Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Thanks mum.

I sent my mother a copy of Spinetingler last week. Well, to be fair she asked for one when she heard my story was in it, and who am I to deny my mother what she wants?*

She phoned yesterday, having finally found time to read Natural Causes, and do you know what she said?

'It's pure Stuart MacBride!'

Now, mum's known Stuart a long time, and is very fond of him. She's read both of his books, though she did find the first one heavy going. Especially the detailed autopsy scenes and the picture in the front of a dead teddy bear being cut open by a teddy bear pathologist whilst a slightly queasy-looking policeman teddy bear looked on. So her critique of my little story was meant as a compliment, and in the main I took it as one.

I can console myself with knowing that she doesn't read a lot of crime fiction, too. A few Rankins and Alexander McCall Smith, yes. But she's not a Mark Billingham groupie and has probably never heard of most of the writers I met at Harrogate.** She isn't perhaps all that well-read in the cutting edge of the genre. Her comparison was well-intentioned, but it left me with a slight feeling of nervousness.

Before writing the Inspector McLean stories, I had never really tried my hand at anything remotely resembling crime fiction, at least not in a conventional sense. I'd not read a whole heap either; just the aforementioned Rankins and some Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie in my misspent youth. To my eternal shame, I've not even managed to read The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency yet, so score 1-0 to mum.*** I have however read Cold Granite at least three times, Dying Light a similar number, and Broken Skin/Bloodshot/Dead Centre twice.

I'm not a great re-reader. Once is generally enough for me, and there are too many books out there I've not read yet to waste my time on going over ones I have. This, I know, is short-sighted. There is so much more to be gained from a second reading. But it's the way I am. So those few books that I have returned to, for whatever reason, stick with me. And this then becomes the nub of my worry, especially as I embark on the writing of my first full crime novel:

Am I being too derivative? And more pertinently, am I being too derivative of Stuart MacBride?

Since I've not written a word yet, it's hard to be sure. And I've deliberately aimed for something different. Inspector McLean is not, I hope, just another policeman trying to do a hard job in an uncaring world. For one thing, he sees ghosts - though not in a Dubric Brierly way I hope**** - or at least he thinks he does. It might just be him going mad.

But it does bother me, if only slightly. Call it insecurity, if you want to get all psychoanalytical on me. I know that I don't know everything about crime fiction, so I am at the same time mining what little I do know, and trying hard not to let that show.

*you don't have to answer that.

** but then, neither have I.
Mother was befriended by Dorothy L Sayers when she was a little girl, and given a cat by her called Lord Peter Whimsy. So maybe she knows more about the genre than I give her credit for.
**** Inspector McLean made his first appearance in a graphic novel I scripted in 1993, followed by another in 1994, part-drawn by a certain bearded writist, then again in novels in 1998 and 1999, so I can genuinely say that his ghost-seeing abilities predate my knowledge of Tamara Siler Jones' fine novels.*****
***** which you should read, if you haven't yet.


Blogger Vincent said...

I must say, I read it and not once did I think of Stuart MacBride. Except when it mentions Constable Stuart MacBride. The rest of the time, not once.

Then again, I haven't read any novels by MacBride, McCall-Smith, Rankin or indeed any crime writer save Rickards. And yes, I do feel dirty admitting that.

Aside from getting a little confused with the names of the victims (which I do with any whodunnit) I found it an enjoyable mélange of Taggart (yes, I have at least watching crime fic on TV) and Edgar Allan Poe (yes, I have seen the relevant episodes of The Simpsons).

October 18, 2006 10:30 pm  
Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

"Then again, I haven't read any novels by MacBride,"

Vincent - shame on you: get thee hence to a bookshop and purchase both books! 'Tis the only way to save your soul!

And James, if the rest of us have to be called the 'New Ian Rankin' all over the shop, you'll just have to put up with being the 'New Stuart MacBride'. You've got a beard, so it's less of stretch than it is with me and Mr Rankin.

But if you are going to be the new me, can you come up to Aberdeen and give the old me a hand with the sanding and varnishing?

October 19, 2006 10:50 am  
Blogger Vincent said...

Hmm, the evangelical approach. When Rickards tried to sell his novel to me, he went for a threatening 'I'll come round your house and nail all your furniture to the ceiling if you don't'.

Frankly, the threat would have been just as effective if he'd stopped after 'I'll come round your house...'

October 19, 2006 1:38 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Vincent, do you feel dirty admitting that you've not read all those authors, or that you have read Rickards?

On second thoughts, ignore that question.

Mr Stuart, I'd love to come up to Aberdeen and help with your DIY, but you've broken your power sander, and I can only work with expensive toys.

Actually, I favour that 'not quite finished' look - very fashionable it is.

October 19, 2006 3:07 pm  

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