Peter Swanson’s gripping new thriller The Kind Worth Killing, containing a satisfyingly twisted and murderous plot with nods to Patricia Highsmith, Agatha Christie and James M. Cain, has become an immediate bestseller and is shortlisted for the 2015 Ian Fleming Silver Dagger. He tells us about his influences and reading habits, and about delving into chance encounters.
Where are you now?
On the couch in my office.
Where and when do you do most of your writing?
On the couch in my office, in the morning hours, loosely defined as anytime before lunch.
If you have one, what is your pre-writing ritual?
Does procrastination count as a pre-writing ritual?
Full-time or part-time?
Part-time right now. In the afternoons I am a Project Manager at a non-profit.
Pen or keyboard?
How do you relax when you’re writing?
I listen to music, mostly movie scores. Right now, I’ve been doing a lot of writing to the scores of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
How would you pitch your latest book in up to 25 words?
The Kind Worth Killing is about what happens when two murderers accidentally meet in an airport bar.
Who do you write for?
I try and write a book that I’d like, first and foremost. The reader I picture, however, is someone tucked up under a blanket on a cold winter night. I want that person to be totally lost in the story.
Who do you share your work in progress with?
My wife and my agent. I get notes from both of them as I go along. They have different things to say, but they are both pretty tough on me.
Which literary character do you wish you created?
Share with us your favourite line/s of dialogue, poetry or prose.
I love this line from Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim: “There was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones.”
Which book do you wish you’d written?
Now that I’m thinking about it, I’d have to say Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.
Which book/s have you most recently read and enjoyed?
I just re-read Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. Both of those books are near-perfect thrillers.
What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?
It’s quite a stack. On the top is The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, and a collection of short stories by Patricia Highsmith.
Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?
I pride myself on having read pretty widely in the mystery field, so I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read Wilkie Collins, one of the early masters of the form. I guess I should add The Woman in White to my bedside table pile.
Which book/s do you treasure the most?
My complete collection of vintage John D. MacDonald paperbacks.
What is the last work you read in translation?
The Dinner by Herman Koch.
Which story collections would you particularly recommend?
Too Far to Go by John Updike, a collection that can also be read as a novel.
What will you read next?
I’m looking forward to William Boyd’s new novel, Sweet Caress.
What are you working on next?
A standalone thriller about an apartment swap that goes wrong.
Imagine you’re the host of a literary supper, who would your dinner guests be (living or dead, real or fictional)?
How about Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, and John D. MacDonald?
If you weren’t writing you’d be…?
Peter Swanson‘s debut novel, The Girl With a Clock for a Heart (2014), was described by Dennis Lehane as ‘a twisty, sexy, electric thrill ride’ and in the Observer as ‘very hard not to read in one sitting’. He lives with his wife and cat in Somerville, Massachusetts. The Kind Worth Killing is published by (Faber & Faber in paperback and eBook.