What books are currently on your night stand?
I review crime books, so all I ever read these days are books in that genre. I do a round-up column, consisting of four books, so reading those takes all my time. Which is good, because I love crime books and mystery novels. I get sent a wide selection, from those lying at the centre of the tradition, to those who come at the genre from a different angle. So it’s good: I get to sample a whole array of contemporary approaches.
Tell us about your favourite short stories.
I really like the stories in William Gibson’s Burning Chrome, a book I return to every few years. I wish he would write some more in the shorter form. I love JG Ballard’s stories and those of Jorge Luis Borges. Burt I think the best ever writer of the short story is W. Somerset Maugham. I find his tales compassionate, fascinating and perfectly written down the last word.
Tell us about your favourite fairy tale?
Ah well, I don’t really like fairy tales. Even as a kid, I never really responded to them, and in adult life, even less so. So can I nudge Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories into the genre? I love beyond measure Wonderland and Looking Glass. Those books are big influences on my own work, but as books, I never tire of them. And whenever I return to them, I always find something new. Absolutely fascinating.
What kind of reader were you like as a child? And what were your favourite childhood books?
I read a lot. I was quite a lonely child, I guess, for various reasons, and so I retreated into books and stories. I’ve already mentioned Lewis Carroll. Aside from books, I also loved American superhero comics. And then later on I started to get into science fiction. I well remember the first time I read Ray Bradbury: his exquisitely expressed romanticism of space rockets, life on Mars, and robots really keyed into my youthful imagination. And then things like Asimov and Clarke, as I got older still. My extended childhood ended the day I discovered Crash by JG Ballard. Now that was a very different expression of SF, one that immediately excited me, even if I didn’t quite understand it at the time.
Who is your favourite fictional hero or heroine? Your favourite antihero or villain?
In my opinion, Lew Archer is the best ever heroic figure, the private eye featured in Ross Macdonald’s crime books. He’s tough, but fair, and he expresses himself in a street level noir poetry that enchants with every line. He walks that classic line between good and bad, and walks it with dignity and courage. The perfect detective. My favourite villain would be the Sandman in The Spiderman comics. I really like the idea of the human body becoming granular, I don’t know why.
How do you organize your books?
In chaos! Yet I seem to know where every book is, in the tottering piles and thrice-stuffed shelves.
Your own fiction has crossed genres between horror, science fiction, thriller and mystery. Which is your favourite genre to write in? And to read?
More and more I am turning to the crime genre, whether crossed with science fictional and fantastical elements, or just straight down the line mysteries.
Of the books you’ve written, which do you like best?
Falling Out Of Cars is the one I’m proudest of. I also have affection for Pixel Juice, just because I enjoyed writing it so much: fifty short stories that really allowed me to explore a whole range of textures and themes.
What's the last book that surprised you?
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. It’s a spy thriller, 900 pages long in the paperback, and the pages just whizz by! It’s filled with really interesting ideas, and lots of detail. I like detail in a novel: I really want to learn stuff!
Which of your books would you like to see made into a movie?
A film of Automated Alice would be cool. And then Channel SK1N, because its subject matter – a woman transforming into a television set – would lend itself very well to a visual medium.
You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?
Well I’ve met a few of my literary heroes, so I wouldn’t invite them. Let’s stick to dead authors: Agatha Christie, Samuel Beckett and Ted Hughes. That would be lively!
What is your next project?
I’m in the middle of a two book deal for Angry Robot Press, the start of a science fiction detective series. The first novel, called A Man Of Shadows, is coming out later this year, so I’m now hard at work on the second book in the series, taking the private eye hero, Nyquist, to a new city, and a new set of adventures and dangers. I’m looking deeper into his mind and soul. I love the way characters grow and take over my imagination; Nyquist keeps doing things I would never expect! Where will he take me next, I wonder?