Thursday, 26 May 2011

CrimeFest Report - A Tale of Two Colins

Another CrimeFest panel report. Jake Kerridge interviewed Colin Bateman and Colin Cotterill, and an excellent interview it was too. Both of them are funny and interesting.

Jake Kerridge started off by saying that the name 'Colin' is Gaelic for a young dog, or cur, or whelp. He noted that the two Colins look like adorable puppies!

Colin Cotterill firstly did his usual trick of taking photos of the audience. He explained that this was because where he lives a local shaman specialises in photos and can put curses on people that way. He said that if anyone in the audience let their mobile phone ring "Don't be surprised if you wake up with feathers sticking out of the back of your head." He then told a story about photoshopping the same woman into three photos and giving them to a class of students. They spotted the woman in two photos and were freaked out. Colin, on the other hand was freaked out because she had disappeared from the third photo.

In Colin Bateman's book I PREDICT A RIOT, the dedication is to "My Christian name, gone but not forgotten." He commented that Colin isn't really an action sort of name. Colin Cotterill then said that he was going to drop both his names.

Jake asked them whether they had any idea where the ability to make people laugh comes from.

Colin Bateman said that he had no idea. When he was 17 and a quiet and shy journalist in Bangor, he was asked to be the paper's gossip columnist. However, he was so shy and quiet that he didn't gossip about anyone and wrote abut his own life. He said that a lot of a writer goes into the characters in a book, but it's a fictitious version. Once, when he was in Amsterdam, he got pushed up against a wall by some blokes. His immediate reaction was to "scream like a girl". In a book, his character would have disarmed the men.

Colin Cotterill said "It takes me a long time to be spontaneous."

When asked whether they make themselves laugh out loud, Colin Bateman said "No, that would be weird." and Colin Cotterill said "Yes, but only because I drink a lot of red wine."

Jake asked Colin Bateman where the Mystery Man series came from (this one features the owner of No Alibis bookstore as protagonist). Colin said that he always does his book launches at the No Alibis bookstore and he always reads something from the beginning of the book. When launching his Dan Starkey novel, he felt uncomfortable reading this out as almost all the first chapter is about masturbation. So, instead, he wrote a short story featuring the owner of the bookstore (the owner said he could write anything he wanted as long as he didn't make him a pedophile). Now, people go into No Alibis just to look at the owner.

When asked whether he had the same problem re characters masturbating, Colin Cotterill's response was "Most of my characters are over 70 so it doesn't come up."

Colin Cotterill noted that the next Dr Siri has Americans in - there have never been any western characters in previous books.

Colin Bateman said that Mystery Man is not a typical protagonist. He's an unreliable narrator, his thoughts just come out, and he's a coward, a hypochondriac and manic depressive.

Colin C's new series features a female journalist protagonist called Jimm Juree. Colin said that where he lives there is no crime. The police station doesn't even have a jail. Police officers in Thailand are never sacked, they are just transferred. And they are transferred to a place like the one where Colin lives. However, although there is no crime, from talking to the local people, Colin has discovered loads of hidden secrets (including the fact that the little old couple who run the greengrocers are not married and the woman had her husband killed. Colin is now afraid to go out after dark.

Colin B said that in DR YES he is making fun of fanatical crime fiction fans. His main bad guy came about through a crime fan who mentioned that he had just quit his job at Madame Tussauds and now freelances and travels the world with a wax copy of his own head (apparently, wax models of your head sell very well). Also, Augustine Wogan is based on an obscure crime fiction writer from Belfast who self-published in the 1980s. He made a good point that it is only in the last 10 years that traditional crime fiction has been published in Northern Ireland. Previously it was all paramilitary type stuff. He said "We are the new Scandinavians."

Colin Cotterill said that he's not particularly complimentary about the governments of Laos and Thailand. When his second book came out, he was worried that he wasn't going to be let back in. However, he said that he needn't have worried, as the 5 new computers at the airport remained unplugged for three years. He said that, although he comes back to Britain as a tourist, and feels more comfortable in Thailand, it can be a dangerous place and people who try to complain about the system can sometimes disappear. Researching Laos in the 1970s for the Dr Siri books was quite difficult as it was a period in history when there was no news - journalists were kicked out at the time. However that gives him the opportunity to make it all up.

Colin Bateman said that for EMPIRE STATE all his research was based on a leaflet given out at the Empire State Building. He doesn't enjoy research. He said writing that one was his plan to become extremely rich. However, it was the only one not to be published in the US.

Colin B does not outline. He generally write a book in around 30 days. Colin C writes the story by hand in about 3 weeks and then goes back and edits.

Colin C said that he does not want his books to be translated into Thai.

Colin B said that his popularity was like the ripples in a pond. In his own house he is extremely popular. The further away you get from his house, the less popular he gets.


  1. Almost like being there - again :)

  2. Donna did your parents approve of the use of the m...word.
    A true story- a patient came in with a set of new dentures I had made them and said
    "I can't masturbate with these."
    I replied "I will smooth off the sharp bits". Completely true.

  3. Donna, thanks for these wonderful Crimefest posts, I'm reading the first Jimm Juree book by Colin Cotterill right now (I won an ARC!), how grand to see this post! Love how you write posts so well, I can imagine being there. Thank you!