Interview with Andrew Cartmel: part 2

Andrew Cartmel will be at Brompton Library on Monday 24 September, 6.30pm taking about his career and work and signing copies of his Vinyl Detective crime novels – Written in Dead Wax, The Run Out Groove and Victory.  You can book a place here on Eventbrite 

This is the second part of our interview with him; you can find the first part here

The fourth book is on its way, tell us about that.

It’s called Flip Back and it deals with the British psychedelic folk scene of the late 1960s and early ’70s. Among my research for that I read an excellent book called White Bicycles by Joe Boyd.

What were some of your musical inspirations from the 60s and 70s?

Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Steely Dan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell.

I read in another interview with you that each of the Vinyl Detective novels has a spirit animal.  How does that help you with writing the novels and why is this important to you?

It’s just something that arose without me thinking about it. I am fascinated by animals and wildlife, and very fond of them, and appalled by their treatment at the hands of humans. So that just sort of naturally wove its way into my writing. When I became aware of what I was doing, I made it more deliberate. And started referring to it by that ‘spirit animal’ malarkey… though it’s certainly malarkey I genuinely subscribe to.

Are there any plans to make the books into a TV series or film?

My agent regularly gets enquiries, which have so far led to one serious meeting but nothing further than that.

And finally, we can’t leave without mentioning Doctor Who.  You worked as a show runner and script editor on the TV series, and have since written many of the Doctor Who comics.  What was it like to work on such a classic show?

It was a privilege. It was also the gift which keeps on giving, in the sense that it’s given me a calling card which never expires, and has led to me meeting a lot of interest people and travelling all over the world.

Were you a fan before you worked on the show?


You have written novels, audio dramas, television scripts, graphic novels and also several stage plays.  Which genre do you prefer?

Each has its own particular appeal and its own unique challenges. I like switching from one to the other. But my two favourites are the novel, for its intimacy and clarity of expression, and the stage play for the magic it conjures up through taking place in real time, with real people, in a shared space.

The graphic novel Sabrina by Nick Drnaso has been longlisted for the Booker Prize this year.  How easy or difficult do you think it might be to judge a graphic novel against a traditional novel?

I don’t see how you can compare the two forms.

 What three pieces of advice would you give any aspiring writers out there?

Keep your covering emails very brief. Give your characters interesting names. Have your work read by people you know, whom you can trust to be ruthless — or at least honest — and seriously consider their feedback before you send it out and waste the time of an agent or editor.

What’s next for you?

Finishing the fourth Vinyl Detective, then rewriting a stage play, then writing a new stage play, then writing a graphic novel for the Rivers of London series, which I co-write with Ben Aaronovitch.

Thank you for your time Andrew and very much looking forward to meeting you on 24  September at Brompton Library.

Interview with Andrew Cartmel: part 1

Andrew Cartmel was the show runner on Doctor Who for the entire Sylvester McCoy seventh Doctor era. He has written many novels and graphic novels including the Dr Who comics Evening’s Empire and The Good Soldier. Andrew is currently collaborating with author, Ben Aaronovitch on writing the bestselling Rivers of London comics.

He’ll be at Brompton Library on Monday 24 September, 6.30pm taking about his career and work and signing copies of his Vinyl Detective crime novels – Written in Dead Wax, The Run Out Groove and Victory.  You can book a place here on Eventbrite 

In the meantime, Andrew has very kindly answered some questions for us –

Tell us about the Vinyl Detective series.

I’ve been writing for most of my life, in our form or another. Since I left university I’ve been writing for a living, or at least trying to. But the Vinyl Detective books are the first time I feel I’ve entirely succeeded.

The Vinyl Detective is very evocative of the day to day realities of city life – grass verges, council estates, broken boilers – not glamorous or exotic in any way!  It is definitely different to what you have called the current trend for “Danish disembowelment” novels.  Why was this setting important to you?

I wanted to write what I know. You might also call it low-hanging fruit!

I have read that you are an avid vinyl fan, what made you want to write detective novels based around vinyl?

My friend Ben Aaronovitch had written what became a bestselling series of novels — The Rivers of London books. I asked him what the secret was. He told me to write about what I genuinely loved. And I genuinely love record collecting, and crime fiction.

Andrew with his cat, Molly

What was the first record you bought?

The soundtrack to (the first version of) Casino Royale featuring a superb music score by Burt Bacharach and a knock-out song (‘The Look of Love’) sung by Dusty Springfield. It’s a classic and it remains a favourite of mine.

And what was the last record you bought?

Stan Tracey’s Jazz Suite to Under Milk Wood (inspired by the Dylan Thomas poem). The original Lansdowne mono pressing, of course.

You didn’t start out in crime fiction, what where some of the influences that lead you into crime writing?

I admire Raymond Chandler a lot, but for my money the greatest crime writer of the golden age (roughly the 1930s and 1940s) was Dashiell Hammett. His terse, cynical, realistic style hasn’t dated at all (read The Maltese Falcon). But a more profound influence came somewhat later. John D. MacDonald is, I think, the finest crime writer of them all. He’s a hero of mine. He wrote dozens of excellent novels, notably the Travis McGee series. More recently, I tremendously admire Thomas Harris, best known for creating Hannibal Lecter.

You must have spent a lot of time researching the books, tell us about that?

A lot of it is, as I said, low hanging fruit. Because I write about a world I already know well. But I will also do specific research. In my third book, Victory Disc, I dealt with a crime originating in the RAF bombing campaigns of World War 2. At the end of the novel I acknowledged the two superb books I drew on for the factual background, one by Max Hastings and one by Len Deighton.

Many thanks, Andrew – we’ll be back next week with part 2. 

Top 10 reads of 2014

We asked library staff what their favourite reads of 2014 were, and received a wealth of replies to choose from! Here’s our top 10, in no particular order…

We all completely beside ourselves
We all completely beside ourselves

We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

“Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, it begins with a young lady called Rosemary in college who is eager to start out on her own and put to her past her bizarre family life. This starts off as a slow-burner. Suddenly there is a massive shock on page 77 that is like a blow to the stomach, it is that visceral. I read this with a varying range of emotions: happiness, anger, heart-ache and sheer wonder. At its heart it is a great novel about the American family, albeit set in a period of time when liberal academia was king and experimentation on your loved ones was the done thing. This is a tremendous read and will remain with you months after you have read it!”


The Knight who saved England
The Knight who saved England

The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 by  Richard Brooks

“I will start by saying I am no history buff but I found this to be a great read. I knew little about Richard Marshal or this period in history. I found the machinations and bloodthirsty behaviour of medieval society fascinating.

A bit dense in parts, or maybe I’m just a bit dense….Recommended.”


Love Nina
Love Nina

Love Nina by Nina Stibbe

“…is a wonderfully funny and refreshing read that would make a great Christmas present as it is so lighthearted .

In the form of letters written to her sister, Nina writes about working as a au pair in North London for children in the slightly eccentric household of the editor of the London Review of Books. She too , is slightly eccentric – finding herself cooking regular suppers for the likes of next door neighbours , Alan Bennett and Clare Tomalin…..”



Foster by Clare Keegan

“A short but immensely powerful story of a little girl from a hard household, who discovers a new intensity of feeling as she grows in personality under the ‘fostering’ of an aunt and uncle in the Irish countryside.”



Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys boys boys by Viv Albertine

“An ex member of The Raincoats , she writes a really good autobiog that covers british punk 70s and follow-up 80s in a truthful and engaging way….”



The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt 

“2014 was a good year for novels beginning with Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, a spectacular return to form (I was one of those readers who never got on with The Little Friend). After so many years since the Secret History it was marvellous to have another immersive narrative from Tartt which took its protagonist from childhood to maturity and from New York to Las Vegas and Belgium.”



Consumed by David Cronenberg

“The Peripheral would have been my book of the year if I hadn’t just read Consumed by David Cronenberg. When a film director turns to writing a novel at the age of 70 you might be expecting a novelty item. I started reading and was pleased to note how skilled he was as a writer (the opening reminded me of Gibson’s Pattern Recognition) but wasn’t expecting anything startling. Then the narrative started to get just like a Cronenberg film and when the weird medical procedures and bizarre sexual encounters really got going I was hooked. So for sheer unexpectedness Consumed is my book of the year.”




KP The Autobiography by Kevin Peiterson

“Few cricketers have divided opinion like Kevin Peiterson. Despite being the highest run scorer in international cricket history with over 8,000 test runs and 23 centuries, he was unceremoniously dumped by the cricket management at the beginning of this year. Capable of flamboyant stroke play and a match winning ability he was able to enthral and entertain like few cricketers could.

This book provides the inside story of the saga of his rather turbulent England playing years and, through a description of a series of colourful accusations and revelations. His grievances, such as when he suggests there was a bullying culture in the dressing room, are well aired in the book and targeted directly at the England captains, the coaches, his fellow players as well as the English management. Throughout, the sheer vanity and egotism of the player is revealed, but even so, there is a surprising vulnerability about the man both on and off the field as a he sets about to defend himself as what he sees as injustices.

Love or hate Peiterson, this book is totally absorbing and his outspoken views on the state of English cricket provide a real insight into ­the shape of the game. However, if there is one word that for me best describes Peiterson and comes clearly out of reading this book, it is that the man is a troublemaker.”


Foxglove Summer
Foxglove Summer

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

“The one that got away which I’ll be reading as soon as my wife finishes it is Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch, the fifth book in his excellent series about the magical division of the Metropolitan Police. The first book in the series, Rivers of London, is the Cityread book for next year. I hope to meet the author and get some copies signed!”