donderdag 27 december 2007

Q & A with Jonathan Hayes

We interview Jonathan Hayes, author of the new Edward Jenner series that started out with Precious Blood.

Q: What makes Edward Jenner different from other fictional forensic detectives?

It's a funny question; to me Jenner (who, by the way, loathes his first name, and always goes by "Jenner") feels like a real person. PRECIOUS BLOOD is the first of five Jenner books; the series begins with Jenner a shadow of himself. He's a brilliant forensic pathologist, but he's completely shut down after 9/11. Over the course of the book, he's dragged out of himself, forced back into the world again. He doesn't have any particularly exotic attributes - he's not a superathlete, his hands aren't deadly weapons, he's financially comfortable but not really rich - he's a pretty regular person. But he's smart, determined, and essentially good.

Q: What are your thoughts on the popularity of the forensic detectives these days?
Why forensics, why now? I think there's a fistful of factors. Part of the appeal is that a forensic scientist can be a pencil-necked geek, but still be just as effective at catching bad guys as your typical tough guy detective; it's definitely Revenge of the Nerds time. I think, also, that we've had 100 plus years of brawny or brainy detectivework, so the whole forensics angle feels like a breath of fresh air. Finally, the OJ Simpson case made forensics relevant in the US, and then CSI made forensics sexy.

Q: What would a soundtrack to your novels sound like?This is an unfair question - way too hard! When I started writing, I had a column on the electronic music of the rave and nightclub culture on the mid-1990s. I'm still a hardcore music obsessive; if I were to make a soundtrack to one of my books, it would go something like "a minute of Akira Yamaoka's guitar theme for the first SILENT HILL videogame here, then two minutes of silence as he's going towards the house, then fifteen seconds from Test Department's THE UNACCEPTABLE FACE OF FREEDOM" etc etc - I'd want to micromanage it, like a movie soundtrack.

I'll tell you what - instead of trying to fit music to one of my novels, I'll tell you what my favourite albums and songs were for 2007, when I was finishing PRECIOUS BLOOD, then talking about it and taking it out on the road: I'll listen to anything, but this was the music I liked best for 2007.

Also! Here's a fan video clip for the SILENT HILL theme I mentioned above:

My favourites for 2007:


1. Burial, UNTRUE - One of the most beautiful things I've heard in forever; something I didn't know I'd been waiting for until I heard it. Those muffled beats and fleeting, melancholy fragments were the perfect soundtrack for this sad year.

2. Panda Bear, PERSON PITCH - Fell in love with it driving to and from Palm Beach, stayed in love with it once I got home.

3. LCD Soundsystem, SOUND OF SILVER - How could this NOT be on the list? Some of it may have leaked over from a 44 minute mix he did for Nike in 2006, but it was, well, just great.

4. The Field, FROM HERE WE GO SUBLIME. This German ambient pop techno record sounds cool and incomplete, as if made in his bedroom by some guy who didn't have any friends who could sing. It is trite, more banal even than an Ulrich Schnauss record, but wholly satisfying in its twee sequencers and familiar 303-y timbres. It was also quite dynamic and melodic for something that was formally fairly minimal. I love every track.

5. The Besnard Lakes, THE BESNARD LAKES ARE THE DARK HORSE. Spiritualized and the Beach Boys (featuring Brian Wilson): two great tastes that taste great together.

6. Dan Deacon, SPIDERMAN OF THE RINGS. Maximalist electronic pop, with complete lack of restraint. This is what it would sound like if Martin Rev played his idea of a Happy Hardcore set in Pee Wee's Playhouse. The major highlight was "Wham City" - what it would sound like if Philip Glass played a set of Happy Hardcore in Pee Wee's Playhouse.

7. Fourcolour, AIR CURTAIN. More ambient processed guitar work from Keiichi Sugimoto; this time around, it sounds like he's sitting upright in a chair, instead of lying on the floor.

8. Klimek, DEDICATIONS. "For Jim Hall & Kurt Kirkwood" feels like a retread of something from Fourcolour's WATER MIRROR (a good thing!). A beautiful, lush collection of processed piano and guitar.

9. Rhys Chatham, A CRIMSON GRAIL. Shimmering walls of massed guitars, sometimes ethereal, sometimes majestic. Far from "Guitar Trio"; much closer to Fripp & Eno's NO PUSSYFOOTING.

10. The Dirty collective, DIRTY SPACE DISCO. Yay! I'm always grateful for anything Dirty.

Best Songs
1. "All My Friends" - LCD Sound System
2. "Wham City" - Dan Deacon
3. "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" - Of Montreal
4. "Melody Day" - Caribou
5. "Paper Planes" - MIA
6. "Beautiful Life" - Gui Boratto
7. "Where is Home?" (Burial remix) - Bloc Party
8. "Comfy in Nautica" - Panda Bear
9. "Disaster" - Besnard Lakes
10. "Dancing on Our Graves" - Cave Singers

Q: Has your writing changed much since the first novel?
I'll let you know when I've finished A HARD DEATH! Certainly, I find writing easier now that I know that I actually *can* write a novel, and have a clearer idea about how plot and dialogue and character all work. I hope that each novel will be even stronger than its predecessor.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?Yes. The forensic stuff I know, of course, but a fairly high degree of realism is important to me. I want the characters, the crimes to exist in a REAL world. I probably do too much research, actually - I think it was the British Science Fiction writer Brian Aldiss who said that most research is a form of procrastination, and I think he's right. I can allow myself to get carried away investigating the minutest details of an event in a minor character's back story that is pretty much irrelevant to the main story. I'd estimate I don't use 75% of the material I dig up.

Q: What's next for you and Edward?
For reasons that will become semi-apparent as you read PRECIOUS BLOOD, Jenner will leave NYC; the sequel, A HARD DEATH, is set in South Florida.

Q: Which crime writers do you like?
Early: Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins, Poe, some Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Chandler, Hammet, the MacDonalds (both Ross and John D.), Rex Stout

Contemporary: I'm just catching up after a several year period of intense work, and am well behind the curve. Some favourites are PD James, Henning Mankell, Thomas Harris, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, George Pelecanos and David Simon. But there's so many I haven't read - I have a huge To Be Read stack beside my bed, and am making slow progress.

Q: What does the future of forensic science / law enforcement look like in your opinion?Expensive and tricky for a while. I'm really not sure how much criminalistics we can afford, but I'm sure defense attorneys will make some hay with the notion of unequal access to the science.

There will, of course, be plenty of DNA.

Q: What question should be asked every writer we interview and what would be your answer to it?
Q: Just what is it about David Hasselhoff?

My answer: I can't be sure, but I think it's got a lot to do with the hair...

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