From The Booking Desk:
Last night at The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore, Mark Billingham entertained a loyal crowd with an assist from Laura Lippman. Anyone who has ever heard Mark speak knows that the man can’t resist a good one-liner to keep the audience on their toes.
This time out, Mark Billingham is on a promotional tour for Die of Shame, his new stand-alone mystery centered on an addiction group in the UK. As per normal with these recaps of mine, I’ll point out a few highlights:
- The first topic Laura focused on was the relationship between Mark’s crime fiction career and his time as a stand-up comedian. Mark talked about how they were similar in many respects: the need to quickly engage the audience while managing reveals with precise timing. He said that crime fiction is full of “one-liners,” and referenced the moment in The Silence of the Lambs when the reader realizes that the police are storming the wrong house as an example.
- Mark mentioned that the felt that vintage American crime fiction had a mastery of pace.
- Both talked about how collegial the crime fiction community is. On this tour, Mark is in conversation with another fellow author at each of the tour stops.
- When Laura asked what the original germ of this idea for Die of Shame was, Mark was quick to say that it was addiction and his desire to write about it after witnessing the impacts of it on a very close friend. He says it was also about the bonds between people and the effects of trauma. Mark mentioned that while he didn’t intend it this way from the start, it became of bit like a locked room mystery with a limited suspect pool.
- Laura, who also writes both a series and stand-alone novels asked about that. Mark said that he needs to change it up sometimes and that all series writers worry about not stopping when they should. In his opinion, many writers write two or three more books in a series than they probably should.
- To the delight of Laura and myself (and likely any others in the audience who have read Die of Shame), Mark did confirm that Nicola Tanner would be working with Tom Thone in the next novel.
- Speaking of the next novel, Mark said it might be a career-killing endeavor. The topic of the book is honor killings and he fully expects to get push back on this, even though more people die by this method each year in the UK than from something like serial killers.
- Laura talked about how it took her a bit of time to get used to the use of Here and Now, Then and There as designators for chapter changes in Die of Shame. Mark explained that as common phrases in addiction therapy, it seems appropriate. The change in the tense of these sections was also discussed briefly since both Mark and Laura use this technique in their new books.
- Laura said that she doesn’t read crime fiction with the mindset of trying to figure out the mystery. Mark agreed and said that if who did it is the most important factor in a novel, he’s likely not going to be reading it.
- While most of the evening was focused on Mark and his book, Laura did mention that the book she is currently working on has some sex scene – to Mark’s horror – and that it is a bit of a mashup between James M. Cain and Anne Tyler (how intriguing).
- Of course, I had to ask as question during the audience participation portion of the event. Since Mark has already written short stories, series books, stand-alones, a musical (which is essentially what The Other Half is), and Young Adult (under the name Will Peterson), I asked Mark what he would like to write that he hasn’t already. Mark’s answer was to say that he would both like to do more collaborative work, as well as maybe more works with a comedic tone (such as Great Lost Albums).
- There was also some talk about Laura’s youthful pastime of pretending to talk with woodland creatures, but that is probably best left to your imagination.
From the Booking Desk:
As always, The Ivy Bookshop put on a great event as part of their summer initiative (called Crimes and Misdemeanors). If you have never attending an event there, please do change that the next time you are around Baltimore.