Your name: William Shaw
Tell us about yourself: I write crime books based on recent history. As a younger man, I used to write deeply immersive non-fiction books, often about quite bad people. Now I sit at home with my wife and kids and make things up.
Tell us about your latest book: Set in 1968, A House of Knives is the second in my Breen & Tozer series and features real-life art dealer and heroin addict Robert Fraser, with occasional glimpses of (unnamed) Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg. It’s about corruption and the early skirmishes of the war on drugs.
When did you start writing? I just found a receipt from January 1984 for a Smiths interview I did for a punk magazine.
Where do you write? Sometimes I write in the garret I share with my wife, Jane; other times I escape to my hippie off-grid hideway and hope there’s enough sun to power the laptop.
Which other authors do you admire? Right now, above everyone, I admire Alan Warner because he writes the funniest dialogue imaginable. Although my books are nothing like 70s crime writer Nicholas Freeling, in my head, that’s who I am trying to be.
Book you wished you’d written? The Caveman’s Valentine, by George Dawes Green. These days detectives with mental illnesses are ten-a-penny, but Green’s schizophrenic narrator was brilliant.
Greatest fictional criminal: It would have to be Harry Lime as played by Orson Welles: human, plausible, likeable, vain and unspeakably destructive.
Greatest crime or criminal from the real world: I wrote quite a lot about Suge Knight, Tupac Shakur’s manager when I lived in Los Angeles. I wouldn’t say “great” – the opposite in many ways – but extremely fascinating. I’d love to fictionalise a character like him. He so badly wanted to be down with the Bloods he practically bought the whole gang.
Greatest fictional detective: Maigret. There is just enough of him there to be a character, but he’s never so big as to dominate the stories he’s in. Which means there is space for you to become Maigret while you read…
What scares you? Heights. Worse, my children being close to heights.
Are you ever disturbed by your own imagination? At night, lying in bed, just before I sleep? God yes.
3 crime books you would recommend to EVERYONE
From my recently read pile:
Do you listen to music when you write? I tend to listen to Folk Radio UK; it doesn’t get in the way, but it’s often interesting.
How can fans connect with you? Through my website… williamshaw.com