Tom Leins catches up with Benjamin Myers, the award-winning author of Pig Iron, Beastings and The Gallows Pole to discuss his recent crime novels Turning Blue and These Darkening Days.
Turning Blue is one of the most disturbing crime novels I have read in recent years, and some of the imagery was truly stomach-churning. In crime fiction terms, how far is too far?
BM: If you approach a subject with some degree of understanding, research or empathy, then I don’t think too much is off-limits. There’s always a danger of being gratuitous or lazily aiming for shock tactics, but I’m far more offended by the ignorance of, for example, certain politicians than I am by anything I read in fiction. Also nothing that I write about hasn’t already happened at some point in mankind’s long and sordid history; a lot of it is inspired by what I read in the news every single day.
The cadaverous spectre of Jimmy Savile rears his ugly head through predatory light entertainment personality ‘Lovely’ Larry Lister. Turning Blue definitely feels like a post-Operation Yewtree book – was it conceived as a response to the horrors that emerged in the press, or was the book already underway?
BM: I wrote an early draft of the book, and it was something else entirely – a short twisted love story about a lonely farmer who falls in love with a corpse (again, such things have happened). But then the Savile story broke, and he had a lot of ties to where I live – he was from West Yorkshire – so I felt I had to cover it in some way. I was borderline obsessed with Savile for a while actually, or at least with the idea that this man with no charisma or talent could nevertheless ingratiate himself into all levels of British society, from top to bottom, and flourish. He’s emblematic of corruption absolute. A figure that Prime Ministers, royalty, the legal system and the media facilitated and often encouraged. So the concept of moral corruption bled into Turning Blue as I attempted to turn it into a more cohesive and publishable work.