As a fan of historical crime fiction I particularly enjoyed A Razor Wrapped In Silk by R.N. Morris, the third book in the Porfiry Petrovich series set in St Petersburg in the late nineteenth century. This must be a strong contender for the 2010 CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award, and therefore I was very pleased when Roger Morris agreed to be interviewed.
1] Roger, did you always want to be a writer?
Pretty much, yes. I loved writing stories as a child. And I loved those complicated imaginative games where you make up characters and situations and adventures. I was always pretending to be someone else.
I really wanted to be called Napoleon, after Napoleon Solo from the Man from U.N.C.L.E. I thought he was the coolest person in the world and I really felt badly let down by by my parents for not calling me Napoleon. It took me quite a time to get over that.
The Avengers were a big influence on me too. I remember dressing up as Steed. I've seen my kids play similar games. Sometimes they've gone on for days. But also I loved reading. From a very young age it occurred to me that writing was the best job on earth. It just took me an awful long time to get there.
2] Which authors did you read as a child, and who particularly inspired you?
I read lots of comics, of course, The Beano, Dandy, Victor, Hotspur, Beezer.
As for books, my favourites were the Paddington Books by Michael Bond, Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge, Biggles books by W.E. Johns, Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven books. I also liked Professor Branestawm books by Norman Hunter, which I see have been recently re-issued.
Then I seriously got into Alan Garner and Leon Garfield. I think it was Leon Garfield who really inspired me to write historical fiction. I remember reading in one of his novels , Devil -in-the -Fog, I think it was, about a young lad of my own age at the time [ie about 10] who drank gin. It opened my eyes to the the fact that the past was very different.
I also remember enjoying R.L. Stevenson. Adventure stories, really. Boys stuff. Getting a little bit older, I was definitely into Sherlock Holmes. And I liked Sexton Blake series on the TV, though I never read the books. As a precocious teenager, I attempted Crime and Punishment for the first time.
I was drawn to the combination of Russian angst and axe-murdering.
3] Do you read crime fiction, and which authors are your favourites?
Yes, I do read crime fiction, though not exclusively and there are huge embarrassing gaps in my crime fiction reading. I need to read more.
I always find it hard to pull out 'favourite' authors. I am reading Roberto Bolano's 2666, which is a massive novel, and should probably not be classified as a crime novel at all, as it is very literary. But there are a series of crimes at the centre of it and i have just got to the 'Part about the crimes', which is extremely engrossing in the way the best crime novels are. again, another book that is not properly classified as a crime novel, but has a crime at the heart of it is Jim Crace's Being Dead. But I am always looking for recommendations!
[To be continued]