Wednesday Windback with Mark Billingham @MarkBillingham

Today I’m revisiting my Five on Friday interview with Mark Billingham which was first posted in Oct 2018. It’s been brought up to date to reflect Mark’s latest publications.

Image courtesy of  Donna-Lisa Healy

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.

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 is also a regular contributor to radio and TV and is a member of the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a combo of bestselling crime and thriller writers who performed at the Glastonbury Festival in 2019.

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.

Over to Mark :

Which five 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.

What five things (apart from family and friends) would you 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)

Give five pieces of advice 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 five 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.

Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.

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.

The Tom Thorne novels

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

Sleepyhead (Tom Thorne Novels Book 1)

It’s rare for a young woman to die from a stroke and when three such deaths occur in short order it starts to look like an epidemic. Then a sharp pathologist notices traces of benzodiazepine in one of the victim’s blood samples and just traceable damage to the ligaments in her neck, and their cause of death is changed from ‘natural’ to murder.The police aren’t making much progress in their hunt for the killer until he appears to make a mistake: Alison Willetts is found alive and D.I. Tom Thorne believes the murderer has made a mistake, which ought to allow them to get on his tracks. But it was the others who were his mistakes: he doesn’t want to take life, he just wants to put people into a state where they cannot move, cannot talk, cannot do anything but think.When Thorne, helped by the neurologist looking after Alison, starts to realise what he is up against he knows the case is not going to be solved by normal methods – before he can find out who did it he has to understand why he’s doing it.

Scaredy Cat (Tom Thorne Novels Book 2)

It was a vicious, calculated murder. The killer selected his victim at Euston station, followed her home on the tube, strangled her to death in front of her child. At the same time, killed in the same way, a second body is discovered at the back of King’s Cross station. And this grisly event eerily echoes the murder of two other women, stabbed to death months before on the same day.

It is DI Tom Thorne who sees the link and comes to the horrifying conclusion. This is not a serial killer the police are up against.

This is two of them – and two killers are way more deadly than one . . .

Lazybones (Tom Thorne Novels Book 3) 

It’s only ten days since Douglas Remfry’s release from prison, having served seven years for rape, and now he’s dead: naked on a bare mattress in a grubby north London hotel room, his head hooded and his hands tied with a brown leather belt.

Someone knew he was coming out. Someone wanted to mete out some punishment of his own.

And when a second sex offender is found dead, DI Tom Thorne knows he has a vicious, calculating vigilante on his hands…

The Burning Girl (Tom Thorne Novels Book 4)

X marks the spot – and when that spot is a corpse’s naked back and the X is carved in blood, DI Tom Thorne is in no doubt that the dead man is the latest victim of a particularly vicious killer.

This is brutal turf warfare between north London gangs. Organised crime boss Billy Ryan is moving into someone else’s patch, and that someone is not best pleased.

And when an X is carved on DI Tom Thorne’s front door, he knows the smouldering embers of this case are about to erupt into flames…

Lifeless (Tom Thorne Novels Book 5)

Three men, sleeping rough on London’s mean streets, have been found brutally murdered – each victim kicked to death and found with a £20 note pinned to his chest. But were they killed at random, or were they targeted for a reason?
Tom Thorne is posted to the same streets – working undercover, disguised as a homeless man. In a harsh and harrowing underworld, Thorne discovers the horrifying link between the homeless victims and the perpetrators of a fifteen-year-old atrocity.
Those who know are keeping quiet. But the word on these streets is that the killer is a cop…

Buried (Tom Thorne Novels Book 6)

Teenager Luke Mullen was last seen getting into a car with an older woman. No one can understand why he has disappeared. His father – a former police officer – knows all too well that the longer he is missing, the more likely he is to turn up dead.

Then Luke’s parents receive an anonymous video. It shows their son, eyes wide with terror, as a man advances towards him holding a syringe.

DI Tom Thorne recognises a psychopath when he sees one. And the scene on the tape chills him to the bone – he knows that a child’s life hangs in the balance, and that every minute counts…

Death Message (Tom Thorne Novels Book 7)

DI Tom Thorne has seen plenty of dead bodies in his time. But when he starts receiving sick photos of murder victims on his mobile phone, he soon realises that the next body could be his.

And even when the man who has been sending the photos is tracked down, the deadly threat remains, For some, the case is all but closed, but Thorne’s nightmare is just beginning.

Because someone else is masterminding the death messages. The most vicious psychopath Thorne has ever faced is able to manipulate others even behind bars, and time has only deepened the deadly grudge he has against the policeman who put him away…

Bloodline (Tom Thorne Novels Book 8) 

When a dead body is found in a North London flat, it seems like a straightforward domestic murder until a bloodstained sliver of X-ray is found clutched in the dead woman’s fist – and it quickly becomes clear that this case is anything but ordinary. DI Thorne discovers that the victim’s mother had herself been murdered fifteen years before by infamous serial killer Raymond Garvey. The hunt to catch Garvey was one of the biggest in the history of the Met, and ended with seven women dead.

When more bodies and more fragments of X-ray are discovered, Thorne has a macabre jigsaw to piece together until the horrifying picture finally emerges. A killer is targeting the children of Raymond Garvey’s victims. Thorne must move quickly to protect those still on the murderer’s list, but nothing and nobody are what they seem. Not when Thorne is dealing with one of the most twisted killers he has ever hunted…

From The Dead (Tom Thorne Novels Book 9)

It has been a decade since Alan Langford’s charred remains were discovered in his burnt-out car. His wife Donna was found guilty of conspiracy to murder her husband and served ten years in prison.

But just before she is released, Donna receives a nasty shock: an anonymous letter containing a photo of her husband. The man she hates with every fibre of her being – the man she paid to have murdered – seems very much alive and well.

How is it possible that her husband is still alive? Where is he? Who sent the photo, and why?

DI Tom Thorne becomes involved in a case where nothing and no one are what they seem. It will take him much further from his London beat than he has ever been before – and closer to a killer who will do anything to protect his new life.

Good As Dead (Tom Thorne Novels Book 10)

Police officer Helen Weeks walks into her local newsagents 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.

The Dying Hours (Tom Thorne Novels 11)

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.

The Bones Beneath (Tom Thorne Novels 12)

The Deal

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.

The Danger

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.

The Deaths

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…

Time of Death (Tom Thorne Novels Book 13)

The Missing

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.

The Accused

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.

The Dead

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.

Love Like Blood (Tom Thorne Novels Book 14)


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.


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.


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.

The Killing Habit (Tom Thorne Novels Book 15)

How do you catch a killer who is yet to kill?

We’ve all heard about the signs: coldness, cruelty, lack of empathy. 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.

Their Little Secret (Tom Thorne Novels Book 16)

She says she’s an ordinary mother.
He knows a liar when he sees one.

Sarah thinks of herself as a normal single mum. It’s what she wants others to think of her. But the truth is, she needs something new, something thrilling.

Meanwhile, DI Tom Thorne is investigating a woman’s suicide, convinced she was driven to do it by a man who preys on vulnerable women.

A man who is about to change Sarah’s life.

Cry Baby (Tom Thorne Novels Book 17)

It’s 1996. Detective Sergeant Tom Thorne is a haunted man. Haunted by the moment he ignored his instinct about a suspect, by the horrific crime that followed and by the memories that come day and night, in sunshine and shadow.

So when seven-year-old Kieron Coyne goes missing while playing in the woods with his best friend, Thorne vows he will not make the same mistake again. Cannot.

The solitary witness. The strange neighbour. The friendly teacher. All are in Thorne’s sights.

This case will be the making of him . . . or the breaking.

The Murder Book (Tom Thorne Novels Book 18)

Tom Thorne has it all.

In Nicola Tanner and Phil Hendricks, Thorne has good friends by his side. He finally has a love life worth a damn and is happy in the job to which he has devoted his life…

He has everything to lose.

Hunting the woman responsible for a series of grisly murders, Thorne has no way of knowing that he will be plunged into a nightmare from which he may never wake.

And he’ll do anything to keep it.

Finally, Thorne’s past has caught up with him and a ruinous secret is about to be revealed. If he wants to save himself and his friends, he must do the unthinkable.

Standalone Novels

In The Dark

A rainy night in London. Shots are fired into a car which swerves on to the pavement, ploughing into a bus stop. It seems that a chilling gang initiation has cost an innocent victim their life. But the reality is far more sinister…

One life is wiped out and three more are changed forever: the young man whose finger was on the trigger; an ageing gangster planning a deadly revenge, and the pregnant woman who struggles desperately to uncover the truth. Two weeks away from giving birth, how will she deal with a world where death is an occupational hazard?

In a city where violence can be random or meticulously planned, where teenage gangs clash with career criminals and where loyalty is paid for in blood, anything is possible. Secrets are uncovered as fast as bodies, and the story’s final twist is as breathtakingly surprising as they come.

Rush of Blood 

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?

Die of Shame

You never know who’s watching . . .

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?

Rabbit Hole

My name is Alice. I’m a police officer.
I’m trying to solve a murder on a psychiatric ward.
But I’m also a patient…

They were meant to be safe on Fleet Ward: psychiatric patients monitored, treated, cared for. But now one of their number is found murdered, and the accusations begin to fly.

Was it one of his fellow patients? A member of staff? Or did someone come in from the outside?

DC Alice Armitage is methodical, tireless, and she’s quickly on the trail of the killer.

The only problem is, Alice is a patient too.

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