What is your earliest childhood memory?
We lived with my grandparents, who had the downstairs rooms while my parents and I lived upstairs. I can remember sitting on my grandparents’ kitchen floor as a very small boy, surrounded by homemade jam that I’d smeared everywhere after opening one of their cupboards. And I don’t even like jam. I think I was just being willfully destructive. I can also remember our dog being run over by the binmen, and my grandfather dying. Death and jam: those are my childhood memories.
Who was your first pin-up?
I suspect that it was Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who. (“Mummy, the lady makes me feel funny.”) Actually, she still looks pretty good now, and she’s 62, which I find hard to believe. She’s kept her dignity as well: Katy Manning, who played her predecessor, Jo Grant, was once photographed naked with a Dalek for a magazine called Girl Illustrated. It was probably neck-and-neck between Elisabeth and “Wuthering Heights”-era Kate Bush. I’m not sure what I would have done if they’d both started fighting over me. Expired, probably.
Which of your peers do you most admire, and why?
I’m not sure that he’s my peer as he’s both older than me, and far better at what he does, but James Lee Burke was one of the writers who made me want to write mysteries. He’s the greatest living mystery writer, bar none. Jack Nicholson once said of Marlon Brando that, when he dies, everybody else moves up one. Burke is our Brando.
Can you reveal one of your guilty pleasures?
You know, I’ve reached the age where I’m beginning to doubt the whole concept of ‘guilty pleasures’, aside from maybe touching farm animals inappropriately. Still, given the fact that I’m pretty careful about exercising regularly, it would probably be a warm cinnamon bun in Simon’s Place at the George’s Street Arcade in Dublin. I live in fear of Gary Ranford, the guy who trains me, passing by while I’m stuffing my face, and shaking his head in disappointment.
Who would like to see cast in the movie of your life?
I’d like to see Colin Firth, but they’d probably cast Steve Buscemi. As long as it’s somebody thin . . .
Who are you following on Twitter?
I’m a recent convert to Twitter, but I’m a big fan of Phill Jupitus. I’m currently reading his book on being a DJ, Hello, Nantwich, which is almost as enjoyable as Dave Fanning’s autobiography, which I really liked. His continued enthusiasm for music is very lovely indeed.
What’s the first thing you would buy if you won the Lottery?
I have an old Ford Mustang that I don’t really get to drive very much, as I don’t have off-street parking, so I’d buy a garage closer to my house. I’d also buy one very expensive piece of art, and then worry about someone stealing it.
What would you pack for your desert island?
An iPod, a solar charger, the complete works of P.G. Wodehouse, and Jennie, my other half, although I suspect she’d brain me with a coconut before one week was out. I’m not very keen on the whole desert island business because I’m not very good at lounging around. I suspect that I’d get a bit bored, and a bit annoying.
What’s at the top of your ‘things to do before I die’ list?