Susi Qs – Week 40 – Mark Billingham

Today’s very special guest requires no introduction, but just in case you don’t recognise him… it’s… Mr Mark Billingham! Mark’s series of novels featuring DI Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel of the Year Award and he received the award for Outstanding Contribution To Crime Fiction at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. When he is not living out rock-star fantasies as a member of the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, he is hard at what is laughably called ‘work’, writing his next novel.

Welcome, Sir! So, tell us…

When was the last time you were arrested?

The sad and deeply uninteresting truth is that I have never been arrested. This could mean that I have lived a blameless life because I am a thoroughly decent person or alternatively that I’m too much of a coward to risk doing anything that might get me into any trouble. An alternative explanation – and the one I urge everyone to go with here – is that I am simply far too brilliant and cunning to have ever been caught for my hugely long list of nefarious crimes and misdemeanours. Yes, that’s it…definitely.

Who Do You Love?

Well, let’s take it as read – even if it’s not true – that I love each and every member of my family without measure. Right, we can move on from the cheesy stuff. Those people aside, it’s not a massively long list, certainly nowhere near as long as a list of the people I really don’t love would have been and most of the names will mean nothing to anyone who doesn’t know me, but it’s my list, right? So…Lottie and Ruby (dogs), Kevin and Stan (cats), my friend Mike, Elvis Costello, the Beatles, my fellow Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Martyn, George, Sarah, Paul X 2 (that’s two different Pauls and not one Paul who I love twice as much as anyone else) and, though it’s probably more of a love/hate relationship than anything…myself. Sometimes.

What’s Your Favourite Kitchen Appliance?

Toaster. All day long (see below)

Do You Have Any Weird Habits?

I’m a huge fan of toast. Huge. But the toast has to be stone cold and very crispy. This means that when I have toasted the bread to my satisfaction I must leave it to cool in a kind of ‘toasty tent’ with the slices arranged standing up and leaning against each other. After ten minutes of leaving the slices in toasty isolation, I then move on to the ‘toast semaphore’ where I wander about the kitchen waving the pieces around in an effort to cool them further, though it looks like I’m bringing a plane into land or have simply lost my mind. You choose. On average, it probably takes me around forty-five minutes to make a perfect piece of toast. Then there’s an entirely separate and equally bizarre spreading ritual involving butter (which must cover every millimetre of the bread) and Marmite, but if I go into too much detail people might start thinking I’m anal. By the way, I’ve always thought that ‘anal’ is an odd choice of word to use when criticising someone who puts things in the right place…

What Were You In A Previous Life?

I didn’t have one.

Have You Ever Broken A Bone?

Yes, several. The most awkward occasion was when I was an actor and, while appearing in the world’s worst production of Macbeth, fell over a chain-link fence (titting about in a car-park) just before the show and broke both my arms. I didn’t know I’d broken them until half way through the performance when both my arms seized up and my performance during the denouement was even more wooden than it might otherwise have been. I was plastered up that night but my lack of movement did mean that certain…toilet-related activities became tricky and involved a degree of…assistance. I apologise for the pictures this puts in your head. My partner at the time was very understanding, but we did split up soon afterwards.

Do You Find It Hard To Take Criticism?

If we’re talking about negative criticism (and why wouldn’t we be?) I don’t love it. In common with a lot of people, that’s because it’s only ever the shitty reviews you remember. It’s the same as when I worked as a stand-up. I could be doing a gig in front of 400 people at the Comedy Store and, even if 399 of them were pissing themselves, I would only be able to think about the one person who didn’t crack their face. Similarly, however many good reviews a book might get, I always remember the bad ones. Because they’re the ones I suspect are right. Impostor syndrome/insecurity etc etc.

What Would You Cook On Come Dine With Me?

My signature dish, obviously. It’s basically pasta, in a thick cheese sauce with bits of hard-boiled egg and bacon. A kind of deconstructed carbonara which, although I think it’s delicious, my family somewhat unkindly calls ‘cheese slop’. Look, I’m not saying I’d win

What’s The Last Book You Read?

The last book I finished was the latest in a very long line of Beatles-related volumes. I’ve read far more than is healthy, I’m well aware of that, but I can’t resist them. This one was called Like Some Forgotten Dream by Daniel Rachel and posits a world where the Beatles didn’t split up when we know they did, but went on to make one final great double album. Rachel suggests the tracks that might have made up this masterpiece, turning a common pub discussion among Fab Four nerds like myself into something that’s every bit as sad as it is fascinating. I bloody love the Beatles. Did I mention that?

What Is The Most Annoying Thing?

How long have we got? Well, as it might well come down to a simple toss-up between global warfare and paper-cuts, I should probably just stick to the tried and tested ‘long list’ format. So: forgetting where I’ve left my glasses; arseholes who throw litter out of car windows; Tories; my stupid printer; starting a book; conspiracy theorists; soggy toast; stepping on a snail in the dark; having a dodgy knee; people who pretend they don’t like the Beatles; bags of dogshit hung on branches; The Archers (Radio 4 and Jeffrey); people not wearing masks on the tube; Elvis Costello’s restraining order; the continuing absence of chicken livers from the Nando’s menu; Michael Gove dancing; Michael Gove doing anything; the inexplicable lack of appreciation for a fine western shirt; ditto a jaunty hat, be it porkpie, baker-boy or fez; setting a hotel toaster on fire; the scary giant teddy-bear in the window of the house opposite; Twitter pile-ons; not getting the money that Nigerian prince promised he’d send; people being snobby about crime fiction; people being late; people saying ‘yourself’ instead of ‘you’; intolerance; people who don’t get irony…

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If you want to know more about Mark, you can find him on twitter @MarkBillingham. His books can be found HERE.