Classic Crime: David Mark on his favourite crime novel

He may be praised for the authenticity and grit of his Hull-set crime novels, but David Mark's own favourite book is a truly fantastical affair.

Posted on January 14, 2016 in Guest Author
Tags: Author Content, Classic Crime, Terry Pratchett, fantasy

Authors are a neurotic bunch. We need constant reassurance from those we love and outright adoration from those we don’t. We want to be recognised as clever, prescient and strangely in tune with that mysterious frequency at which the human soul vibrates. We like to be told we’re wonderful, so we can act all humble and do an impression of Jimmy Stewart and mumble about how grateful we are just to be at the party – let alone asked to dance.

So when people ask us to name our favourite books, it’s no easy matter. Beneath the self-effacing tweets and the earnest blogs, we’re all just arts and philosophy students sitting in the common room and claiming to love the work of avant-garde Hungarian film-makers while trying to conceal the fact that our favourite movies are Beastmaster 2 and Coneheads.

As such, you can dismiss many of our answers as the pretentious ramblings of the desperate-to-impress (and when I say ‘we’, I do of course refer entirely to ‘I’).

But today I’m going to break the pattern. You want to know my favourite crime novel? I’m not going to tell you that it’s an obscure French piece of pulp fiction written by a sheep-farmer who had only consumed absinthe and legumes for the previous six months. I’ll leave that to those with confidence problems. Nope, I’m going to nail my colours to the mast. Favourite crime novel ever? It’s Thud, by Terry Pratchett.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s my favourite book only when pushed through the mesh of some very complex criteria diagrams. There are other books which have moved me more deeply or made me drop the damn thing in the bath with the brilliance of the twists, but if I knew the doctors were coming to switch the life support machine off in three hours and I was too weak to enjoy myself properly, I’d want Thud to be the last book I read.

Thud is the 35th Discworld novel. If you don’t already know, the Discworld floats through space on the back of four elephants which in turn stand on the shell of a colossal turtle. It is home to humans, witches, wizards, dwarves, goblins, trolls, orcs, pixies and werewolves. Each novel has a different main cast but over the 40-odd books, it could be said that the main character is Samuel Vimes; a kid from the gutter who slowly rises up to become to Duke of Ankh-Morpork and Commander of the City Watch.

It may not sound like your standard detective novel but honestly, it is. Just because the murder victim is a dwarf and the main suspect is a troll, it doesn’t make it any less of a police procedural. And with Vimes as the hard-as-nails recovering alcoholic, it could be said to have a familiar archetype at its heart. Vimes is the dogged terrier who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth, and in so doing, prevent a war between dwarfs and trolls. It incorporates drug-abuse, religious extremism, and the dangerous repercussions of believing one’s actions to be divinely blessed. It’s a thinly disguised satire of ongoing global conflicts and at times is jaw-droppingly smart. I may write relatively authentic books set in Hull, but I have rarely felt as in tune with a character’s struggle as when he is fighting dwarf terrorists in the catacombs of Koom Valley and doing battle with the voices in his head which tell him he is right to releash his rage.

I feel a bit better for that, actually. I’ve been honest. I’ve come clean. But if anybody asks, tell them my real answer was The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and that I stroked my chin a lot while cogitating.

David Mark’s new book, DEAD PRETTY, is published by Mulholland on 28th January.

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One comment on “Classic Crime: David Mark on his favourite crime novel”

  • KWillsen says:

    “Thud!” is amazing, and each reading reveals something new. Pratchett used fantasy in much the same way as Swift: to show us ourselves in a new light.

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