Ahead of our Quay Words Winter event, Simon Brett: 'Making crime pay' on 12th February, we asked Lee Rawlings who'll be in conversation with Simon give us a taster of what we can expect. Lee interviews Simon here.
Simon Brett is a prolific novelist mostly know for his work in crime fiction (Mrs. Pargeter , Fethering etc) but he is much more besides; delving and mastering comedy, radio play writing and even some acting. Simon has been printed by various publishers including MacMillan, Gollanz and Severn house and worked with people like Frank Muir and even had his words spoken by Bill Nighy. Take a look at his website you will be surprised at what he gets up to away from the murders.
You are known for writing crime but you also wear many other hats. What would be your second creative love next to enjoying telling a good murder story?
I do love writing for theatre, television and radio – anything where there are actors involved. Writing novels is great fun, but it’s a solitary business. It’s much more sociable to be going to rehearsals and to watch your work developing with input from the performers. So, I like to have a mix of books and dramatic writing.
What is it about the crime novel that has lasted as a genre do you think?
I think the crime novel has endured because it’s such a flexible format. You start with a crime, you end with a solution, but each individual writer navigates a different course between those two points. Also, in crime fiction there’s a comforting sense of justice which is not always present in real life.
You will be visiting Exeter soon, what are you most looking forward to about coming to the Custom House on Exeter’s Quay and Exeter in general?
I’ve always liked Exeter as a city. It’s far enough away from London to have its own distinct identity, a unique atmosphere which I always enjoy.
When did you first discover crime fiction, can you can you tell us about that first book?
I’m pretty sure that the first crime novel I read was an Agatha Christie, and I’m still in awe of the skill of her plotting. Also I know that the first adult novel my daughter Sophie read was an Agatha Christie.
How important have libraries been to you through your life?
I’ve always loved libraries, and am now very concerned for their future. A good library is a social hub, as well as being an inexhaustible source of knowledge and entertainment.
Can you remember the first ever book you borrowed from a library? Did you get it back on time?
Trips to the library with my mother were high spots of my early childhood. I can’t remember the first one I borrowed, but I know there was on I particularly liked called The Hole in the Hedge.
I run St Thomas and Pinhoe Library in Exeter and I have a few questions from my customers:
How did you get your first book published?
I wrote my first published book when I was working for the BBC. I’d just been producing a series of radio adaptations of the Lord Peter Wimsey stories, starring Ian Carmichael, and I thought I’d have a go at writing a crime novel myself.
How many times were you rejected in the early days?
I wrote four very properly unpublished books before I had one accepted. I’ve now published more than a hundred, so that’s an argument for keeping on trying.
Would you rewrite any early novels and bring them up to date?
No. Everything I have written has taught me something new about writing, but I don’t go back to old work. I look forward to new work.
I’d be interested to know what mystery novels you read to relax – or whether you can’t read them anymore.
There are a lot of crime novelists whose work I enjoy, but for me, because of the quality of his writing, Raymond Chandler is top of the pile.
Do you prefer boiled or scrambled egg and why? (real question!)
Scrambled – ideally with smoked salmon and black pepper.
When we talk at the Customs House in a few weeks time we will be going in depth about your literary journey but as a teaser for the day can you tell us what you would most like to impart to your audience at that event?
I hope I communicate the sheer pleasure of writing, but I’ll be more interested in what I hear from the audience. I often find that the questions people ask make me reassess my working practices, and it’s almost always a productive process.
If this has whet your appetite and you would like to join us at Exeter Custom House on 12th February at 6.30 pm, limited places are still available. Book your ticket here. Simon will give a short reading and be in conversation with Lee Rawlings. Copies of his books will be available for purchase and signing at this event, which is supported by Crediton Community Bookshop.