An exceptionally unusual premise and the strong characterization of a gentle giant hero deliver the old one-two in the November 2012 Mystery of the Month, The Dark Winter by debut author David Mark. Writes whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney, “English critics have compared David Mark to the likes of Val McDermid and Ian Rankin. My prediction: It will not be long until new voices in the genre are hailed as the ‘next David Mark.'”
With such high praise for this first-time novelist, we had to check in and see what he had to say about crime writing and favorite books.
Describe your book in one sentence.
In the midst of a bleak winter in the Northern English city of Hull, a serial killer begins to take the lives of sole survivors in the manner they previously cheated death—and shy family man Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy is the only detective who can see the connections.
What is the most important advice you can give to an aspiring crime writer?
Keep at it. I’m afraid to say you will likely be rejected and disappointed many times before your dreams even begin to come true. Write for the enjoyment of it first and keep your secret ambitions of world domination as a private fantasy rather than a definitive goal. It doesn’t happen for everybody, but the pleasure you get from writing is indisputable. More than anything, come up with a good story. It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed how few original tales there are to be told.
What special edge does your former career as a crime reporter bring to your novels?
First and foremost its authenticity. As a journalist I met people at extremes of emotion. I interviewed a lot of grieving families, right when they were at their most raw, and the characters I write about tend to exist in those moments. I know how the room tastes in that particular situation. A lot of the police procedure is research and guesswork, but in terms of the victims’ families and witnesses, I feel able to write with some degree of integrity. Being a journalist also helps you understand that almost anything can happen and everybody is fascinating at some point in their lives.
What's one book you think everyone should read?
That’s a horrible question! Certainly everybody should read a dictionary, or at least have a glance through one from time to time. From a “greatest novel” perspective, everybody should read something by Cormac McCarthy. Personally, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks affected me greatly, while I have never shaken the feelings that I was left with after reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved. If we want a better world, everybody should read The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. Can I have one more? Read The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes. Oh, and apparently The Dark Winter by David Mark is OK, too.
What's your favorite movie based on a book?
Well, The Godfather is the greatest ever film and that’s based on a book, but I’m not keen on the book, so that probably doesn’t count. The Shawshank Redemption shows how good a movie can be when the director doesn’t fiddle with the novelist’s vision. Mystic River is also pretty close to perfect as a film. I’m going to have to stop procrastinating, aren’t I? OK, my favorite movie based on a book is No Country for Old Men. It might not be in a few minutes when all of the other movies I’ve neglected start clamoring for my attention, but I’m going to stick with it.
What's one bad habit you have no intention of breaking?
I swear too much, and I do drink more whisky than any human being (or bull rhinoceros) should really imbibe. I could also beat Mickey Mouse in a cheese-eating contest. I don’t really have any plans to change my ways anytime soon.
What are you working on next?
The second novel in the McAvoy series is completed. It’s called Original Skin and takes McAvoy to some very dark places. I’m busy putting the finishing touches on the third in the series, which is going to be called Sorrow Bound in the UK. I’ve also promised to write my children a novel for Christmas, and they are very hard masters to please so I’m going to have to make sure it’s good. If it’s not, the criticism will not be given gently!