Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Interview with author Mark Dawson

1.) Mark, can you tell us a little about you as a writer and your novel, The Black Mile?

Hi, Ty – thanks for having me. I’ve always been a writer, for as long as I can remember. I had a couple of novels published by Macmillan a few years ago but since then a combination of poor ideas, a lack of time and a young daughter (those last two might be connected) have conspired with the result that my writing has been less than effective. I managed to claw a little time back for myself recently, and have made an effort to get back into the swing of things. And I’m loving it.

The Black Mile is a fast-paced novel based around a real-life serial killer who operated in London during the Blitz in 1942. The Black-Out Ripper is not well known, but he killed five women in a week before he was caught and hung. I've taken the facts of the case as a foundation and used those to set up a page-turner that I would (humbly) suggest is what LA Confidential might have been like if Elroy had set it in wartime London rather than 50s California.

2.) What are your future plans with your writing?

First: lots of it. I have just about completed a really fun first novel in what could easily be a series. A young soldier comes back from the war at the end of the 40s and ends up falling in with a criminal family. It’s inspired by The Sopranos, and the way I see it at the moment has it spanning a long period, following the family and their cohorts throughout the second half of the twentieth century. I’m really pleased with it.

3.) The Black Mile appears to be a mixture of historical fiction, crime noir, and police procedural fiction. What has drawn you to write such literature?

I’m a big, big fan of James Elroy, so his influence has drawn me down into that genre. Same goes for David Peace – a UK writer I very highly recommend for anyone who hasn’t come across his gritty novels yet. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have been hooked up with some retired police officers and others from the justice system over here; authenticity is critical for me, and they have enabled me to pump the books full of detail that – I hope – evoke period detail and help the whole thing to ring true. I’m also a big fan of the argot of the time, and dialogue has always been one of the more enjoyable parts of writing for me. Give me a period like the 40s and 50s, dripping with slang, and I’m like a pig in… well, you get the picture.

4.) Who are some writers who have influenced you?

Elroy, Peace, Dickens, Leonard.

5.) Who are some actors you feel could portray your characters in a movie?

Great question. I tend to write with the actors already cast for their roles, spinning around in my head. The Black Mile would feature Damien Lewis in the lead, with support from Harold Pinter.

6.) As you put in an e-mail to me, you are just "dipping your toe" into the Kindle. How have you found the process of digital publishing? Frustrating? Fun?

A piece of cake. I’m competent with computers, but far from an expert, and I had been a little anxious about the process of converting from Word to Kindle. But Amazon has really nailed this, haven’t they? It took me a day or so to adapt the MSS and strip out the stuff I didn’t need, and the converter did the rest. I’ve also been lucky enough to be good pals with the artist who was behind some of the covers used for Bret Easton Ellis and Douglas Coupland’s novels over here, and he very kindly agreed to paint – yes, PAINT – a cover for me. We were aiming for the kind of covers that were popular in the 40s and 50s, the pulpy, exploitative sleeves that got writers in trouble with the obscenity laws over here. I think we pretty much nailed it. So, if nothing else, I can say this – I reckon The Black Mile stands up well when it comes to its looks. Fingers crossed the writing hits the spot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that the book is not only a brilliant crime/police procedural novel but also gave me a great insight into what it was like to live in black market wartime London.
If anywhere near as well researched looking forward to the new books