4] Why did you choose to write historical crime fiction?
Well, I had this idea! You know, sometimes as a writer, you are the victim of your ideas. If an idea comes to you and won't let you go, then you have to write it. But I suppose I am drawn to the idea of writing historical fiction, because I find that I want to imagine what life was like before I was born, before the world I have direct experience of existed.
But as for why historical crime, as opposed to historical romance, or straight historical fiction, I suppose I must be also drawn to exploring the darker aspects of human life.
5] Why Tsarist Russia? Why Dostoevsky? Did you visit Russia before you wrote the books?
As I've already said, I first attempted to read Dostoevsky when I was a little bit too young to fully understand or appreciate him. There was a Penguin Classics edition of Crime and Punishment in my school library and I think the blurb described it as one of the world's first detective stories. That's what first attracted me.
It isn't really a detective story at all, of course, though there is a detective in it-Porfiry Petrovich. I was into detective stories, so I took it out. I suppose that slightly misleading blurb stayed with me and made me think that somebody somebody should write a detective story with Porfiry Petrovich as the hero. I always thought somebody else would do it. Then as the years went by, and I realised nobody else had, I decided to have a go. It was an insanely ambitious idea really.
And to answer the last question, no, I hadn't been to Russia, except in my imagination, when I wrote A Gentle Axe, though I did go after I wrote it and while I was working on A Vengeful Longing.
6] Did you think you would be criticized for taking Dostoevsky's character and using him in your novels?
Yes, I did. And I have been in a few places-but surprisingly few actually. My own attitude to this was influenced by studying classics. The classical authors freely used characters from mythology in their work. The archetype of the detective is part of modern mythology, and Porfiry Petrovich is one instance of that archetype. It was a cheeky idea, I know, a massively cheeky idea. But that was partly why it appealed to me.
[To be continued. The rest of the Roger Morris interview will be posted next week]