We accosted mystery writer Richard Crompton in a dark alley and shook him down for the whens, wheres, and whys of how he became the reader he is today. Fresh from penning his new book in the Detective Mollel series, Hell’s Gate, here is what he coughed up!
So Richard, is there a book you consider an “ancestor” of Hell’s Gate?
My books are the lovechild of Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon, set in Africa. Marlow and Maigret’s DNA flows through my protagonist Mollel’s veins.
What’s one book you’ve tried to finish but couldn’t?
Life’s too short for bad books. I have most of the Booker Prize winners of the last thirty years, and you’ll generally find a bus ticket stuck in somewhere around page 150.
What’s the last book that made you cry?
Austerlitz by WG Sebald. Sebald writes so beautifully it’s impossible to tell where his words end and your imagination begins.
Who is your favorite literary character? Why?
As a boy, I fell in love with Elizabeth Bennett. As a man, I’m more partial to Becky Sharp. I’m very fond of villains, scoundrels, and impostors. Obadiah Slope (Barchester Towers), Ferdinand Lopez (The Prime Minister, both by Trollope), Trimmer in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour. But when I’m old, I’d like to be like Galahad Threepwood (PG Wodehouse’s Blandings books).
What are you reading now?
One of a number of long out-of-print Victorian novels which I got from the British Library’s print-on-demand service. It’s called The Thing That Hath Been; or A Young Man’s Mistakes, by Arthur Herman Gilkes. It’s dreadful.
What is the first book you ever remember reading (or having read to you)?
One called The Mouse Sheriff by Janosch. Another called The Minister’s Naughty Grandchildren by Eva Bexell. The wonder of the internet is that now you can track down these books to bore your own children.
Richard Crompton is a former BBC journalist and producer. He moved to East Africa several years ago with his wife, a human rights lawyer who worked on the Rwanda genocide trials. Crompton won the Daily Telegraph Short Story Award in 2010, and his first novel, Hour of the Red God, was published to great popular acclaim in 2013. He lives in Nairobi.
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