Friday 3 February 2012

Dancing With Myself: JOHN LAWTON interviews JOHN LAWTON

This is your first inclusion in a "Mammoth", yet you've been in print for over fifteen years.  What took you so long?

More like twenty five years, but ... de nada. The answer's obvious though.

The short story is not a form I'd ever used until asked. I was a scriptwriter, then a novelist.

Never written a short story until Otto Penzler asked me.

Why did you say yes?

I was approaching the end of A Lily of the Field [sea minor note - currently a top-ten kindle hit in the UK]. The point where you go over everything for error and continuity and so on ... Lily was a book that cost me brain damage. The opportunity to do something else for a while was irresistible and timely. I was living in Italy, high up a mountainside. I took a long walk and came back with East Of Suez mapped out in my mind. It's a mild comedy ... my 'Our Man in Havana'. If it had a subtitle it would be Homage a Graham Greene. And it's loosely based on real things.
Greene's favourite of yours?

He was. Haven't read him in ages. Maybe it's time to re-read.

Would a Graham Greene be your Desert Island book?

No. That would come down to a flip of the coin, perhaps two flips.

Crime and Punishment, Vanity Fair ... Anna Karenina, maybe Middlemarch.

No contemporaries in that list?

Not right now. Ask me again in a year's time.

I really liked AD MIller's debut this year (Snow Drops), but desert island books should be things you've lived with for ages I think.

If your books were filmed who do you see as Troy?

Hard one, but Depp would do. Tosca's easier ... that's Janeane Garofalo.

Diana Brack I wrote with Anna Chancellor in mind, but Samantha Bond would be just as good.

I invented Walter Stilton for Michael Elphick. He's been dead a while now.

If you hadn't been a writer what would you like to have been?

Will a fantasy answer suffice? If so, I think I'd have been a Victorian naturalist, round about 1875, with an interest in amphibians, especially toads.

Toads? You're kidding?

Absolutely not. Newts too.

If you got seriously rich what would you do?

Sue. I'd get very litigious. I think every retiring Prime Minister should be indicted. Let them account for their actions. Guilty until proven innocent. I think I'd use the loot to bring private prosecutions against the buggers. And I'd start with Thatcher and Blair.

What's next?

Next ... well the new book has a provisional title of "...Then we take Berlin" and is set there in 1948 and 1963. The old ones will be put on Kindle ... started on Christmas Day I believe.

sea minor - the Mammoth Best British Crime 9 is now available at the bargain price of £4.49 

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