Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the 2017 Festival?
Crime writer Kathy Reichs. I have been a fan of her writing for years, and I am thrilled to be chairing the session Truly Criminal: The Inspiration Behind Cases, in which she is on the panel.
Which book has inspired you the most?
I think I could answer this in two ways. There are two kinds of book that I would describe as “inspiring”. There is the kind of book that inspires me as a reader. That could be anything from one of Anita Brookner’s early novels (such as Providence or Hotel Du Lac, where I love her gift for portraying a character’s inner landscape) to a book such as Sebastian Faulks Birdsong (which summons up the nightmare of trench warfare in World War One). Those are the sorts of books I repeatedly give other people and say “you must read this”.
Then there is the kind of book that inspires me as a writer of crime non-fiction. And that is more likely to be something like Homicide: a year on the killing streets by David Simon. Simon, the creator of the epic TV series The Wire, spent a year embedded with Baltimore homicide detectives. I love the way he also focussed on the cases the detectives failed to solve. His ability to portray the reality of detective work is an achievement I find enormously inspiring.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Make a cafe latte with my small coffee machine, pull on my bathers and, summer and winter, every day, head to the beach for a swim.
What is your life’s motto?
Seize the day.
Our theme for the 2017 Festival is Journeys. Can you tell us which journeys in your life have been most memorable?
So many. Travelling through the Greek islands in 1985. A trip to Vienna in 2014, where I joined a group of English choristers to sing Mozart’s Requiem in a concert at the historic baroque Karlskirche. The concert began at midnight on December 4 and ended at one am on December 5 — the anniversary, to the hour, of his death on December 5 1791.