Debut novelist G.J. Minett has written a dark and disturbing psychological thriller about secrets and human frailty. The Hidden Legacy is enthralling, heart-breaking and original. He talks about the books currently in his life.
What’s currently on your bedside table and why?
Last year I set myself the task of reading the biography of William Faulkner by Richard Gray, breaking off to re-read each of his novels as I reach the year of its publication.
I’m now reading The Sound and the Fury for the umpteenth time and am more than happy to do so. I accept it won’t be to everyone’s taste but I don’t think novels get much better than this.
I was in New Orleans a few years ago and actually sat in the chair where Faulkner did much of his writing, hoping that some of the magic might rub off. As if!
Which book would you recommend to your closest friend?
I’ve just recommended Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker to my wife. He’s a debut author at Bonnier Zaffre and I sneaked his uncorrected proof from under his nose at one of our gatherings.
I’m sure this will be seen as a transparent attempt to gain publicity for a friend but I don’t care one bit because it is a wonderful book that deserves wide recognition.
There are so many crime novels now that seem to follow the same formula and it was a delight to read one that is so original, quirky, humorous and superbly crafted. I pride myself on my ability to see twists coming – I did not see this one.
Which book are you planning to take on your next journey and why?
I’m not sure when my next holiday will be but I can say with some certainty that I’ll take several books with me. I know that this autumn I’ll be reading Jon McGregor’s latest offering as soon as it’s available.
I thought his novel If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things was a stunning debut of immense promise and I’m curious to see what he’s been working on for some time now.
Tell us about your latest book
Lie In Wait is a mystery. Its central character is a huge man-child named Owen Hall who has been bullied throughout his school life because of the difficulties he has in forming relationships with others. He has a remarkable facility with numbers and seeks in them the meaning and security which is denied him in the real world, forming patterns that define whether or not he can trust a person or a situation.
As an adult, he comes into contact again with the one person who showed him any sympathy and discovers that she is now married to his chief tormentor.
To say much more would give away too much because the novel is heavily dependent upon layers that need to be peeled away as the action progresses.
As a reader, I enjoy being treated with a modicum of intelligence and welcome the opportunity to peck away at things until I’ve managed to work out for myself what is happening. I hope others feel this novel offers them the same opportunity.
Do you discuss your own work-in-progress with anyone?
I trust my wife’s judgment so I bounce ideas off her from time to time and I have an exceptional editor in Joel Richardson who manages to come up with terrific suggestions for improving the final product once we get to the editing stage.
For the most part, though, I tend to keep it pretty much to myself.
Which book made you want to write?
I don’t think there was ever one novel. If there was, it would have been something by John Buchan because I’ve been writing since the age of about nine. I have read novels that made me want to write in a specific genre.
I remember that Catch 22 by Joseph Heller persuaded me that I could write novels about the absurdity of the human condition. I also recall thinking that Tender Is The Night by F Scott Fitzgerald contained some of the most beautiful writing I’d ever read and I spent months producing highly derivative material, trying to match the unmatchable. But one novel that made me want to write? I don’t think so. And now that I am a writer, I find it’s not enough.
Now I read novels by Maggie O’Farrell, Kate Atkinson, Michael Redhill, Gilly MacMillan, crammed with passages of such lyrical beauty that I have to read them aloud to others and I want to have that effect on others too. Authors are never satisfied.
If you weren’t writing you’d be…?
…opening the batting for England at Lords against the Australians in the deciding Ashes Test and scoring a series-winning century against all the odds. At the age of 65. Well, I’m assuming a degree of license is expected here.
The more prosaic answer would be teaching, although if I could have my time again and know what I know now, an editor’s job at a major publishing house would seem like a pretty good way to go. But don’t let my editor know, for heaven’s sake!
The Hidden Legacy by G. J. Minett is out now. Browse similar titles in our online shop