Craig Russell takes the Crime Files quiz

Craig Russell, author of the internationally bestselling Jan Fabel thrillers, is quizzed by the Crime Files team.

Posted on June 2, 2015 in Author Q&A

If you were stranded on a desert island and could take one crime novel, one DVD boxset and one character from a crime novel, who/what would you take?

Believe it or not, I never read crime fiction – with the exception of Raymond Chandler, and not even all of his work. I think if any writer reads exclusively or mainly in his or her genre, then they risk become imitative and samey. I’ve read so much about ‘rules for writing crime fiction’, one of which is often to read as much as possible in the genre – in my opinion, if you feel the need to follow rules, then you shouldn’t be a writer. Crime fiction can be as rich and varied – and of as high a quality – as any other form, but it needs to be broadly and richly informed. So no crime novel on my desert island. Other novels? I’d struggle to single out one novel, so I’d sneak in at least The Tin Drum, 1984, The Remains of the Day and The Lost Honour of Katharine Blum. Robinson Crusoe might be an idea, given my situation vis-à-vis a desert island.

DVD Boxset? The Edgar Reitz Heimat trilogy. Pretentious, overblown, flawed, often boring. But sheer groundbreaking genius. Heimat was TV’s Citizen Kane.

Or maybe season one of True Detective as it dealt with a lot of the themes and ideas I explore. And it was brilliant.

Is there somewhere I can plug in a DVD player on this desert island?


Who would you invite to your dream dinner party and what would be on the menu?

The truth – my family and friends.  As invitees, I mean, not on the menu.

The problem with famous figures is that in person they never seem to live up to their reputation. Richard Burton, for example, would be on the list, but I once read that socially he could be a crashing bore. But, if I could choose freely from living and dead writers, probably George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Heinrich Böll and Gunter Grass. Though I’d be worried that Sartre and Camus would say ‘that Russell guy’s a bit up himself, isn’t he?’ I’d also invite Oliver Sacks, Richard Feynman (to play the bongos)  and Terry-Thomas, just so he could tell us that we were all an ‘absolute shower’.


What is your favourite line from a film/TV series/book?

I’ve said it before:You’re just a simple farm boy, and the rest of us are sophisticated beatniks’ from Roger Corman’s 1959 movie, A Bucket of Blood. Why? Because my publishers said something similar to me once . . .

The ‘Swiss cuckoo clock’ speech from The Third Man.

I am the Danger . . . mouse’ from Dangermouse. (I maybe dreamed that one.)


If you could write a book with any other crime or thriller writer, who would you choose and why?

Christopher Galt.  Apparently he’s hugely intelligent, witty, devastatingly attractive, sophisticated and cultured.  Though he’s far too modest to admit it himself.


Who is your favourite onscreen detective?

Other than Jan Fabel?  Toss-up between Inspector Gadget and Dudley Do-right.


What novel do you wish you had written?

From a financial viewpoint, I wish I’d got ahead of the whole Nordic and Tartan Noir crazes and combined them to write ‘The Girl at the Edinburgh Tattoo’. Either that or a Scottish version of Fifty Shades of Grey:  ‘Bend over an’ brace yersel’ Maigret,’ said Hamish, his sporran rising majestically as he rolled up that month’s issue of The People’s Friend . . .


What’s the scariest place you’ve visited for inspiration?

 I’ve never visited places for inspiration, but I’ve been inspired by places I’ve visited. Some very dark and scary. Nuff said.


You are master of Cluedo and have any name, weapon and room at your disposal, whodunit and what happened?

 Madame Whiplash in the bedroom with the egg whisk. What happened is what’s going through your head right now. You should be ashamed of yourself.


The Fabel books have now been made into three TV movies in Fabel’s native Germany. What was it like seeing the books translated to screen?

 I’m just back from Vienna for the production screening of the third movie. It is amazing.  Like the others, the production values are extremely high, but this latest movie is very special indeed. I have an unusually close working relationship with the producers who involve me more than most authors. They are so faithful to and respectful of the source material.


Did the cast match up to your vision of Fabel and the other characters in your mind? What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of telling crime stories through novels compared to television?

Peter Lohmeyer, who plays Fabel, is one of Germany’s most respected film and theatre actors and it was a real coup to get him to play Fabel, so obviously I’m delighted. Even the smaller parts are played by actors who are usually leads in their own right.

The sole disadvantage, I would say, is that in a 90 minute movie, a lot of the storyline has to be compressed and detail cut. But if you tried to squeeze everything that was in the book into the movie, then you would create rush and confusion.

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