Third Degree – crime author Laura Wilson

Crime author Laura WilsonHauled in for questioning today is British crime writer and Guardian reviewer Laura Wilson, who is currently working on her 10th novel. Laura, whose books include the DI Stratton series among other mysteries set in the recent past, talks about her TV and reading habits, from Cagney & Lacey to Agatha Christie…

Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
I feel a bit of a fraud answering these questions as my television viewing is completely random – I can never manage to commit to a series, crime or otherwise. I have only the haziest idea about what’s on when (and no idea at all of how to record stuff) so I tend to find myself looking at whatever anyone else happens to be watching at the point when I collapse onto the sofa. I did enjoy Cracker, though, and I liked Morse, although I never really managed to figure out what was going on (beyond the fact that if Morse fancied someone, she was bound to turn out to be the killer). I also quite enjoy Midsomer Murders because it’s so completely implausible, and I love the fact that you can always work out who the killer is before Barnaby does because he/she will be played by the most famous actor in the cast whose character hasn’t already snuffed it. Poirot and Marple are good too, although I don’t think anyone’s been a patch on Joan Hickson.

Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
Cagney & Lacey was brilliant and I used to like Hill Street Blues as well. As to the rest… I haven’t even got round to watching The Sopranos, never mind The Wire.

Top TV cop?
Columbo, because he’s so splendidly crumpled – and he has a basset hound, which makes him just about perfect.  

Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
I wish somebody would make a decent TV drama of Patrick Hamilton’s Gorse trilogy. Years ago, there was a terrible version of the second book in the series, Mr Stimpson & Mr Gorse, starring Nigel Havers, but I’m sure it could be done really well (the 2005 TV version of the 20,000 Streets Under the Sky trilogy was marvellous).

If one of your novels were filmed, who would you cast to be the hero?
That’s tricky. The people I can imagine playing DI Stratton (Albert Finney, Alan Bates, etc) are either too old or no longer with us – I’m sure that there are plenty of others who’d be suitable (and the right sort of age) but nobody springs to mind.

What do you watch with a guilty conscience (or what’s your guilty pleasure)?

I watch all TV with a guilty conscience, because there’s always something else I ought to be doing…  Watching New Tricks makes me feel particularly guilty. I’m not entirely sure why (probably something to do with the execrable theme tune and the fact that somewhere about the halfway mark I always feel sure I’ve seen the episode before, although – given my sporadic viewing habits – this can’t, 99% of the time, actually be the case). I do enjoy it, though, mainly because of the way Amanda Redman’s character bosses the others about all the time.
Least favourite cop show/thriller?
Not sure I’m discriminating enough to answer this question!
Marple/Poirot or Sherlock Holmes?

Probably Poirot, although I enjoyed watching Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes (I can see that Jeremy Brett is probably better, but he always looks as if someone on the set has just farted).

Wallander – BBC or the Swedish version?

Oh, dear. I haven’t watched either – the ‘gloom factor’ put me off…

US or British television crime dramas?

British ones (but this is probably due to my inertia).

Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, David Peace, Horace McCoy, Eoin McNamee, James Ellory (pre-The Cold Six Thousand), Andrew Taylor… and many, many more.

Which crime novel have you read recently that really knocked you out?

Recently, I’ve loved Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer, Hard Twisted by C. Joseph Greaves and A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar.  

A Willing Victim by Laura WilsonFavourite non-crime/thriller author?Lots – particularly Evelyn Waugh, J.G. Farrell, Graham Greene, Patrick Hamilton, Charles Dickens and Daphne du Maurier.

Favourite crime movie or thriller? The Italian Job (original version), Rififi, The League of Gentlemen, Les Diaboliques and Twelve Angry Men.

You’ve been framed for murder. Which fictional detective/sleuth would you want to call up?Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes (I’d have to toss a coin).

Laura Wilson‘s latest novel is A Willing Victim, which was shortlisted for the 2012 Ellis Peters Award for Best Historical Crime Novel. This powerful and disturbing story begins on a dank November day in 1956, when DI Ted Stratton is called to a murder scene – a loner has been stabbed in his Soho lodgings.

Third degree – Sam Millar

Belfast crime-writing ace Sam Millar is the first novelist to be hauled down to 
crimetimepreview headquarters for questioning. Sam has published six novels, 
including The Redemption and The Darkness of Bones, as well as the 
award-winning memoir On the Brinks. Here he reveals how Sean Penn 
might have portrayed him on the big screen…
Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
Life on Mars. I was totally hooked from the very first show. One of those 
rare classics that only hits our screen every decade, if we’re lucky.
Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
Always loved The Sopranos, but then came the brilliant The Wire, and
knocked them off the top of my list. 

Top TV cop?
Columbo. Oh, one more thing...
Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
Er, my Karl Kane series of books, which accidentally, are being considered 
as we speak by Carnival Films. Sorry for such grovelling self-promotion.
If one of your novels were filmed, who would you cast to be the hero?
Liam Neeson, would be the obvious choice, as Karl Kane is a Belfast PI. 
But when Warner Brothers bought the rights to my memoir, On The Brinks
they were looking at Sean Penn to play me, which I found slightly bizarre, 
if highly complimentary.
What do you watch with a guilty conscience?
Mad Men. I hate smoking and sexism, but I’ve become totally addicted 
to the show and all its vices and non-pc jargon.
Least favourite cop show/thriller?
Heartbeat. A paradox title for a show with very few actors’ hearts 
actually beating.
Do you prefer The Wire or The Sopranos?
The Wire (sorry, Big Tony).
Marple/Poirot or Sherlock Holmes?

Wallender – BBC or the original Swedish version?
The Swedish version. I find it grittier, even though fellow Belfastian, 
Kenneth Branagh is in the BBC adaptation and doing a fine job.
Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
So many great ones, it’s hard to be selective. Cormac McCarthy, 
Nelson DeMille, Jon Land, Declan Hughes, and two powerful crime 
writers to watch out for in the future: Leigh Russell (Road Closed
and James Thompson (Snow Angels). 
Favourite non-crime/thriller author?
Graham Greene. Timeless writing.
Favourite crime movie or thriller?
I have two. No Country for Old Men, even though it wasn’t 
half as good as the book, and The Long Good Friday, arguably 
the best British gangster movie ever made, for my money.
You’ve been framed for murder. Which 
fictional detective do you want to call up?
Jim Rockford. He mightn’t get me off, but 
he’s cheap!

Sam Millar’s latest Karl Kane novel is 

‘The Dark Place’

Ballots and bullets

We’re being asked to vote for a party of luminaries whose members hang round dodgy types, have the odd drink problem and have been said to habitually use cocaine.

But then who wouldn’t rather vote for a Holmes, Morse, Tennison or Foyle than the usual bunch paraded before us at elections.

The voting for the People’s Detective Dagger has just started, and fans of ITV’s top sleuths can endorse their fave on the website for the snappily named Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards on ITV3 in Conjunction with the Crime Writers’ Association.

It’s all part of the build-up to the 2010 awards ding-dong on Friday 8 October – the result of the ITV3 and the CWA joining forces last year – when the year’s top crime authors and novels are celebrated. The People’s Detective Dagger will be presented at the event.

To get everyone in the mood for voting, ITV3 is running a six-week season of new crime and thriller docs about the detectives and shortlisted books. Here’s the schedule:

Ep 1: Morse/Frost 9pm Thurs 2nd Sept/Mon 6th Sept

Ep 2: Marple/Tennison
9pm Tues 7th Sept/Thurs 9th Sept/Mon 13th Sept

Ep 3: Wycliffe/Barnaby 9pm Tues 14th Sept/Thurs 16th Sept/Mon 20th Sept

Ep 4: Rebus/Lewis 9pm Tues 21st Sept/Thurs 23rd Sept/Mon 27th Sept

Ep 5: Wexford/Foyle 9pm Tues 28th Sept/Thurs 30th Sept/Mon 4th Oct

Ep 6: Poirot/Sherlock
9pm Tues 5th Oct/Wed 6th Oct/Thurs 7th Oct

Personally, I think Barnaby’s got less the personal magnetism than Gordon Brown, and would much rather have a social drinker like Rebus getting the nod.

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