Today I’m delighted to feature murder mystery author Tom Mead. Tom specialises in locked-room mysteries, inspired by Golden Age Crime fiction.
Tom’s short fiction has appeared in publications ranging from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine to The Best Mystery Stories of the Year, and his debut locked-room mystery novel Death and the Conjuror (Mysterious Press, 2022; Head of Zeus, 2023) was an international bestseller, and named one of the best mysteries of 2022 by Publishers Weekly. Its sequel, The Murder Wheel, is coming in October 2023.
Over to Tom:
Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Bob Dylan, “Hurricane”
The lyrics to this one are so profound and angry – just the way I like my Dylan! The whole song has a cinematic power to it, with Ronee Blakley’s atmospheric backing vocals, and of course the sublime Scarlet Rivera on violin. It’s based on the true story of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who famously served twenty years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
Iron Maiden, “The Wicker Man”
When I was younger, Iron Maiden was very much “my band” – in many ways they still are. I could have picked any number of their songs, but I’ve gone for this one because it’s based on a classic horror movie with a murder mystery connection (screenplay by Anthony Shaffer, writer of Sleuth). Also, it’s the opening number of Iron Maiden’s triumphant live album recorded in Rio in 2000 – maybe my favourite live album of all time.
Ronnie Spector, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory”
One of those rare instances where I think the cover is better than the original. Ronnie just brings so much grit to this vocal performance – it could have been written for her. And Joey Ramone on backing vocals is the icing on the cake.
Rolling Stones, “Beast of Burden”
A very underrated Stones song in my opinion – the smooth, melodic and endlessly catchy guitar riff always takes me on a journey.
Rory Gallagher, “Bad Penny”
Supposedly Jimi Hendrix was asked what it felt like being the greatest guitarist in the world, and he responded “I don’t know – ask Rory Gallagher.” That’s probably apocryphal, but I like it. Rory was indeed one of the greatest bluesmen of them all. I regret that I never got to see him live (he died in 1995), but thanks to the wonders of YouTube I’ve been able to enjoy this powerhouse performer at his peak.
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Classic mystery novels – a bit of an obvious one, but it bears repeating!
Live theatre – whether it’s classical, contemporary or musical, I love just about all of it
Good coffee – self-explanatory really; it’s a writer’s best friend
Animals – they really do make the world a better place (I have a cat named Chloe, who is spoilt rotten)
Sense of humour – It’s a survival mechanism; the only way to combat the endless absurdity
Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?
Read more – I read a lot when I was young, but all the same I still wish I’d managed more.
Write more – When I was young, I tended to write when the mood struck me, which isn’t the best way to do it. You need a strict schedule, which is something I’ve had to develop as I’ve got older.
Don’t worry so much – easier said than done, of course, but worth a try.
Take more risks – if you don’t try, you’ll never know
And last but not least: make the most of it!
Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you
I have no sense of direction – none at all. It can be a real problem!
I studied Creative Writing at university, got a first-class honours degree, then did a Masters Degree in Humanities
I like to bake. What I lack in skill, I make up for in enthusiasm
I read French and German, and have translated classic mystery novels from both of those languages
Because I write about magicians, I’m often asked if I can do any magic tricks. The answer, sadly, is no. I can however shuffle two decks of cards simultaneously, one in each hand. My only claim to fame!
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
I’d love to go to Japan – Death and the Conjuror was recently published over there, and the kind of “fair-play” mysteries that I write seem to be very popular.
I’d also love to get to New York. Death and the Conjuror came out in the US before the UK – it was published by Mysterious Press, and I would love to get to the Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan. That would also be a perfect excuse to catch a show or two on Broadway.
One day I hope to write a full-length murder mystery play, a la The Mousetrap, Sleuth, or Death Trap. I wrote a short play that was performed as part of the Camden Fringe Festival back in 2018, but that’s it so far.
My friend Michael Dahl and I have recently finished co-writing a locked-room mystery novel for younger readers. It started as a fun project, but we enjoyed doing it so much that we’re hoping not only to get it published, but for it to turn into a series. We are already plotting book two!
And the last one is something I’m sure a lot of writers can relate to: I really hope Death and the Conjuror will be adapted for the screen one day. Of course I already have the perfect cast in my head.
Many thanks for joining me today, it’s been a pleasure. Some ‘unheard’ music choices for me this week, though to be fair I veer more towards the ‘pop’ end of the music spectrum. That said, following your advice, if you don’t, you’ll never know! I agree that a good sense of humour helps keep you sane, as do pets – they really do make your life better. Good to see you like baking, I’m an infrequent baker, but really enjoy the results when I do actually attempt it – though maybe I enjoy the results too much. I envy your language skills, I did manage ‘O’ level French though I’ve forgotten most of it. I’ve tangled over recent years with Spanish which is what I’d love to be proficient in. I really hope you get to travel to Japan and New York, The Mysterious Bookshop sounds enticing and looks amazing. Good luck with yout novels for younger readers and fingers crossed for that screen adaptation.
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Death and the Conjuror
1936, London. A celebrity psychiatrist is discovered dead in his locked study. There seems to be no way a killer could have escaped unseen. There are no clues, no witnesses, and no evidence of the murder weapon. Stumped by the confounding scene, Inspector Flint, the Scotland Yard detective on the case, calls on retired stage magician turned part-time sleuth Joseph Spector.
Spector has a knack for explaining the inexplicable, but even he finds that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye. As he and the Inspector interview the colourful cast of suspects, they uncover no shortage of dark secrets… or motives for murder. And when a second murder occurs, this time in an impenetrable elevator, they realise the crime wave will become even more deadly unless they can catch the culprit soon.
The Murder Wheel (due Oct and available to pre-order)
Illusionist turned sleuth Joseph Spector investigates a sinister conundrum at a 1930s theatre in this thrilling new mystery novel from Tom Mead, author of Death and the Conjuror, one of Publishers Weekly‘s Mysteries of the Year 2022.
When Edmund Ibbs, a young lawyer, defends a woman accused of shooting her husband dead, he finds himself drawn into a web of conspiracy and murder.
Soon, Ibbs himself is accused of complicity in a killing, when a corpse unexpectedly appears as part of a magic act in a crowded theatre.
Also present is Joseph Spector, former illusionist turned highly respected amateur sleuth. Spector begins to investigate the mystery, but when a second body is discovered later the same night, all the evidence points to Ibbs being guilty.
With a host of hangers-on having something to hide, can Spector find the true culprit, or will he and Inspector Flint of Scotland Yard conclude that Ibbs is guilty after all?