If a ghost appeared from nowhere, rescued you from suicide and then ordered you to start solving crimes to help dead people, what would you do? When it happens to Porter Norton, he just wants to put his head in his hands and have nothing to do with it. But now he has to atone for the family curse that has seen all the men die at their own hands for five generations. The Gliss, the sarcastic spirit that rescues him, says he can now and see and hear the Dead – if he’s close to their remains. Porter has to use his unwelcome gift to clear up past injustices. Or else. Forced to investigate the murder of a WW1 British Tommy executed for spying in 1917, he begins to suspect the case has links to his own family history. Along the way, Porter enlists the help of a bickering group of misfits, who struggle to stay involved – because only fools believe in the supernatural, don’t they? Full of pop culture references, banter and twists, the story takes us from present-day London and Flanders to scenes from World War 1. As Porter, The Gliss, and friends, get deeper into the explosive case, they discover their own lives and sanity are at stake. An evil from WW1 pursues them all.
When and where do you prefer to write?
It depends! My brain has two good spots 9am-12noon, 10pm-1am. I earn a living from making short films etc and it just depends what my schedule is. Today, I was at a coffee shop by 9am for a few hours, back in my office for another couple at 4pm and will be writing a little more after doing this. It’s now 10pm.
Do you have a certain ritual?
Sort of. I need to tidy the room up a bit, and get a coffee before I can do anything useful. Start each day fresh. I get very annoyed when it becomes too late in the evening to write any more because I’m getting tired. Sleep is such a waste of time!
Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
I love coffee. Probably drink 8-10 cups a day. I believe it was Rousseau who said, “If coffee is a poison, it must be the slowest acting poison. I’ve been drinking 10 cups a day for 60 years.” Or something like that. But anyway, that’s me.
What is your favourite book?
Oh no. How can you ask that? I can’t choose one, I can’t do it. So it would be a toss up between the Complete Sherlock Holmes, A Blandings Castle Omnibus, a Raymond Chandler Omnibus, Pride and Prejudice, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Omnibus… you see what I did there? I cheated and interpreted ‘book’ as ‘a thing with pages, ‘ rather than as ‘novel.’
Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
Yes, I’m working on a YA book at the moment. But thrillers are my first love.
Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Not on characters no. Do I observe people’s characteristics? Yes.
Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
I do. And my daughter bought be a fountain pen for Christmas. I had completely forgotten how wonderful they are to write with, so I’m using that too. I use one Moleskin notebook for general thoughts, but always carry another which has most of my notes for whatever I’m currently working on too. So, I always carry two notebooks!
Which genre do you not like at all?
I’m not a big fan of Sci-Fi. The first sci-fi I read was Ray Bradbury 30 years ago. The Illustrated Man was one of our set texts in English that year. I loved that. But sci-fi became silly Star Wars derivatives and I’m not in the least bit interested in what goes on in spaceships.
If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
If I liked them enough to have the chance to co-write – say Christopher Fowler, Carl Hiassen or Michael Connelly – I would turn it down so I didn’t ruin their next book! None of them need any help from me.
If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
I’ve travelled quite a lot but I have only spent 10 days in Japan. So I would like to go back and explore that a bit more. It was the most different to my normal place I have been to so far. That went from weather to cultural norms, food to language. It was beautiful, but I sensed a darkness there. I’ve probably just seen too much Manga.
Thank you, Des Burkinshaw and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Born in the middle of the Summer of Love on a pre-fab council estate in Luton, teenage bitterness and a chance viewing of the Watergate movie, All the President’s Men, made him vow to become a journalist and bring down the government.
First he had to pay for his journalism course, so he became a civil servant. Literally the day he had enough for his fees, he packed it in.
Twelve years on from watching the film, he was a journalist at The Times and had a big hand in bringing down John Major’s government. News ambitions sated, he packed that in too.
Several years of working for Channel 4, ITV and the BBC as a senior producer saw him working across the world, but he eventually got fed up with asking bands how the new album was coming along, and packed it in.
He set up his own production company magnificent! in 2002 and simultaneously worked on the BBC Live Events team for another 10 years. But then six years of work on the Olympics came along, so he packed the BBC in. Again.
Des has jammed with many of his heroes from Paul McCartney to Brian Wilson, Queen to Nancy Sinatra. He has interviewed many A-listers, including David Bowie, Michael Caine, John Cleese and even Noam Chomsky.
He has directed/produced a fairly long list of people – Muse, Coldplay, Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, produced BBC3’s Glastonbury coverage for a couple of years, made films about leprosy in India, comedy shorts with Miranda Hart and Lenny Henry and played guitar for Chas and Dave at the Hackney Empire.
He has made 300+ short films for the Queen, MI5, the BBC, Sky, Discovery, EMI, the British Academy and dozens of authorities, charities and private sector firms. His most recent publication was a series of interviews with leading academics like Mary Beard on the state of the humanities which was published as a standalone magazine by the British Academy.
Fed up with travelling and determined to be a half-decent dad, he now works in London as often as he can. He runs the Young Directors Film School making movies with young people and is about to head up the Digital Film and Video MA at Tileyard. An avid musician and producer, he releases his third album as Romano Chorizo (he plays drums, bass, piano, guitar and really bad sax).
He hates to be pigeon-holed, thinks creativity is a learned state of mind and wishes they would teach people memory and learning techniques at school.
Dead & Talking is his first novel, the first in a series of Porter & The Gliss investigations.
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