Interview with Richard Othman, author of the Thursday Murder Clubs series

Here in England, Richard Osman became famous as a television personality, presenter of the British competition programs Pointless and House of Games. With the publication of his first crime novel in 2020, he has become an international literary celebrity. “The Friday Murder Club” and its sequel, “The Man Who Died Twice,” follow a team of elderly detectives as they solve cold cases from a cozy retirement village in the English countryside. The satirical and friendly thrillers—”comfortable crime” as it was labeled—sold millions of copies, becoming a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic.

Osman and I met on a picnic in the park near his London home to discuss the third novel in the “The Bullet You Missed” series, which inspired his characters – and the story of murder in his family’s history.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

s: This is your third novel after a long career in television. Would you approach writing differently after the success of “The Friday Murder Club”?

a: When you write the first novel, unless you’re crazy, you assume it’s terrible and that you’re not a writer. All the way through you’re like, “Wow! That’s what it’s like to write a book!” And when something has to happen in the story, you say, “Now, what would happen next if this was a novel?” When you come to write the second or third, it’s just, “What happens next in my story?”

Review: “The Missed Bullet”

s: Do you read differently now that you write?

a: Yes exactly. I am a huge fan of crime stories, so I will only write what I read myself. But I always read for pure entertainment, so I never asked: “What does the author do? What tricks do they play?” Now, the main thing when I read a crime novel is, “Where do you hide the clues?”

s: Where do you hide your strings?

a: I like things about the world around us, so I can usually hide clues in notes about local stores, or I can hide them in jokes or comic discussions between people. But I don’t like extraneous information where you think, “It has nothing to do with the story.”

s: There is something very recognizable in your personalities. Mom says each one reminds her of a different friend. Are they people you know?

a: I didn’t really assign them to people. It’s really the four corners of my brain, I think, from where I find it easy to get into each of them. I mean, the main narrator, Joyce, is a 78-year-old woman, and I find it very easy to get into her head! When I’m stuck, I’ll write a chapter on Joyce.

But I don’t like characters who are just archetypes. I love it when someone comes along and you think, “Oh, they’re going to be the bad guy,” and they might be the bad guys, but they’re also something else. I like to think, “If an actor had this secondary role, would they be happy, even if they were only in two scenes?”

Richard Osman, inspired by The A-Team, has created a cheerful squad of elderly detectives

s: Have you heard that you leave these characters behind and move on to something else?

a: Oh God no! I’m writing the fourth book right now, after which I’ll start a different series. But I don’t kill them. I go back to them. I enjoyed so much their company as a gang, they are not going anywhere anytime soon. They seem to spread a lot of joy, and you know, that’s somewhat of a lack. So I’m happy to stick with them.

s: Tell us about spreading joy.

a: There are writers that I love and appreciate doing different work and making exceptional art, adding to the great canon of literature. But I hope, if I’m anything, I’m an artist. I write books that I would read, and write them as often as I can, but my main job is to try to entertain people, not to move the history of literature in a certain direction. I’m here to give people a book they can’t leave behind, if they’re on a plane, the plane trip goes faster, and if they’re on vacation they remember the vacation because they read the book. Sometimes this gets a little looked down upon, but it’s hard to do!

I’d love to be Cormac McCarthy or Alice Munro, but I’m not. I have a place though, which is: “Would you like to entertain yourself?” A few laughs, a few tears, a mystery – I try to do it as often as I can.

s: Your novels seem to have a very quiet political agenda about bridging divisions: friendships that span generations, class, or political affiliation. Is this intentional?

a: They certainly have a political agenda, but they don’t have much wear on their sleeve. It comes from my heart. We better find some common ground fairly quickly or we’re in trouble. As you know, there is a lot of common ground in the world!

But I also think novels are popular he is What is political about them. The fact that people from everywhere read it, different generations read it, people of different political beliefs read it, but the message is one of tolerance, love and understanding, and sympathizers overcome sociopaths.

s: Since you wrote about murder, what’s the story about your ancestors’ solution to a murder in the 19th century?

a: I was on a program called “Who do you think you are?” Where you look at your ancestors. They have a whole team of people looking for it, and then you turn up and you don’t know what they found until they hand you a piece of paper. I could see that the production team knew they had something. I can tell from their faces: “Oh, we have something good for you today!”

They flipped this story about my grandfather, Gabriel Gilliam, who was a five-times grandfather, his wife Nancy, and his mother Elizabeth. They lived by the sea in Brighton in a fishing community with real Dickensian levels of poverty, at a time when magnificent Regency villas sprang up around them. Anyway, they were advised of some privacy – something not quite right – in a barn in Preston Park, two miles from the coast. So the three go down there and discover a body, which at the time was the subject of one of the most spectacular murder trials of the century.

[Gabriel] He was the main witness at the trial. He was even accused of murder by the man who committed it: “You found the body because you You are I killed her! But of course, thank God, he didn’t. There was a massive public investigation, and a few months later the killer was hanged. So it’s amazing that these three people from the Brighton hunting community solved this unusual crime, and two centuries later I write a story about Amateur detectives in their seventies solve crimes.

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s: Wouldn’t you be tempted to include it in one of your novels?

a: I tend to turn it into a story because it’s cool. I like the idea of ​​this town, Brighton, which has suddenly become very rich, but still has a poor fisherman community, and there is still a lot of anarchy, and where justice is in the hands of the people. I can name the characters after my grandparents. Because in the kind of family I belong to, they all died in poverty, in a workshop, forgotten by history. It would be nice to have them Not History forgot it by writing something about them.

Dennis Duncan is a lecturer in English at University College London and author of “index, date. “

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