Richard Osman: I identify most with Joyce from The Thursday Murder Club
To mark the upcoming release of The Last Devil to Die, the latest in The Thursday Murder Club series, we caught up with author Richard Osman. In the following Q&A, he tells us about his writing process, where he gets his inspiration, and how his character Joyce would fare with Knives Out’s Benoit Blanc…
What are the challenges of writing crime fiction?
Crime fiction is a joy to write, to tell you the truth, because you make a contract with the reader which says, “I’m going to set you an impossible puzzle, and at the end we all know it’s going to be solved.” Your job is to try and work it out. My job is to try and hide the truth from you.
But I always think the key to these books is, despite that journey we go on, we want to stay with those characters. We know we’re going from A to B, but we have to love the journey, and to love the journey, we’ve got to love the people we’re on that journey with. And the lovely thing with the Thursday Murder Club series is people have taken those characters to their heart, so I know I can put them through anything, and people are going to enjoy that journey.
Can you tell us a bit about your latest novel, The Last Devil to Die?
A mystery package turns up on the South Coast and at the same time, a good friend of the Thursday Murder Club is found dead. This drags our intrepid gang into the world of online fraudsters, art forgers, drug dealers – essentially a lot of people who want to kill them. Will they be able to find the murderer of their friend? Will they be able to track down this mystery package? You’ll have to read it to find out.
What was the inspiration for the story?
The idea for The Last Devil to Die, or the very beginnings of the idea, came when I was talking to Raj Bisram, the antiques expert, who’s always on the BBC. He was telling me that antiques shops are occasionally used as fronts for smuggling gangs; that one gang will take something into that shop, sell it to the owner, and another gang will come in and buy that same thing from the owner. (Not all antique shops, by the way. A lot of them are above board, and Raj certainly is.) But it gave me this idea of a shipment which came in and caused absolute chaos. So, it was just chatting to Raj and thinking, “I wonder what would happen if…?” – which is the start of all good stories.
Which of the Thursday Murder Club characters do you identify with most?
The character I identify with most changes from book to book – even day to day, really, scene to scene. I often have Ibrahim days, but I think my essential base level is Joyce. I would love to be Elizabeth, but it’s impossible. And when I’m angry, like if I’m in a queue or something, then I turn into Ron. But I think, probably, I’m 40% Ibrahim, 40% Joyce, 15% Ron, 5% Elizabeth.
Who would Joyce get on with best: Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes or Benoit Blanc?
I’m not entirely sure Joyce would get on all that well with Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. I think she’d find them a bit finickity, you know. I think Joyce likes people to come in and make themselves comfortable. I think she’d get on with Benoit Blanc, as much as anything, because I think she would have a crush on Daniel Craig. So yeah, if Benoit Blanc walked into Joyce’s living room, he wouldn’t be leaving for a long time.
What books have you enjoyed recently?
I just finished Less by Andrew Sean Greer, which I loved, which is about a failed writer who wants to avoid going to an old lover’s wedding and so accepts every invitation to literary events that he can find. He goes around the world but thinks about his life and thinks about his work. It’s much funnier than I’m making it sound. I loved that. And now I’m halfway through Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I’ve never read any of hers before – I always meant to – and it’s such a beautiful, brilliantly written book, so I would recommend that. I absolutely loved the Meg Mason book Sorrow and Bliss as well. There are loads of great books out there, but I would recommend those three.