[This is the first of an in-depth, two-part conversation with Rupert Thomson, conducted over the course of two days. The first part details primarily with Death of a Murderer. The second part, which can be heard in Show #138, extends into his career. Many thanks to Mr. Thomson for being extremely generous with his time for this conversation.]
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Trying to be careful about British accents.
Subjects Discussed: Billy Tyler as one of “society’s dustmen,” Mira Hindley, bridges and Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” readers reading Thomson’s novels too fast, flashbacks, pitch-perfect similes, a momentary interlude for lunch, movie sound effects, getting used to being on the page, active behavior, metal bins, Thomson as a “morally outstanding” individual, filming in mortuaries, chance providing what a novelist needs, Percival and Arthurian namesakes, Old World patriarchal figures, the fixed quality of character names, protection from critical assessments, hopping around in genre, Billy Tyler’s homoerotic issues, gender, The Beatles’s “And Your Bird Can Sing,” Faulkner, Django Reinhardt’s large hands, characters who are extreme versions of the everyday, the possible ambiguity contained within Thomson’s endings, stones and millstones, snooker, being a police officer, truncated names and ellipses, MacGuffins, whether it is pigeons or chickens that come home to roost, and bland hotels.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Thomson: As a novelist, you know there are — I wonder how many, I sometimes wonder how many decisions there are that you make in writing a novel. I mean, I guess it probably goes into the millions. But then I think about all the decisions you don’t make, where you simply trust what your intuition has given you, because, in the case of Newman — for instance, you just mentioned Peter Newman — I didn’t think twice about that name. Newman’s a fairly ordinary name. And I wanted just an ordinary, fairly solid — and, in fact, Susie, I chose that name because Susie, because Billy Tyler marries a girl called Susie Newman, and I sort of wanted to her have a sexy-sounding name. A name that tripped off the tongue. And then I liked the fact that she had become Sue Tyler. You know, she had become dull. As a result of having married.
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