Sunday 3 July 2011

Howard Linskey interview: The Drop

The Drop by Howard Linskey

Howard Linskey has worked as a barman, journalist, catering manager and marketing manager for a celebrity chef, as well as in a variety of sales and account management jobs. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites on a number of subjects. 'The Drop' is Howard's debut novel, published by 'No Exit' in 2011. Originally from Ferryhill in County Durham, he now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Alison and daughter Erin.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

The Drop’ is about a gangster from Newcastle who must retrieve a large sum of protection money in 72 hours or he's a dead man.

How much difference does a good cover make?

I love the cover of ‘The Drop’ and everybody tells me it’s a great design. It's very important to have a cover that grabs the eye and illustrates the style and content of the book immediately, particularly when no one has heard of you. Hopefully the casual reader will then pick it up and the synopsis and reviews will do the rest.

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

I was once advised to 'get into a scene late and leave it early', which is a slightly arty way of saying don’t mess about with extraneous detail leading up to a key scene and finish snappily, which will hopefully keep people turning the pages.

As a writer, how would you describe your ideal reader's taste in crime fiction?

Gritty and realistic, bordering on the hard boiled. They would not be into cosys, Midsomer Murders or credulity-stretching plots that ask you not so much to suspend your belief as chuck it out of the window for good. I like fiction that is morally ambiguous and allows scope for bitter-sweet stories, with endings that are not always happy. In short, I like fiction that mirrors life.

What crime book are you most looking forward to reading?

The Damage’ by Howard Linskey, which will mean I have finally finished the bloody thing. It’s the sequel to ‘The Drop’ and I have a deadline hurtling towards me with the speed of an express train. The next book on my actual reading list is Matt Hilton's 'Cut and Run', and I am really looking forward to Nick Quantrill’s next Joe Geraghty novel when that comes out.

What are you reading now?

I’ve always got half a dozen books on the go but I am concentrating on two. I love the period detail and atmosphere in Adrian Magson’s ‘Death on the Marais’, an intriguing tale about a Parisian detective trying to solve a murder in 60’s rural France. I'm also reading Tom Wood’s ‘The Hunter’, whose hit man protagonist, Victor, makes Jason Bourne look like a slightly sulky Girl Guide in comparison.

From an artistic rather than financial perspective, what book do you wish you had written?

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’, which is the pick of the bunch from John Le Carre. It deserves to be held in greater esteem and is probably a little under-appreciated, as it’s “just a spy story”. More recently, I thought ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel was wonderfully written too.

Do you enjoy writing?

I do when I’m on a roll and my fingers are darting purposefully across the key board, as the word count swiftly rises. I like it a lot less when it’s late at night, I can barely keep my eyes open and I’m struggling to string a few words together.

What's the oddest question you've been asked in an interview?

I get asked if I have any criminal convictions and how many real gangsters I know, which is a bit like asking Anne Rice how many vampires she knows. I am always sorely tempted to invent a back story involving drug addiction, prison terms for GBH then marrying a reformed escort girl but I don't look hard enough to get away with that and my wife would undoubtedly kill me.

How do you feel about reviews?

I think they are very important when you are a new boy like me. Good reviews help to boost the fragile confidence of the new writer and they help to get you noticed by readers, which is vital when you are not a name author. I had a great write-up in ‘The Times’ on the day of my launch party, which was very timely, as I had to read an extract from ‘The Drop’ to a lot of old friends that night and it helped to calm my nerves.

How do you feel about awards?

Similar to reviews really; I think they are good for promoting new writers, as readers presumably see them as a kite mark of quality. The last thing I won personally was the Eden ‘Aged Miner’s’ Football Cup, Runners-Up medal for Bishop Middleham Junior School in 1978. It’s been a long wait since that auspicious day, so I must surely be due a Dagger or something by now.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

I’ve got the aforementioned ‘The Damage’, sequel to ‘The Drop’, to write for No Exit and I will be involved in the German version of ‘The Drop’, when it is published by Droemer Knauer there next year. I'm expecting some interesting e-mails from bemused German translators trying to get to grips with Geordie gangsters for a Berlin readership.

The Drop by Howard Linskey


  1. I'm looking forward to The Drop. Sounds beaut.

  2. Looks right up my street, just bought it.