Mark Billingham’s Bookshelf

Where’s your bookcase located and what does it look like?

The bookshelves are in my office and I had them built in as soon as we moved into the house. I thought at the time that this much space would probably be sufficient, but it turns out that I was being somewhat optimistic. There are bookshelves all over the house as well as tottering piles of books next to beds and in corners of rooms. If there are better ways for a writer to meet his end than being crushed by a collapsing tower of hardbacks I can’t think of any.

What kind of books will definitely not be found in your bookcase?

As far as crime fiction goes, there’s nothing that could be termed cosy. No books where the mystery is solved by a cat. There’s no true crime, no erotica and almost nothing featuring dragons or elves. Oh and not a lot by Katie Price…

What author have you discovered and loved recently?

Well it’s more of a re-discovery, thanks to the reissues of the marvellous Laidlaw books by William McIlvanney. So many crime writers owe him so much and any serious fan of the genre needs to read these books. Amazing writing that gives the lie to the notions that crime fiction cannot have a literary pedigree and that the finest literary writers can’t write a gripping crime novel.

Where is your favourite place to read?

In bed, definitely, though I can’t usually concentrate for very long. I should make it clear that I’m talking about simple tiredness here and not about anything saucy. You people have very dirty minds…

Can books change lives? If so, which one changed yours?

Yes, a book can certainly change somebody’s life. Any book that turns a kid on to reading is one that has changed that individual’s life. For me, that would be The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, which was read to me by a teacher when I was eleven. A couple of years later my life was changed again when I read Jaws and The Godfather back to back one summer. That was my first encounter with popular fiction and I was knocked for six. It probably helped that both those books had naughty bits, which is important for any thirteen-year-old boy.

What’s the book you’d choose as your Desert Island read?

I would pick another volume which had a profound effect on me: The Four Great Novels by Dashiell Hammett (Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon, The Dain Curse, The Glass Key).

What book did you give last as a present and to whom?

I gave my father a copy of Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. He’s a huge fan. I should probably clarify and say that my dad’s the fan. I have no idea what Carl Hiaasen thinks of my father…

What are you reading now?

There’s usually a few things sitting on the bedside table. Right now, the pile includes: Poppet by Mo Hayder, I Lived To Tell It All by the late great George Jones and Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris. Something there for all moods and occasions.
What are your top ten books?

This is such a tough question and the answer would almost certainly be different tomorrow. But right now, and in no particular order:

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The Big Blowdown by George Pelecanos

Tokyo by Mo Hayder

Night Dogs by Kent Anderson

The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies

The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly

The Death Of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell

What’s your most treasured book on your bookcase?

It’s the first UK edition of To Kill A Mockingbird which was given to me by my publisher when Sleepyhead hit the top ten. I occasionally take it down to stroke it gently and stare at it in awe.