Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Meeting David Hewson

We all have preconceptions about what our heroes will be like in real life. Sometimes they are just what we expect- Harlan Ellison was just as argumentative, opinionated and feisty as I imagined, Isaac Asimov had the gravitas which you expect from a distinguished scientist and author, Todd Rundgren was as fun to chat and chill out with as you would expect. David Hewson was another matter, however. If you are not familaiar with his work -they tend to be dark, violent, fast paced and sometimes gory novels set in historic tourist cities such as Rome, Venice and Madrid. Hewson clearly relishes his research. He spend weeks living in apartments in the centre of Rome or wherever his next novel is to be set, finding out about local life and local legends. We often recognise bars and places which he refers to because we also like chilling out in apartments in Rome and doing things off the beaten tourist trail. Hewsons novels resemble our holiday settings, apart from the brutal murder scenes of course- although we did see a motor cyclist knocked down by a car on one holiday- it took the ambulance 40 minutes to get to him. If this is how they deal with an emergency in downtown Rome I would not like to see the response to a deadly snakebite in the Tuscan countryside.
Anyway I am digressing. Hewson's novels are real page turners and once started they cannot be put down. When I went to see Hewson last month on a 'meet the public' event in Gateshead I expected hewson himself to be a dynamic, driven individual like hs characters. In person, however, he was rather dry, downbeat and a bit crusty. I got the impression that he was very ill at ease meeting his public. He did a bit of reading from his latest book and answered some questions from the audience. Most of the questions were rather ill inspired and I don't think the questioners had actually read any of his books. An example as 'Do you uase the internet for research?' Hewson's answer was equally uninspired, trotting out the usual cliche that you have to be careful about the validity of things on the internet. Just once I would like someone to say that you can't trust half of what is in mainstreamn books and newspapers and at least the internet levels the playing field for ordinary citizens to share their voice with the world. I managed to get a question in about his use of the pagan deity Mithras in one of his novels. poor Mithras had all his best bits stolen by Christianity and is all but forgotten now. There are some excellent Mithraia in Rome at San Clemente and Osita Anticca (the latter can bst be appreciated by scrambling over bits of ruins and descending into underground chambers- bring a torch out and watch that no custodians are on the look out
Hewson did tell an amusing anecdote about a writers convention which he attended in America. This involved meeting other writers (which he probably thought there were rather too many of )and the public and reading between the lines I think his US publisher probably twisted his arm behind his back to get him there.
What really disgusted Hewson, however, was an incident which took place in a lift at the convention. He got into a conversation with a woman in the lift who clained to be a writer. Hewson asked her what sort of stories she wrote and she said 'cat mysteries'. Hewson had apparently just about fallen over. However, his agent was later to tell him that apparently cats who solve crimes are becoming a very popular sub-genre especially in the USA.
When I met Hewson individually at the end I explained that the crime busting animal genre has antecedents such as DC comics' Detective Chimp. I don't think I succeded in raising his appreciation for the form as he ranted a bit more about how ridiculous the idea of crime solving moggies was.
Anyway I struck a blow for cat lovers everwhere. Wehn I asked DH to sign his books I got him to sign them to Liz and Jim and their super-sleuthing cats. I don't know if he saw the funny side or just thought we were cranks.
An interesting evening but lighten up a bit David!

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