so strong and alien. Although without taking anything away, you should probably also never discount the fact that blood does look particularly good against snow.
The day a character becomes predictable is the day a writer should think about moving on - because the reader certainly will.
The fact is that most crime novels contain a good many punchlines. They are just rather darker than the ones you might hear in a comedy club.
The problem with being a writer is that some readers tend to think that anything that comes out of a character's mouth is you talking.
There are a number of writers who believe it is their duty to throw as many curve balls at the reader as possible. To twist and twist again. These are the Chubby Checkers of crime fiction and, while I admire the craft, I think that it can actually work against genuine suspense. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
There have been some brilliant and very successful standalone books that work in themselves and also seem to refresh a series. Anyone who writes a series lives in fear of it becoming stale, so you do whatever you can to keep it fresh - although it does feel a bit nerve-racking to write outside of your comfort zone. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Too much research can be the writer's enemy. You can spend days on end in the British Library or prowling the streets with a Dictaphone, and it's easy to convince yourself that you're working hard. Often, it can be an excuse not to work; a classic displacement activity. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
We didn't have all the distractions that young people have today. We didn't have these incredible computer games and social networks to engage with. I understand that. But once young readers do discover reading, when they discover a book which they fall in love with, it really unleashes something new in their imagination. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
What I usually do is hoard money - I accumulate as much as possible in the fear of not having enough to pay tax. Money, Coins & Minting
When a crime writer thinks up a delicious twist, it is a great moment. Time to relax and take the rest of the day off. I do think that it can be overdone, however. Time
When I began to write, I was surprised at how little London had been used in crime fiction. Places such as Edinburgh or Oxford or L.A. seemed to have stronger identities.
When you think of a great twist or a red herring or a way of misdirecting the reader, it is good, but you know that they are just tricks at the end of the day, and the way to keep interest is to write characters that people care about.
Whenever people ask where I get my sick and twisted ideas from, I reply, 'Just open your eyes.'
Whether you do stand-up comedy or write a story, you have a duty to deliver. As a comedian, you walk out on stage, and you have a minute to hook them, or they'll start booing. As a writer, it's very similar. A reader doesn't have time to say, 'I'll give him 50 pages, as it's not very good yet, but I hope it'll get better.' Time ;Hope
Whether your audience is in a sweaty basement club or nestled in a favourite armchair, good money has been paid, and attention has got to be grabbed if you are not to be heckled off the stage or find your novel discarded in favour of the latest volume of 'Fifty Shades of Whatever.' Money, Coins & Minting
While the subject matter of my novels could not be further removed from the stuff I used to trot out at the Comedy Store, the delivery of the material employs many of the same techniques.
You throw the kitchen sink at your early books. You put everything in there. It's like when you meet a new girlfriend or boyfriend, you tell them all your best stories. By the time you have been married for 10 years, they are crying, 'Shut up!' Time