Today I am delighted to welcome Mark Hill to Grab This Book as I have the honour of hosting a leg of the blog tour for Two O’Clock Boy.
Mark had previously agreed to join me to take part in my Book Chains Q&A (he was nominated by Susi Holliday who also left me a question to put to Mark). As the blog tour for Two O’Clock Boy was approaching we made Mark hold out a bit longer than anticipated to see what burning question Susi had lined up for him. For those keeping count, Mark is the sixth link in my chain…
Before we cut to the questions here is the book you should be looking out for:
TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS… ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE… ONE BECAME A KILLER…
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.
Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.
Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.
First Question is never actually a question. This is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the opportunity to get a couple of plugs in early.
Hi, I’m Mark Hill, I’m a crime author. My debut novel Two O’Clock Boy has just been published in paperback, to great acclaim – at least in this house. It’s in the shops right now! It’s the first in a series about DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley, two North London coppers.
Now can you introduce us to Ray Drake?
Ray’s a Detective Inspector. A good man, I think, but someone with a lot of baggage. I mean, we all have a bit of baggage, don’t we? But Ray’s baggage is heavier than most. He’s got some secrets, dare I say… some dark secrets. So when a guy goes round killing people – people Ray may or may not have known a long way back – well, it opens up a whole can of worms. Flick’s just doing her job, trying to find the murderer, but Ray keeps sticking his nose in…
It is a London based story and I am Glasgow based, so I need to ask…is Longacre Children’s home a real place? Have you written about places you know or have you adopted an artistic interpretation of the city?
It’s a combination of real places and not so real places. Sometimes I couldn’t write a scene without having a very specific sense of a particular place, but the scenes set in the 1980s Hackney have elements of a fever dream. They were a composite of some of the things I remember seeing when I came to London as a kid – fenced-up gaps in streets where bombed houses still hadn’t been rebuilt after the Second World War, wastelands and long grass even in the heart of the city – a real sense of urban decay, of an era coming to an end. It’s long redeveloped now, of course.
What I can promise you is that the Longacre is totally made up, although I’m sure places like it have existed.
Did all those reviews, the author interviews, the guest posts help you decide what you wanted to write?
I was already writing the book that became Two O’Clock Boy when I was helping Crime Thriller Fella on his blog, but you can never read too many books – and to find out what all those amazing authors thought was hugely useful and inspiring. Reviewing also helped me think about what made a book motor, and analyse more carefully the kind of things I liked about it. Reading is essential if you want to write. But what you realise, ultimately, is that you have to find your own way. I’ve never understood when some people say they can’t read novels while they write in case they’re unduly influenced. If that was the case, I’d never be able to read or I’d never be able to write, both of which consequences are unacceptable.
As a supplemental to that, can you single out any books which may have influenced how you approached writing Two O’Clock Boy?
That’s a hard one. I don’t think there’s one particular book, but there are a lot of influences in Two O’Clock Boy. It’s both a psychological thriller and a police procedural with historical elements. A lot of fantastic books influenced it, I’m sure – but also a lot of terrific movies and film scripts, which is probably why many people have said it has a very filmic quality to it.
Why do you think crime readers particularly enjoy serial killer stories?
I can’t imagine murdering someone. Living with the knowledge of that kind of transgression, the burden of it, must rot the soul. The idea that there are people out there who are impelled to take the lives of others, who positively thrive on it – and that these predators could be walking among us – is fascinating and terrifying. Crime novels, horror novels, allow us to look safely through that looking glass. Oddly enough, I’ve never regarded the Two O’Clock Boy as a serial killer, although clearly he’s an enthusiastic murderer. Serial killing suggests some kind of random urge, but the Boy has a very specific deadly agenda…
So who was Crime Thriller Fella and why did he have to slide off into the shadows?
It’s a very sad story. Crime Thriller Fella was a blogger, a very odd character, who briefly fancied himself as a bit of a playa in the blogging firmament. But between you and me, he was a bit of an oddball who got a little bit too big for his boots and started confusing crime fiction with reality. He sadly fell in with a bad crowd. I can’t go into specifics, but a criminal enterprise went wrong, he double-crossed some people of dubious morals, and was forced into Witness Protection. I don’t know where he is now but he sometimes leaves drunken rambling messages on my voicemail in the dead of night about WordPress settings, or delivers the odd threatening message in the mail disguised as book post. Sometimes, very occasionally, I get the sense I’m being watched. He’ll turn up sooner or later, I’m sure. At the bottom of a canal, probably.
Now the quickfire ones:
Last film you saw at the cinema?
Life, the Alien knock-off with Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gylen… Gyllin… Jake Gallenhi… That guy from Brokeback. It was okay.
The coffee Revels are the best ones in the bag – True or False?
Don’t be daft. It’s the orange ones.
Which has been the Best Bond film?
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is easily my favourite. Poor old Lazenby had just the one shot at the role but, oh, what a Bond movie to star in.
You have been invited to appear on a reality tv show – which one would let your skills shine?
Gogglebox. I’m really, really good at watching television.
Which one concert/show from history do you wish you had been able to see?
I’ve got Orson Welles’s notorious radio production of War Of The Worlds on vinyl somewhere. Presented as a mock news report, a lot of the hysteria it allegedly caused – riots and suicides and suchlike – has been proved to be false, but the conceit is astonishing for its time, Welles was such a genius. I often wonder what it must have been like to be a kid in 1938 listening to it in an isolated cabin beneath a sky full of stars, watching in terror a comet trail across the heavens.
Bookmark, corner folder or “any old scrap of paper” – how do you keep your place?
I do like a nice postcard, but the whole book usually ends up covered in tiny post-its stuck everywhere, like it has some kind of flaky yellow disease. I like making notes.
As you may know this feature is called Book Chains and it was Susi Holliday that nominated you to keep my Q&A chain going. Susi wanted me to ask you the following question:
What’s your karaoke song?
High And Dry by Radiohead. I can clear a room super fast.
My final question to Mark was to ask him to nominate my next guest and to set a question. While the question will remain under wraps for the time being, I CAN confirm that in the near future Mr Derek Farrell shall return to Grab This Book as he has agreed to continue my Book Chain.
My thanks to Mark for being so patient and for being such a good sport. But we do need to be clear…the coffee Revels are (and always will be) the best in the packet.
Two O’Clock Boy is published by Sphere and is available now in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Two-OClock-Boy-detective-killer-ebook/dp/B01FFZH4LW/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8