My Life in the Books: Stuart Neville


Stuart Neville’s first novel, The Twelve, was chosen as one of the best detective novels of 2009 by the New York Times and the LA Times. It was shortlisted for this year’s An Post Irish Book Awards. His new novel La Maison des Cendres is published by Zaffre.

The books at your bedside?
I don’t have a lot of time to read right now, but I have a great start called Winter accounts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden and a new biography of Eddie Van Halen, Eruption by Paul Brannigan, whom I can’t wait to reach.

The first book you remember?
Amazon adventure by Willard Price made me want to read. I devoured this whole series about two brothers traveling the world, collecting specimens for their father’s zoo. They were written in the 1950s and 1960s and would probably look very dated now.

Your book of the year?
I’m a little biased because it’s by a very good friend of mine, but Rabbit hole by Mark Billingham was my highlight of 2021. It takes place entirely in a mental health facility, told from the perspective of a police officer who has been severed. When a murder occurs among the patients, she sets out to solve this refreshing version of the locked room mystery.

Your favorite literary character?
Francis Dolarhyde, the killer of Thomas Harris Red Dragon. He’s the most skillfully drawn villain of any novel I’ve ever read. That Harris can actually get us rooted for this monster is truly a character development achievement

A book that changed your life?
I read At Writing by Stephen King while I was working on my debut, The Twelve. It’s partly an autobiography and partly a writing manual, all told in King’s easy-going voice. It’s a book that any aspiring writer would do well to read.

The book you couldn’t finish?
I didn’t like Stieg Larsson’s at all The girl with the dragon tattoo. I found it to be a disturbingly misogynistic book. Lisbeth Salander struck me as more of a schoolboy fantasy than a feminist icon, and the protagonist journalist is somehow irresistible to all the women he meets.

Your Covid comfort reading?
I like short stories, so I often dive in and out of The lottery, a collection of works by Shirley Jackson. The title story is a deserved classic, but the whole book is terrific. I’m a fan of a distinctive voice, so sometimes I take a Megan Abbott book and read a few pages, just to soak up the prose, like someone whispering the story in your ear.

The book you are giving away?
When they were little, our kids loved Sandra Boynton picture books, like Moo, Baa, La La La and But not the hippopotamus, so whenever one of our friends becomes a new parent, we always like to give them a few.

The writer who shaped you?
If you grew up in the 1980s like me, you’ve read Stephen King. I first read The shiny, and he became the first adult author whose catalog I devoured. He’s the reason supernatural elements keep creeping into my detective stories.

Video of the day

The book you would most like to be remembered?
of which I am most proud The ones we left behind. I realized that it was not the violence or the conspiracy that interested my readers, but the emotional journeys of the characters. I really delved into this aspect of my writing with this book, finding the heart of the story and its characters.


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