Today I’m delighted to feature author (and pretty impressive musician) Mark Billingham. I’m sure he’ll already be known to many of you as the writer of the acclaimed D.I. Tom Thorne series, but if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, then I suggest you do yourselves a favour and get acquainted.
Having worked for some years as an actor and stand-up comedian, Mark Billingham is now one of the UK’s most acclaimed and popular crime writers. His series of novels featuring DI Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel of the Year Award and his debut novel, SLEEPYHEAD was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade. His latest novel is THE KILLING HABIT.
A television series based on the Thorne novels starred David Morrissey as Tom Thorne and a series based on IN THE DARK and TIME OF DEATH was broadcast on the BBC in 2017.
Mark lives in London with his wife and two children. 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.
So over to Mark:-
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
I Did What I Did For Maria by Tony Christie. This was the first single I ever bought, back in 1971, when I was ten. I think that, at the time, I just liked his voice and the Mariachi-style horns and it wasn’t until much later that I really listened to the lyrics. It can’t be coincidence that I was so drawn to a song about a man about to be executed after killing the individual who had raped and murdered his wife. The song tells a very dark story and that was clearly something that spoke to me long before I’d read any.
I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive by Hank Williams. The daddy of country music was dead at twenty-nine but left behind an incredible collection of songs that have become country standards. Crime writers are often asked to define ‘noir’ and the title of this song does it perfectly. It’s also one of the first songs I learned to play on guitar and is one of the songs that I now play and sing as part of the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers – a motley collection of writer/musicians who murder songs for fun.
If I Can Dream by Elvis Presley. What kind of world would it be if I had 5 songs and I didn’t choose anything by Elvis Presley? I’ll answer the question myself…a rotten world, that’s what. A world without rhyme or reason or white spangly jumpsuits and it might shock you, but I’m definitely looking here at the jumpsuit end of the King’s career. This is a song that Elvis recorded just two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King and it was first made public as the climax of the fantastic ‘68 comeback special. Four decades on it might sound cheesy to some people, but what can I say, this song still gets me every time.
He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones. Frank Sinatra once (modestly) described ‘The Possum’ as having the second greatest voice in popular music. Sinatra was nearly right. This is another story song, and one that any crime writer would be proud of as it has the most incredible (and moving) twist. Though Jones almost didn’t record it because he thought it was too depressing, it remains the greatest country song ever written and never fails to make me cry.
Less Than Zero by Elvis Costello. Costello is quite simply the greatest singer-songwriter of his generation. You are, of course, free to argue with me, but you’re wrong. He has been my abiding musical passion for over forty years and this was the first song of his that I ever heard (on the Annie Nightingale show in 1977). I was lucky enough to briefly meet him several times over the years, but then had the opportunity to interview him on stage when his autobiography was published a couple of years ago. It was an evening I will never forget, and one that my sixteen-year old self would never have believed possible.
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Music (see above)
Books (of course)
Cheese (unless it’s very smelly)
Sausage (spicier the better)
Playing poker/a baby’s first smile (struggling to choose between these two)
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Never try to defrost a freezer using a chisel.
Never stop showing off. It can pay dividends in the long run.
Don’t feel bad about cheating in your French O-level.
Ignore that teacher who says that your stories are silly.
It’s not a good idea to play cricket in your bedroom with a tin of paint.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I was the first human being to appear on Spitting Image.
I’m surprisingly good at table tennis.
I won Celebrity Mastermind (my specialist subject was Elvis Costello)
I once serenaded Danni Minogue on live TV while dressed as Elvis Presley.
I am not the Mark Billingham who was in the SAS and worked as a celebrity bodyguard and who now does all sorts of manly stuff on SAS-type TV shows. So, please stop sending me tweets that are meant for him. I mean, I could have been in the SAS if I’d wanted to, obviously. I just prefer writing novels, that’s all.
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
Seeing a whale/the Northern Lights. I know these are probably quite common choices, but I’m hoping I might get to do both when I head to Iceland in November. If not, I shall be writing a strongly-worded letter to the Icelandic authorities.
I am a largely unsuccessful but enthusiastic songwriter and I’d love to have one of my songs recorded by an artist I admire. Costello, say or Nick Lowe. Sod it, I’d be happy if One Direction recorded one…
Get to the point when I can consider myself a proper guitarist and not just a chugging, bog-standard three chord merchant. Obviously, when this is achieved I get to play with some of my musical heroes and the Fun Lovin Crime Writers headline the pyramid stage at Glastonbury.
I would very much like to swim with a manatee. Or several dolphins. Not really fussy.
Like any right-minded person, I would like to travel more. The books have given me some wonderful opportunities to see the world, but I would like to go back to those countries I have been lucky enough to visit and spend time there that doesn’t involve a different airport every day and talking about murder in bookshops.
So disappointed to google Dannie Minogue and Mark Billingham/Elvis to discover that clip isn’t available! If it is, I’m sure somebody will let us know. I grew up listening to Hank Williams and country and western after my dad joined a Country and Western postal music subscription service. I have to say I’d like to have murdered somebody at the time for being forced to listen to it though I can appreciate some of its finer qualities now. I hope that Iceland produces the goods in November and that those travel opportunities arise. Glastonbury doesn’t know what an opportunity it’s missing – I’m looking forward to catching up with the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers tomorrow night. Break a leg!!
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How do you catch a killer who is yet to kill?
We’ve all heard about the signs: coldness, cruelty, mistreatment of animals. DI Tom Thorne knows the psychological profile of a psychopath all too well, so when pets start disappearing on suburban London streets, he sees a chance to stop a future murderer.
Others are less convinced, so Thorne relies on DI Nicola Tanner to help him solve the case, before the culprit starts hunting people. The journey brings them face to face with a killer who will tear their lives apart.
A BLOODY MESSAGE
As DI Nicola Tanner investigates what appears to be a series of organised killings, her partner Susan is brutally murdered, leaving the detective bereft, and vengeful.
A POWERFUL ALLY
Taken off the case, Tanner enlists the help of DI Tom Thorne to pursue a pair of ruthless killers and the broker handing out the deadly contracts.
A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE
As the killers target their latest victim, Thorne takes the biggest risk of his career and is drawn into a horrifying and disturbing world in which families will do anything to protect their honour.
Two schoolgirls are abducted in the small, dying Warwickshire town of Polesford, driving a knife into the heart of the community where police officer Helen Weeks grew up and from which she long ago escaped. But this is a place full of secrets, where dangerous truths lie buried.
When it’s splashed all over the press that family man Stephen Bates has been arrested, Helen and her partner Tom Thorne head to the flooded town to support Bates’ wife – an old school friend of Helen’s – who is living under siege with two teenage children and convinced of her husband’s innocence.
As residents and media bay for Bates’ blood, a decomposing body is found. The police believe they have their murderer in custody, but one man believes otherwise. With a girl still missing, Thorne sets himself on a collision course with local police, townsfolk – and a merciless killer.
Tom Thorne is back in charge – but there’s a terrifying price to pay. Stuart Nicklin, the most dangerous psychopath he has ever put behind bars, promises to reveal the whereabouts of a body he buried twenty-five years before. But only if Thorne agrees to escort him.
Unable to refuse, Thorne gathers a team and travels to a remote Welsh island, at the mercy of the weather and cut off from the mainland. Thorne is determined to get the job done and return home before Nicklin can outwit them.
But Nicklin knows this island well and has had time to plan ahead. Soon, new bodies are added to the old, and Thorne finds himself facing the toughest decision he has ever had to make…
A cluster of suicides among the elderly. Such things are not unknown to the police and the deaths are quickly dismissed by the police as routine. Only one man is convinced that something more sinister is taking place.
However, no one listens to Tom Thorne anymore. Having stepped out of line once too often, he’s back in uniform and he hates it. Patronised and abused by his new colleagues, Thorne’s suspicions about the suicides are dismissed by the Murder Squad he was once part of and he is forced to investigate alone.
Unable to trust anyone, Thorne must risk losing those closest to him.He must gamble with the lives of those targeted by a killer unlike any he has hunted before. A man with nothing to lose and a growing list of victims. A man with the power to make people take their own lives.
Police officer Helen Weeks walks into her local newsagent’s on her way to work. It’s the last place she expects to be met with violence, but she is about to come face to face with a gunman.
The hostage-taker is desperate to know what happened to his beloved son, who died a year before in youth custody. By holding Helen at gunpoint, he will force a re-investigation into his son’s death. And one man knows the case better than any other – DI Tom Thorne.
As the body count rises,Thorne must race against time to bring a killer to justice and save a young mother’s life.
Tom Thorne Novels 7-9
Tom Thorne Novels 4-6
Tom Thorne Novels 1-3
Stand Alone Novels
Every Monday evening, six people gather in a smart North London house to talk about addiction. There they share their deepest secrets: stories of lies, regret, and above all, shame.
Then one of them is killed – and it’s clear one of the circle was responsible.
Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner quickly finds her investigation hampered by the strict confidentiality that binds these people and their therapist together. So what could be shameful enough to cost someone their life?
And how do you find the truth when denial and deception are second nature to all of your suspects?
A perfect holiday.
The perfect murder…
Three couples meet around the pool on their Florida holiday and become fast friends. But on their last night, their perfect holiday takes a tragic twist: the teenage daughter of another holidaymaker goes missing, and her body is later found floating in the mangroves.
When the shocked couples return home, they remain in contact, and over the course of three increasingly fraught dinner parties they come to know one another better. But they don’t always like what they find: buried beneath these apparently normal exteriors are some dark secrets, hidden kinks, ugly vices…
Then, a second girl goes missing.
Could it be that one of these six has a secret far darker than anybody can imagine?