Author Influences is back with the brilliant Harry Bingham, creator of the Fiona Griffiths Crime Thriller Series. Harry tells us about his favourite books and authors.
Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Oh, I was a very booksih kid. I used to love anything about ancient Greece, loved Hornblower and Sherlock Holmes, loved some really old-school boys’ stuff (Buchan, Henty, Bulldog Drummond, the Saint, Dornford Yates, and others that few readers will even have heard of.) Then I got onto the classics and just devoured them.
Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
Yes and yes. It was perhaps my favourite subject. I still have a soft spot for the authors I studied for A-level: Jane Austen, George Herbert (the poet) and Shakespeare’s Macbeth especially. Those things still resonate thirty years on.
What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I’m fairly eclectic in my reading, but as a crime author now I do make a special effort to keep abreast of my genre, in the UK, the US and in translation.
When I turned to crime writing a few years ago, I was actually a lapsed crime reader – hadn’t read any for years. Then I got obsessed by this character who was very smart, very driven and very strange. There was only one possible job for her – that of detective – so I came back to crime and have adored it ever since.
If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
Well, I’ve written a lot of genres over the years. Adventure Jeffrey Archer-style romps with my first few novels. Historical fiction. Non-fiction covering history, economics and how to write.
I suppose I might dabble in historical fiction again one day. And there’s certainly some non-fiction I’d love to write. But no, mostly, I’m happy with crime. Give me a corpse and a mystery and a splash of violence, and I’m happier than a pathologist in a mortuary.
Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
Not specifically, no. I just knew from really early on that I wanted to be a writer. There’s a snippet of film of me aged about 10 or 11 where someone asks me what I want to be when I grow up. I said ‘Author’ – and I’ve now been a full time pro author for the last twenty years. Lucky me!
Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
No, that’s not how reading works for me. I prefer reading widely – lots of different authors – than reading deeply. Very often when I read a new author’s work, I think, ‘Yes, OK, I get the kind of thing you do. That’s different from how I do it, but now I’ve understood your particular approach, I won’t necessarily get that much more from reading more of your books.’
There are exceptions to that, obviously, but I can’t think of any author where I just have to buy the very next book they produce.
Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
In crime, I’m a big fan of Tana French and Gillian Flynn. They’re proper crime authors but they write deliriously well. There are some American authors – Walter Moseley, George Pelecanos, Elmore Leonard, for example – where I really admire aspects of their style, but they’re just sooo different from me that I can’t quite envy them in the same way.
Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Oh yes. My Love Story, with Murders had its roots in the (really weird) Matrix Churchill scandal.
My This Thing of Darkness wasn’t directly inspired by Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys, but that book proved that the scam I thought I’d invented was much closer to the truth than you’d have guessed.
And my most recent crime novel, The Dead House, had its roots in a totally genuine and utterly weird medieval practice . . . that I can’t tell you about without ruining the story.
A huge thank you Harry for taking part.
Harry’s latest novel The Dead House is out now!
‘Chilling, atmospheric and so gripping it hurts. The Dead House is a masterpiece. You won’t read a better crime novel this year’ MARK EDWARDS
On a wild October night, the body of a young woman is found in a remote country churchyard. She’s wearing nothing but a thin, white dress. There are no marks of violence and no obvious cause of death.
Who is the victim? Why is she here?
But another young woman went missing from the area a few years back, and DC Fiona Griffiths soon suspects a crime even more chilling than she first imagined.
Read Harry’s interview with his main character Fiona Griffiths HERE.