ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joint winner of the European Star Fiction ‘Ripper’ Award 2018/19
Totenfang awarded Bronze in Germany’s Der Leserpreis, 2016, a reader’s prize run by Lovelybooks.de.
In October 2016 the audiobook of The Chemistry of Death was awarded a Platinum disc from the German music industry for reaching 200,000 sales. The German audiobooks of both The Chemistry of Death and Written in Bone have previously received Gold discs for 100,000 sales
Winner of the 2012 Hercules German Audiobook award.
Shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger, Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year and twice for The European Star Crime Fiction Award.
Winner of the ‘Marlowe’ Award for Best International Crime Novel, 1996.
Q. WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
A. I grew up in Sheffield. I had a fairly ordinary working class background, at a time when the city was still dominated by the steel industry. I've lived in other places but always gravitated back here. It tends to get a lot of bad press, but that’s mainly from people who’ve never been there.
Q. WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU STARTED TO WRITE FULL TIME?
A. After university I somehow ended up doing property repairs for several years. Not much fun in winter, believe me. That was followed by a stint teaching English in Spain, and then I came back to the UK and played percussion in various bands. None of them came to anything, but several musician friends became successful after I'd left, which probably says it all. At more or less the same time, I started writing feature articles for the national broadsheets and colour supplements. I didn’t have any formal training as a journalist, but I found it complemented writing novels. And if not for that I would never have visited the Body Farm and had the idea for The Chemistry of Death
Q. HOW DID YOU FIRST START WRITING?
A. It was something I'd always been interested in, but I only really started to think of it as a potential career when I went to teach in Spain. I worked in the evenings, so I used to write during the daytime. It was hardly an overnight thing, though, because it was six years before I was finally published. I didn't have an agent, so I started touting my manuscript around publishers myself. After countless rejection slips it was picked out of the slush-pile, and within 48-hours I'd got myself both a book-deal and an agent. That was a real water-shed moment.
Q. HAVE YOU ALWAYS SEEN YOURSELF AS A CRIME WRITER?
A. I can't remember ever sitting down and thinking 'Right, I'm going to write a crime novel'. I think it was more a case of my ideas tending more towards the darker aspects of life, so it was a natural development rather than a conscious decision.
Q. WHAT TYPE OF CRIME FICTION WOULD YOU SAY YOU WRITE?
A. I suppose the David Hunter novels fall under the banner of forensic crime thrillers, because the main character is a forensic anthropologist. But character and psychological motivation are just as important to me as the forensic aspects.
Q. WHICH CRIME WRITERS DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
A. The first crime novels I read were Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe series, and I still think The Long Goodbye is a classic. I also love the Travis McGee books by John D. MacDonald - there's another flawed and introspective main character, although McGee is a bit more prone to the rough-stuff than David Hunter. Looking at more contemporary writers, James Lee Burke, Don Winslow and Dennis Lehane are consistently good.
Q. YOU'VE SAID ELSEWHERE THAT THE IDEA FOR THE CHEMISTRY OF DEATH CAME FROM A VISIT TO THE BODY FARM IN TENNESSEE. BUT HOW DID DAVID HUNTER DEVELOP AS YOUR MAIN CHARACTER, AND IS HE BASED ON ANY REAL-LIFE FORENSIC SCIENTIST?
A. No, David Hunter is entirely fictional. But I try to be authentic when I describe the forensic aspects of the books. When it came to creating a central character, to begin with it was more a case of knowing what I didn't want. There are enough heavy-drinking, maverick tough-guys in crime fiction already, without me adding to them. I wanted a character who was more flawed, who was introspective and even vulnerable in some respects. Hunter's very human - he doubts himself all the time. But there's still a stubborn streak in him. He's got a strong sense of right and wrong, and he'll stick his neck out for something he believes in. So once I'd an idea of the sort of character he was, it was a case of building a convincing background for him. And when you've done that, it isn't long before the character himself starts to take over.
Q. WE KNOW A LITTLE ABOUT HUNTER'S PAST, BUT THERE'S AN AWFUL LOT WE STILL DON'T KNOW ABOUT HIM. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU PLAN TO CHANGE?
A. Definitely. As the series progresses we'll find out more about Hunter's history - perhaps with one or two surprises along the way. But it'll be more of a drip-feed from book to book. I like the idea of getting to know a character more progressively rather than giving away everything all at once.
Q. DO YOU HAVE A SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND YOURSELF?
A. Not exactly, although I did plan on being a biochemist at one point. I was all set to take a degree in Biochemistry at university until I failed Biology and Chemistry A-level, and ended up taking an English degree instead. Which was probably a good thing for science.
Q. HOW IMPORTANT IS RESEARCH IN YOUR WRITING?
A. It's very important. It shouldn't be allowed to take over the story, but if the scientific and other details are accurate it gives a greater sense of authenticity. Besides which, after working as a freelance journalist, I have a real phobia about getting my facts wrong. So if I don't know something, I'll ask someone who does. There are several forensic anthropologists, both UK and US-based, who are good enough to help me with that side of things, and I enjoy tracking down experts in whatever other fields I might need to know about. Whenever possible I’ll also visit locations where a book is set, to get a feel for the landscape and area. I might not get everything right, but I do my best.