From writer Michael Stewart’s website.
Below is a conversation I had with writer Benjamin Myers on Friday 23rd of September 2016, while walking up Scout Rock in Mytholmroyd.
Me: Your new book is called Turning Blue. From what you’ve said, it’s changed a lot in the writing.
Benjamin: The first version was about a pig farmer who kills a girl while out poaching. He’s so lonely, he falls in love with her. He realises that he doesn’t have to spend Christmas alone. It gets vile. I shocked myself with what I wrote. It was mainly him and the corpse. There was a scene where he tied the corpse to himself and danced around the room. It was about 40,000 words and really basic. There wasn’t much of a plot and it was too sick. There’s a limit to what people can take.
Me: You’ve gone from Richard, Pig Iron, Beastings, which are literary novels. Pursuing a path, getting sparser, getting bleaker. Then you write Turning Blue which has taken you into a different genre. All your books are crime books in the sense that they feature crime but that distinction between crime as a subject and the crime novel as a genre. The tropes, a dead body, an investigation, good prevails, some sort of redemption, the tropes that have accreted around the genre, that go back to the 19th century, to Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. How do you feel about that, writing what you want to write, to writing using a set of conventions?
Benjamin: It started out about loneliness and landscape. Each re-write, I added another character. Then the Jimmy Savile thing happened, Yewtree, and all that. He died and it all came out. I got a bit obsessed. I added different layers of plot, to the point where it became categorically a crime novel. It became a crime novel but I don’t know much about procedure or how police detectives work. From the outset you know who has done what. I don’t think there are any surprises in the book…
Me: It’s not a whodunnit, it’s a why-dunnit, but that’s still a recognised form within the genre.
Benjamin: There’s stuff like David Peace, Gordon Burn, James Ellroy – that’s the sort of crime novel that I’m interested in.